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Solving ‘The Night Of': Both Naz and the case are beginning to unravel

08.15.16 at 1:47 am ET
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The defense on the defensive. Credit Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

The defense on the defensive. Credit Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

With 75 percent of the show of Summer ‘16 in the books, “Samson and Delilah” delivered some of those sweet, sweet procedural goods that we’ve missed thus far in “The Night Of.”  With only two episodes left, both the audience of the show and the characters within the show are no closer to pinpointing exactly what happened on October 24th while red herrings continue to pop up all over the place.  

Heading into Episode 6:

  • Is Freddy actually helping or hurting Naz?
  • What happened after John chased Duane Reed down the alley?
  • Whose funeral did we see in the previews?
  • At what point will we see some holes poked into the murder scene evidence?
  • Does Det. Box actually believe Naz is guilty? How much is his retiring weighing on his approach to this case?

Even when removing the vastness of the Dick Wolf cannon, the courtroom procedural is the backbone of television. Lawyers defending and prosecuting good guys and bad guys in gorgeous, aesthetically pleasing, and well-lit courtrooms is right up there with “situational comedies” as a staple of television. What the creators of “The Night Of” did with this classic aspect of the procedural in “Samson and Delilah” was one of the most engaging aspects of this series.  It was the least sexy courtroom I have ever seen on TV. Drab, dreary, and dark with only a few streams of light coming through the windows to illuminate a courtroom that has seen better days was just as telling about what we’re dealing with in this case as actual plot developments.  

Ask any lawyer and they’ll tell you that legal work is not the sizzle you see on TV; it is a plodding stomp through the dirt to find a shred of evidence or doubt to lay at the feet of the judge and jury.  “The Night Of” is at its best when its characters are digging around in the dirt where only a few shards of light are allowed to poke through.

Everything about this week’s episode was designed to crank the audience’s anxiety level up to 11. The introduction of flashbacks to the first episode, the music, Chandra and John’s bedroom eyes at each other, etc. While no episode has yet to match the anxious feeling we got when watching Naz get first brought into the precinct, the sixth episode’s presentation of just how far each character has come is a very close second. The shock of the situation has completely worn off and reality is setting in as each character is dealing with accepting where exactly they are now. Life is not going back to normal, and most likely never will. While this trial will be wrapped up shortly, they’ll be living with the aftershocks of this case for the rest of their lives.  

Hanging on to the idea that Naz is innocent is getting harder and harder every week. He is changing before our eyes, and while all credit goes to Riz Ahmed’s star-making performance, it really shines a spotlight on the question, “what comes next for Naz?” At this point, the verdict doesn’t matter; the Naz that stole his father’s cab to go to a party in Manhattan is dead and buried even if he is found innocent. Naz may get out of Rikers, but he is never getting out of prison, and I think that is what the show is trying to tell us. It’s not about who killed Andrea Cornish; it’s about how a seemingly small series of events can dictate the rest of one’s life. There is no going back for this character no matter what the jury decides. The damage is real and has already been done. 

“The Night Of” has been big on drawing parallels between its characters and the steps they are taking in the aftermath of Andrea’s murder. Last week, we saw John go off on his own to chase down Duane Reed and tonight we saw Chandra track down Mr. Day, the driver of the hearse in episode one. In both instances, our characters wound up chasing ghosts.  This device — John and Chandra willing to explore every possible theory — does two things specifically:

  • It establishes that this is not a story about the solving of a murder, it’s a story of redemption.
  • It allows the audience to vicariously pursue every red herring swimming down the premium cable river.

As menacing, creepy and misogynistic as Mr. Day is, he’s not the guy that killed Andrea Cornish. As easy as it would have been to have the murderer be the most likely suspect from the first episode, it wasn’t Duane Reed either. That theory literally got up and ran off-screen before we could accuse it of a crime.  What “The Night Of” is doing with exploring these theories (in addition to giving the people what they want), is reinforcing that the answers we’ve been looking for the entire time are right in front of us, and we’re too busy chasing ghosts in order to see them.  

