Spoilers ahead, but you already knew that.
For my money, The Night Of is the best show airing on television right now. The plot, the cast, the writing, the cinematography, are all top notch. Which is to be expected from a TV show on HBO. Sunday night’s episode of the suspenseful crime drama was the midpoint of the eight-part miniseries, and it did not disappoint.
Episode 4, titled “The Art of War,” found Nasir ‘Naz’ Khan looking for new allies in the courtroom and in prison. One of Naz’s new friends is Freddy, a former star boxer who has risen to power inside Rikers prison. Freddy, played by the always sensational Michael Kenneth Williams, sees promise in Naz and appreciates that he is well-educated.
Freddy tells Naz that the two books that prisoners always read when they’re locked up for “obvious reasons” is “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu and “The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon.” Like a courteous Barnes & Noble employee, Freddy points out that Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild” is the hidden gem in the prison library. However, Nasir has already read it.
Williams, who has been kingpins before as Omar in The Wire and Chalky from Boardwalk Empire, said he based the character of Freddy on one of his nephews who is serving time. “He is literally a model prisoner. He inspires me. He does service, he’s got a degree,” Williams told L.A. Times.
In this episode, you see that Freddy is not only running Rikers because of his celebrity status but also because he is ruthless. He forces a fellow inmate to box him and brutally punishes him with punch after devastating punch because he attempted to run a rival cell phone business inside the prison.
The timid Naz accepts Freddy’s protection (But what will Freddy want in return?). This comes in handy when his former prison guide Calvin, who seemed to be his friend and gave Naz advice on proper prison decorum, goes berserk and burns him with a mixture of scalding water and baby oil.
But it’s not just the treacherous and vicious prison world that Naz must try to determine who are his friends and enemies. While he is fighting for his life in prison, his new lawyer Alison Crowe is working on a plea deal with District Attorney Helen Weiss, who is eager to get this case out of the public eye after a Sikh cab driver gets attacked in the wake of Naz’s indictment. They show a New York Post newspaper covering the assault with a perfect New York Post headline of “SIKHING REVENGE.” The super justice crusader lawyer is willing to go to court and turn the trial into a media circus unless the state offers her client manslaughter with a max sentence of 15 years. Despite the overwhelming evidence against Naz, Weiss begrudgingly accepts the deal.
The slick, manipulative lawyer tells Naz of the sweetheart of a deal and how he needs to accept it otherwise he faces the possibility of life in prison if the case goes to trial. Naz seems skeptical because he truly believes he is innocent. Crowe sees the bond between Naz and her legal aide Chandra because of their heritage, so she instructs her to convince him to take the plea deal. However, it backfires when Chandra speaks to Naz as a person and not as a peg in a personal social justice movement for acclaim. Chandra explains that trials cost a lot of money, so it’s in everyone’s best interest that he accept the deal. But if he didn’t actually commit the murder then he should fight it in court. Plain and simple.
Naz seeks guidance from everyone who he has access to. His former “friend” Calvin explains he should fight the charges because he knew someone who got off on murder charges. Freddy also instructs Nasir to take the deal.
Despite being dropped from representing Naz, Jack Stone played by the great John Turturro, still, has a vested interest in helping his former client. He stalks Andrea’s funeral and then a rehab where she was getting help. Stone pays off an employee at the rehab for her records. He wants to help the defense of Naz so he presents Chandra with the important evidence, but not before pulling off a shady Saul Goodman-esque move selling the records to her and making a $150 profit.
Stone continues to fight injustice and eczema. While Alison is representing Naz pro bono, Stone is representing a prostitute pro boner and accepts the pussy payment. Stone got the sex worker off in court and the woman got the lawyer off in bed.
“You wanna play roulette? Go to Atlantic City where the odds are better,” Jack tells Naz in court, just before he’s about to take a plea deal. “I’d kill to be 35 again. Take the deal.”
In court, Naz pleads guilty to manslaughter and conjures up the same tense buildup it did in the first episode when Naz was in the police station with the murder weapon. While reminiscing over the night of Andrea’s murder, he rehashes everything except the murder. Instead, he talks of drinking, taking drugs and having sex with her. There are flashbacks to that night with images of beads and that damn moose’s head. Then waking up and finding Andrea stabbed 22 times and running away because he was terrified.
This immediately infuriates Crowe, who sees her ticket to criminal justice fame vanishing right before her eyes. Because she never actually asked Naz what happened on the night of the murder, and probably never cared, she got embarrassed in court. This also angers the judge for wasting the court’s time and has lit a fire under the district attorney to nail Naz for the murder after rebuffing her very, very generous plea deal.
With a seemingly losing case for Alison, she quits as the lawyer for Naz. She offers Chandra to take on his case, however, it won’t be pro bono as it was before when she could spin the case into notoriety for her own law firm. Does this open the door for Stone and his itchy feet to represent Naz again or will he be part of Chandra’s defense team?
Meanwhile, the trial has been a nightmare for Naz’s family. There has been a media frenzy outside their house that spirals Naz’s mom Safar Khan into a depression. Plus, Naz’s brother Hasan is forced to take a leave of absence from high school after an incident where he was provoked. Parents have complained about Hasan being in school despite that he is an honor roll student.
This was an excellent episode and sets the wheels in motion for an all-out courtroom battle. With so much gap in time not being accounted for on the night of the murder, there is a lot to be discovered still. Like what was Andrea’s stepfather screaming at a guy immediately following the funeral? The only issue I had with this episode is that there wasn’t enough of Detective Dennis Box. I can’t get enough Box.
The question remains, did Naz just sign away any chance of seeing the outside world for the rest of his life because there is outwardly insurmountable evidence against him for the murder of a young woman? Or will his perceived justice be served and he won’t be in the clink for 15 years and will be granted his freedom after his trial? We shall soon find out!