The only lead that came up in “Samson and Delilah” that looks like it might pan out is super creep step-dad Don Taylor may be the culprit after all, or at the very least be closely involved. In the preview for next week’s episode, we see Det. Box on the witness stand stating that he’ll take evidence over a confession any day. While the evidence is lacking as of right now, Don Taylor is the only character we’ve met with the motive to commit this crime. At this point in the series, motive counts for something. By next week I’m sure we’ll see evidence to back it up.  

Notepad

  • Stone finally found something that cured his ailing feet. He found it by chasing down every possible remedy for the problem and found success with least conventional means. What does say about the case? What non-traditional tactic is going to prove to be their best defense?
  • Naz’s two tattoos – “Sin” and “Bad” or “SINBAD” across his knuckles and a howling wolf on his arm; one tattoo about a protagonist of Middle Eastern origin that survives a number of trials and tribulations, and another of an animal answering the call of the wild. Two very appropriate tattoos for someone who is coming to grips with possibly being in prison for life.   
  • Det. Box is so focused on the evidence of the case, but no one has mentioned how Naz left the crime scene with no blood on him save for the cut on his hand.  How can that possibly be and why hasn’t anyone brought it up?
  • Where was Stone’s independent forensic scientist this week?
  • Is Don Taylor another red herring or is he actually a suspect in this murder case?  
  • My theory after six episodes is this: Naz is innocent, but winds up being convicted, or is guilty and winds up being found innocent. Either way, the final scenes of the series will be the audience finding out what truly happened.
Read More: The Night Of,

Putting Metallica’s ‘Black Album’ in perspective 25 years later

08.12.16 at 9:07 am ET
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Metallica's self-titled album is celebrating its 25th anniversary. (Getty Images)

Metallica’s self-titled album is celebrating its 25th anniversary. (Getty Images)

In a 1991 interview, Lars Ulrich bemoaned the fact that critics called his group a “thrash” band. Asked by the interviewer if he preferred his band be called “power metal,” a term he’d used years earlier, Ulrich admitted he didn’t like that either.

“That sounds like it was a while ago,” Ulrich said, adding, “It doesn’t really seem like any of these labels matter much. That’s why we have a band name.”

The band name was, of course, Metallica, and Ulrich had good reason to not like the “thrash” or “power metal” labels, because he knew something the interviewer didn’t: Metallica was about to release a rock album.

As Metallica’s self-titled fifth album (better known as “The Black Album”) turns 25 Friday, its legacy holds a strange place with Metallica fans. Diehards lament the directional change the band took five years after releasing one of the greatest metal albums ever in “Master of Puppets.” A common narrative is that teaming with producer Bob Rock eventually derailed the band irreparably. Both arguments probably boil down to the fact that “The Black Album” is what turned Metallica “mainstream.” After all, no album by any artist has sold more copies in the United States than “The Black Album” since its release.

Yet to write off “The Black Album” as Metallica’s “Piano Man” (the song, not the album; man, did that album have some bangers) would be to pay a truly great album a disservice. It would also ignore the fact that the direction the band took helped them off a potentially worse path.

Consider where Metallica was as a band when they cut their self-titled album. They were coming off their first album since the death of Cliff Burton, and though “…And Justice For All” was an ambitious record that earned them their first Grammy, it was sonically dreadful. This wasn’t the fault of new bassist Jason Newsted, but rather the fact that frontman James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich were producing albums without a true producer for too long.

As they had with 1984’s “Ride the Lightning” and 1986’s “Master of Puppets,” Metallica produced “…And Justice for All” alongside engineer Flemming Rasmussen. Yet unlike “Ride the Lightning” and “Master of Puppets,” Metallica used “…And Justice For All” to go for a different sound that favored Ulrich’s drums and Hetfield’s rhythm guitar over everything else (you know the payoff when you get to the double-kick in “One?” Well you pay for it for the rest of the album).

Newsted’s bass was inaudible, thinning the band’s sound away from the powerful boom of the play-everything-in-E sound that had become synonymous with Metallica and so many other bands in the 80s. Factor in that the band’s attempts to move away from the 4/4 time signature sounded forced, and you had an album that quite frankly sounded like it was made by people who didn’t know what they were doing.

Musically, the band needed rescuing in the worst way. Teaming up with a budding super-producer in Rock (best-known at that time for producing the “Dr. Feelgood” album) did that.

Consider the band’s aforementioned propensity to write all of their songs in the key of E (the lowest note on a standard-tuned guitar). Rock helped the band get away from writing a bunch of songs that sounded the same, and the results showed in “The Black Album.”

In Metallica’s two albums prior to their work with Rock, 15 of their 17 songs were at least partially in E. On “The Black Album,” four songs were recorded in other keys, including a pair of classics in “Sad But True” (detuned to D at Rock’s insistence) and “The Unforgiven.”

Of course, it wasn’t just key signature that Rock contributed. Bass was mercifully returned to Metallica’s sound, which was additionally rounded out with synthesizers (tastefully!), additional percussion and strings.

Furthermore, Rock served as the coach that Metallica never had on their previous albums. In addition to technical responsibilities, it’s on the producer to get strong performances out of his musicians. Hetfield’s vocals morphed from his mid-80s shriek to gigantic, complemented often by harmonies that were absent on earlier records.

Then there was Rock’s insistence upon making Kirk Hammett an actual lead guitarist, and his success in doing so ranks highly among his biggest contributions to Metallica. Hammett was already a guitar god by then, but he achieved the status by flying all over the neck with hit-or-miss results. The hits were borderline iconic (“Seek & Destroy,” “Master of Puppets,” “Blackened,” “One”), but it’s remarkable how many completely forgettable solos Hammett had on Metallica’s first four albums.

Most Metallica fans have seen the video of Rock dogging Hammett during the recording of “The Unforgiven,” as Hammett seemingly lazily attempted a lick that more appropriately landed in “The Struggle Within.” The solo that Rock eventually got out of Hammett saw the lead guitarist serve a song better than he had in any of Metallica’s previous work. Though not a difficult solo to play at all, “The Unforgiven” should be considered Hammett’s best solo and “The Black Album” should be considered his best overall album.

(Hammett playing an honest classic rock solo, as he also did on “Enter Sandman,” didn’t mean the end of his speedier displays. The aforementioned “The Struggle Within” solo is also an all-timer, as is his performance on “Wherever I May Roam.”)

As with the band’s previous albums, many of the songs were written around riffs. Rock did not get in the way in that regard, and the band moved away from breakneck downstrokes to bigger, sexier, bluesier riffs that were only thickened by Rock. The Hammett-written “Enter Sandman” riff is the album’s most iconic riff, but the sludginess of “Sad But True” and “Don’t Tread On Me” provide a much-needed departure from predictable “… And Justice For All” works like “Eye of the Beholder.”

Upon the album’s release, Metallica was shot into another stratosphere of success, one that led to year and years of touring and subsequent, inferior works with Rock before the sides eventually parted ways after the holy-cow-how-did-a-label-release-this “St. Anger.” Did the marathon recording of “The Black Album” perhaps damage the band long-term? Maybe, as the album is also well-known for the contention between the band and the producer throughout its nine months of recording and the fact that three of the band’s four members got divorced in the process.

Yet that doesn’t make the band’s most successful album a black eye. Look at the turmoil that followed The Pixies after the recording of “Doolittle.” Despite it destroying the band’s dynamic, it was worth it because the world got a classic album out of it.

Twenty-five years later, Metallica has never come close to being as good as they were with “The Black Album,” but there’s nothing wrong with that. Metallica mastered the genre of metal with “Master of Puppets,” but “…And Justice For All” showed major warning signs that they were regressing. They came back from that with one of the best — and most successful — rock albums ever.

Read More: Bob Rock, Metallica,

The Night Of Deep Dive: What if Naz actually did it?

08.11.16 at 7:58 pm ET
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The premiere of “The Night Of” was arguably 2016’s best hour of television.  It so distinctly established itself as something different, I found myself amazed that:

A. HBO released it early on its on-demand platforms (a move reserved for shows that struggle to find an audience).

B. A bigger deal was not made of the fact it was available when it hit the internet. For all of the discussions this show is generating, it should be generating twice that amount. I’m both disappointed and ecstatic that as a collective TV-mystery-sleuthing-cultural-task-force, we are yet to crack the mystery of “Who Killed Andrea Cornish?” Disappointed because the best theories out there right now either that the step-dad or a guy named after New York’s version of CVS did it, and ecstatic because we have three more weeks of #PeakTV to roll around in.  

This is the type of show that any Golden Age of Television truther craves: a patient, aesthetically pleasing crime drama with the DNA of a Mount Rushmore of Modern Age Media discussion pumping through its veins — “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Serial,” and “True Detective.”  

Since its debut episode, many viewers have argued that the slow-burn pace of the show has overshadowed the actual plot. If that is your take, you’re correct. This is not “The Night Of: Special Victim’s Unit.” If that is deterring you from sticking with the show, then you’re making the completely wrong move. Simply put: if you like TV, then this type of show is good for you. There is a reason why HBO paired this show with “Ballers” and “Vice Principals” — you have to eat all your vegetables before we roll out the ice cream.  

Shows like “The Night Of” are very rare, even more so in the United States. “The Night Of” is a limited series; there are eight episodes and that is it. While anthology series are all the rage now on cable — “Fargo,” “American Horror Story,” “True Detective” — there is an inherent sense of “we’re gonna get a few cracks at this to get it right.” Even though each season is a standalone story, they are connected thematically and designed to share lots of similarities. Within that, the audience knows that there will be multiple attempts for these anthologies to make up for any lackluster seasons. I don’t know if anyone really loved “American Horror Story: Hotel” and I doubt it will dissuade people from watching whatever “AHS: 6″ winds up being.  

A show like “The Night Of” doesn’t have that luxury, not that it needs it. This eight-episode dissection is all we’re getting, and that is a good thing.  To put this in context, the three episode stretch of Naz acclimating to prison, John Stone’s gross feet, and the back and forth between legal teams representing our protagonist, was essentially season two of “The Wire.” While maybe the crisis at the docks isn’t your favorite part of that series, it’s all connected and a necessary part of the experience. Could you imagine bailing on McNulty, Bunk, and Kima because you didn’t like Ziggy and the Sobotkas?  You would have missed so much Omar!  

Part Five of “The Night Of,” “The Season of the Witch,” was the clear end to the second act of the show as each of our main characters met with some serious conflict all circling around the central question we’ve largely refused to ask ourselves: Who Is Nasir Khan? Seriously… who is he?  Throughout the show, we’ve assumed he is a good guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He is the son of immigrant parents. He is the smart kid who is doing the best with the opportunity he has earned.  He is a math whiz. Every single fiber of our TV watching being has been trained to think that this guy didn’t do it. But what if he did?  

One theory I keep coming back to in every episode deconstruction is that in dealing with Naz we’re dealing with an unreliable narrator, which is defined as a first person character whose credibility has been seriously compromised.  While “The Night Of” isn’t told from a first person point of view in the same was as its contemporary prestige-y dramas like “The Affair” or “Mr. Robot” – two other shows that lean almost exclusively on this narrative device – the idea that Naz doesn’t quite have a handle on what happened on October 24th, 2014 is developing into the most pivotal plot point in the story.    

As highlighted in The Season of the Witch, Naz’s tox screen came back reading like a recipe for bad news: ecstasy, alcohol, ketamine, and amphetamine. When his legal team – John and Chandra – present him with this information, Naz is visibly shaken. Even taking into account the incredibly stressful situation Naz finds himself in during that moment – he is trying to complete a drug hand-off for Freddy – he is agitated by Stone poking holes in his “just a Kid from Queens” persona. It takes several direct accusations but Naz finally admits to using Adderall– the likely source of the amphetamine in his blood.  

Question: Is this the behavior of a character you can trust?  

As the waiting room hand-off unfolds, John launches into a laundry list of reasons why a college kid taking Adderall who is also on trial for murder is a bad thing:

“1. Without a prescription it’s illegal. 2. You weren’t up studying you were going to a party. 3. It counteracts the sedative effects of the K making your ‘I passed out story’ less believable. 4. You take enough of it, it makes you psychotic. 5. You lied to me.  So I’m going to ask you because your life depends on it: What else have lied about?”

As all of these accusations are being hurled his way, Naz is trying to time the distraction of a prison guard to the exact moment when his accomplice, Petey, will be walking by him with a hand full of eight balls that he must then dry swallow in front of his lawyer. Lots to process for both main character and audience. I had to re-watch the scene five times to catch Stone’s entire list of ‘drugs are bad’ bullet points.  

The audience is being manipulated purposefully into confusion to show that Naz can’t things straight when situations get stressful, even when those stressful situations are controlled and he knows what is coming.  

This point is driven home in the next scene when Naz has to deliver the product in front of Freddy and his team. After passing the three bags he swallowed, Naz insists there are four, a statement with which Petey instantly agrees. Petey’s reasons aside (stress, the knowledge that if he says there are only three the obvious implication is that he and Naz are trying to hide the fourth from Freddy, etc.), we know Naz is wrong. The audience has watched Naz swallow three eight balls, not four.  This is done to show us that no matter how stressful the situation, no matter how much danger or perceived danger he is in, Naz’s recollection of the situation is flawed. He is as unreliable a narrator as you can get.  

Question: How can this character, all things considered, be counted on to remember anything and what proof do we have that we should believe him?  

In trying to answer these questions, I did a little digging on Wikipedia, and I thought this example summed it perfectly:

Sometimes the narrator’s unreliability is made immediately evident. For instance, a story may open with the narrator making a plainly false or delusional claim or admitting to being severely mentally ill, or the story itself may have a frame in which the narrator appears as a character, with clues to the character’s unreliability. A more dramatic use of the device delays the revelation until near the story’s end. This twist ending forces readers to reconsider their point of view and experience of the story. In some cases the narrator’s unreliability is never fully revealed but only hinted at, leaving readers to wonder how much the narrator should be trusted and how the story should be interpreted.

So what else is Naz misremembering?  

Naz’s guilt or innocence hangs in the balance of what he both remembers and is willing to admit, and after “The Season of The Witch,” that is not an easy thing to pin down. Consciously, Naz believes he is innocent, but unconsciously he might know something different, with his physical transformation being the biggest hint. In addition to trying mirror Freddy physically – boxing, the tight space workouts, and big dogging Treach from Naughty By Nature after deciding the TV room will be watching Ellen – Naz decides to shave his head. In any visual storytelling medium, that is a sign of transformation and it rarely carries a positive connotation.  

Elsewhere in prestige cable land, a close-up scene of a primary character shaving his head is the manifestation of guilt. Walter White shaves his head and commits to becoming Heisenberg. He evolves from mild-mannered science teacher to Caucasian Scarface. It doesn’t happen immediately, but the ball is now rolling.  On the “Walking Dead,” Shane – a most reluctant villain – shaves his head after literally throwing someone in front of a horde of animated flesh monsters in order to save himself.  Instead of admitting to the other survivors what he did, he shaves his head and things get more evil from there.  His evolution into villainy is a bit faster — from people’s champion in post-apocalyptic Atlanta to zombie in no time flat.  

In both cases, the change comes from the character struggling to come to grips with their specific actions. It’s the easiest way to show the audience that there is something the character is struggling with. Very literally, they have a hard time looking themselves in the mirror and opt to make a drastic change.  

While Naz probably won’t become the Walter White of Rikers Island and I doubt the final twist of “The Night Of” is that the dead rise from their graves, there are real monsters at play here. More so than the evil step-dad, the random guy from the funeral, or the elusive Duane Reed, the evidence we have points to Naz having the most potential to evolve into the monster we’ve been hunting. He remembers more than he is letting on even if he isn’t ready to admit it.  

 

‘Martha and Snoop’s Dinner Party’ is a dream come true

08.09.16 at 11:07 am ET
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If you thought Snoop Dogg narrating Planet Earth was exciting, you better strap in for this one.

Snoop is teaming up with lifestyle queen, Martha Stewart, in “Martha and Snoop’s Dinner Party,” a new cooking show on VH1.

“My homegirl, Martha and I have a special bond that goes back,” Snoop said in a statement. “We’re gonna be cooking, drinking and having a good time with our exclusive friends. Can’t wait for you to see how we roll together!”

“At our dinner party, we will exemplify America’s fascination with food, entertaining and celebrity,” Stewart said. “‘Martha & Snoop’s Dinner Party’ will redesign the traditional food competition shows in a new, different and very funny way.”

Count me in.

The best part of this series is it will be UNSCRIPTED, meaning it has the potential to go off the rails in a thousand ways. Their previous collaborations include the Comedy Central roast of Justin Bieber and making mashed potatoes on Martha.

Judging by the latter, this new show could be a masterpiece. Five minutes into the potatoes, Snoop said, “What is this again?” and then put Cognac in them.

I can’t wait.

And if you think their different personalities are too ironic, the two are actually not as different as you think. As many have pointed out, Stewart has done a little more prison time than Snoop (though he was once on trial for murder and, fun fact, his lawyer was Johnnie Cochran) and Stewart’s prison nickname was “M.Diddy.”

So it’s pretty much two gangsters throwing dinner parties. It is scheduled to premiere this fall and I will be severely disappointed if Dr. Dre is not a guest.

 

Read More: Martha Stewart, Snoop Dogg,

Solving The Night Of: The truth is coming into focus and it is hard to look at

08.08.16 at 2:02 am ET
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John Stone is working overtime. (Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)

John Stone is working overtime. (Craig Blankenhorn/HBO)

Quick note before we dive into tonight’s episode: Since its debut five weeks ago, “The Night Of” has become two very different shows — a prison drama and a legal drama. To that end, there are lots and lots of threads on which to pull in an attempt to unravel the two mysteries collectively we are trying to solve: Who is Nasir Khan and who killed Andrea Cornish?

So we’re breaking this into two pieces — a Monday Morning recap and a mid-week breakdown of the episode where I get to apply some AP English style hot TV takes.  The first piece is where we breakdown what we saw, and the follow up is where we get to peel off the Saran wrap of these Crisco-laden feet and get down to business.

Having said that, let’s get into it.

Episode 5 of “The Night Of” — entitled “The Season of the Witch” — shined a light on the question we’ve been avoiding all season: Who exactly is Nasir Khan? If last week’s episode, “The Call of the Wild” teased the idea that Naz was going to have to evolve in order to survive his time in prison, this week’s episode turned that thought on its head.  

What’s that saying about adversity and character? Adversity doesn’t build character; it reveals it.  

Maybe — just maybe — this nightmarish situation isn’t turning Naz into something he isn’t, but revealing the person he truly is. Maybe this is the Nas we’ve been looking at all along and have been refusing to acknowledge it.  

Questions Heading Into Episode 5:

  • Is Naz changing before our eyes, or is he playing right into Freddy’s hands? Can Naz actually trust anyone?  Who actually is in this to help him?
  • Why is John Stone so hellbent on helping Naz? What does Naz represent to him?
  • Does Box actually think Nas did it, or is he too just pursuing the easiest outcome to clear this case?
  • What does the crime scene tell us about the killer and the crime?

Theory Heat Check

  • The Cat: Andrea’s cat 100% represents the truth of the situation. Hands down. Over the last few episodes, John has been keeping tabs on the case and continuing his work despite not being Naz’s actual lawyer. In “The Season of the Witch,” John adopts the cat and simultaneously gets officially brought onto the defense team, where is job is to LITERALLY search for the truth.  
  • The Backdoor Theory: John and Chandra bring in their own specialist to get some fresh eyes on the crime scene. The specialist finds that the back door doesn’t lock (something noticed by many and yet to be addressed in the show), may have found some additional evidence in the garden, and may have introduced reasonable doubt to the defense’s case. It couldn’t have come at a better time as Naz’s “Good Kid” defense has flown out the window.  
  • Occam’s Razor: Occam’s Razor suggests that,””Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.” Lots of things could have happened on the night in question. One possibility is that Naz killed Andrea and just doesn’t remember it. Naz took a ridiculous amount of substances, the combination of which could produce some nasty side effects. At this point all we know for certain is that Naz was definitely in the house when Andrea was murdered.  Until new evidence is provided, the theory with the fewest assumptions is that Naz actually did it.

Another week, another circle of hell visited with our tour guide, John Stone. Week after week, I assume we’re seeing John Stone struggle with being John Stone and it being a device to show the audience the depths from which he must rise  There are only three episodes left; at what point does he start to burrow up to the surface?  

From an excruciating Bring-Your-Father-to-Work-Day presentation in front of his son’s class, to failing to perform when he visits his — **cough** — client/friend, to being ridiculed by both his doctor and pharmacist, to watching another “John” steal his girl and his drink, Stone had a pretty bad week. It would be easy to keep bashing John for this series of unfortunate events, and that is what every other character in the show does. It is also exactly what he expects them to do. While they are picking at his character in the same way he is jabbing at his feet with chopsticks, John is grinding away doing the necessarily work on the case. While everyone involved — both the characters in the show and the audience watching — is focused on his life events, which might as well be accompanied by a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” tuba sound effect, they look past and shrug off the two leads he uncovered:

  • Andrea’s drug dealing waiter friend. 
  • Previously unnamed side-eye slinging dude on the street, Duane Reed.  

This is the result of good work that no one else involved was willing to do.  John Stone might be rising up from the depths of hell to solve this case, but that means he is starting down in the muck and mire where the only work that can be done is the necessary dirty work. From his point of view, the work isn’t dirty. It’s a head start.

When we left Naz last week he was transitioning from servile puppy to running with the wolves at the front of the pack.  This week showed more of that journey as Naz is allowing himself to evolve into a different person while in Rikers. In a move I’m sure we could all see coming a mile away, Freddy isn’t extending olive branch after olive branch just because Naz is “a care package for his brain.” He’s doing it because he’s a puppet master and Naz is his newest dummy.

In exchange for protection, his new single cell, and for the gift of Freddy arranging for him to beat down Calvin — the man who burned him last week — Naz has to play the role of drug mule. What is most interesting about this is that you can see Naz’s sight shifting from long distance — proving his innocence — to short distance — playing his part in Freddy’s game of “How To Survive and Thrive in Prison.”

He’s allowing himself to be manipulated and he knows it; what’s worse is that John knows it, too. Even when John catches him red-handed moving Freddy’s newly smuggled in supply, he refuses to acknowledge it. What does this tell us about Naz as a character?  What else is he refusing to acknowledge?

After weeks of focusing on the who, we finally got some what and how in tonight’s episode as Det. Box, Stone and Chandra, and D.A. Weiss started sifting through mountains of evidence to assemble their cases. What I found most interesting was that all three parties were working from the same deck, and all three found different trump cards:

  • Det. Box — established the timeline, and uncovered a little bit of doubt.
  • D.A. Weiss — obtained a testimony from the medical examiner about the nature of the cut on Naz’s hand.
  • John Stone — found both a potential reasonable doubt (the back door, new blood sample), and a potential suspect, Duane Reed.

While the exact nature of how each hand will play out, the “silent friend” theory gained a TON of traction this week and gave birth to the most excitement we’ve had on the show in weeks — a Crisco smeared foot race through the alleys of New York.  

With Naz’s character defense all but destroyed and the trial set to begin next week, there should be a lot more evidence coming into play very soon. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we’ve already looked past the piece of evidence that either clears Naz’s name or seals his fate.  

Tonight’s episode got us back on track and reinforced that this show is about discovery. This is all about the hunt for the truth, no matter how ugly it is, and what you’re willing to do to uncover it.

The Notepad

You can check out the full “The Night Of” Notepad HERE.

Suspect List

  • Duane Reed
  • Don Taylor
  • Dude from the funeral

New Notes

  • So Det. Box is smoking now? This is new. Does this show that the stress of the case is getting to him?
  • We learned that Det. Box has filed his papers after 33 years on the job. Does this case now carry more weight for him as it could be his final one?
  • Det. Box pouring over all the video surveillance footage shows that Naz was telling the truth on 10/24/14.  What does this mean for where Box stands on the proceedings? Is there now a shadow of doubt in his mind?
  • Stone listing off all of the ways the cocktail of drugs Naz took could fry his brain was scary. This lends a lot of credence to the “unreliable narrator” theory from a few weeks back; essentially we’re going off of Naz’s recollection of the night. We’re seeing what Naz remembers, but not necessarily what happened.  
  • Have we established that the knife found on Naz is the actual murder weapon?
  • How could the amount of blood in the bedroom be all over the walls and the mattress, but NOT on Naz himself?  His clothes should have been drenched.  Will this be brought up in court?
  • Who is Duane Reed and why is Trevor afraid of him?  
  • Where is creepy Step-Dad Don Taylor this week?  
  • Who is the man at the funeral Don was arguing with?

 

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