The series finale of The Night Of supplied many surprises and not all of them were good.
I wasn’t sure how they would wrap it all up even with the extended time (95 minutes) but they managed to without feeling forced. After seven episodes I was beginning to have doubts of Naz’ innocence or, that even if he was, that he would go free but freedom is a nebulous term and never comes without a price.
The episode opened on the now retired Detective Box sitting in a bar, the same bar where they threw his retirement party. Two of his colleagues were at the other end talking about a new cop show on TV and how unrealistic it was. “…how about a show about a cop who doesn’t give a shit?”, one of them says then turns to Box for affirmation but Box is gone.
Something has been bothering Box since the start. You could see the doubt creep into his mind as he was watching the video of Andrea getting into the cab. DA Weiss felt it showed that Naz chose her and strengthened her case but you could tell that Box didn’t feel that way. When Box leaves the bar he goes back to the precinct and starts looking at this video again. He notices something. Andrea looks back. She looks back as if she were scared of something. He starts reviewing more street camera footage. He finally comes across footage of Andrea having an argument with a man right before she gets into the cab.
He starts digging. He finds out that Andrea was called many times by the same person that night and he puts it together with the credit card transactions of the place Andrea and the man came out of and had their argument. Raymond Halle, Andrea’s financial advisor
Box puts those golf clubs to use and hits the links but it’s only because he’s tailing Halle.
He tracks him to a casino where he approaches him at the bar. He shows him the photo of the argument and also insinuates they had a romantic relationship showing him of photo where they seem to be on vacation together. Halle denies any relationship and any wrong doing and leaves. Box takes what he has to DA Weiss. Box shows a financial statement that shows that Halle took $300K from Andrea’s account. “She could have given it to him” Weiss counters. “Or he could have taken it. He had power of attorney.” Box tells her. He has the timeline down with photos of Halle arriving at home around 3am. Even though Weiss seems intrigued with what Box presents to her she takes a pragmatic position, “We have more on the kid.” She tells him.
Chandra puts up Trevor who testifies that he wasn’t alone when he encountered Nas and Andrea as he first told the police. Then she puts on Dwayne Reed who is now incarcerated for another burglary. She puts in the record that Reed commits burglaries and then uses a knife from the premises to assault the people in the house. She gets the creepy undertaker, Mr. Day on the stand and presents video at the gas station and insinuates that he followed the cab back to Andrea’s house. She’s doing everything she can to present alternative suspects to the jury. Finally she puts Andrea’ step father, Don Taylor on the stand. He is one cool cucumber. He answers all her questions and doesn’t flinch. He’s forthcoming about his domestic abuse charges and that Andrea and he did not get along and argued over her mother’s estate after her death. Chandra confidently presents him with motive and accessibility to the house but Taylor also comes across as confident. “I make $35 thousand a year plus what I make on the side with private lessons. I’m on the verge of bankruptcy and I’ve filed twice before and no, I didn’t kill my step daughter.”
Weiss declines to cross examine any of these witnesses. Chandra is unnerved by this but Stone tells her not to worry. Weiss is trying to signal to the jury that she isn’t worried by not cross examining but in fact she is. He’s confident in their strategy. Chandra, though, wants to put Naz on the stand. Stone is strongly against this but Chandra seems to be over confident in her own abilities and asks Naz to testify. “I’m going to need some help”, Naz tells her and she understands. Naz is now addicted and needs some drugs to steady him on the stand. Chandra goes and scores some drugs on the streets, buys some condoms and then passes the baggie to Naz in the holding cell just as the drug passing techniques Naz is used to in prison. This is so stupid! Why in the world would she risk this?
Chandra puts Naz on the stand and he’s comes across fine but during cross Weiss meticulously takes him apart. When she finally asks him if he killed her Naz takes an enormous pause before saying “I don’t know.” Chandra is reduced to tears because she knew she blew it.
“When this started I thought we had a 10% chance. Now we have zero. You just convicted him.”, Stone tells her afterwards.
As soon as the debacle of putting Naz on the stand is over, Stone takes the cat back to the SPCA. “I don’t want to discuss it!” he tells the guy at the counter. He thoroughly cleans his apartment and sweeps up all the cat toys and tosses everything in the dumpster.
Stone comes back to his apartment and sees a package left at his door. It’s a disc with footage from the holding cell showing Chandra kissing Naz. Stone goes to see Naz to get his permission to show the tape to the judge and possibly get a mistrial. Naz is hesitant at first, asking what will happen to Chandra but Stone convinces him and shows the tape to the judge. Her career is over. But he doesn’t declare a mistrial. He makes Stone first chair which means he’ll have to give the closing argument.
Stone runs into Box at a dumpling shop and asks why he left him the disc? Box plays dumb. “What did you find? You must be sure or you wouldn’t have done it”, Stone asks but Box just laughs and walks out. “Who did it?” Stone yells at him as he exits.
Stone gets so stressed out as he tries to compose his closing that he goes into full meltdown and starts breaking out all over his body and having a bad asthma attack. He ends up in the emergency room and when he shows up in court he’s wearing his white gloves and his face and neck have eczema break out. But even as he looks his worst he is at his best with his closing remarks. He strongly advocates for his client and gives a moving speech. This will probably go down as his proudest moment win or lose. When he returns to his chair, Naz turns to him and gives a quiet but heartfelt ‘thank you’.
Naz has become completely indoctrinated to prison life. Even as the trial went on he got a large neck tattoo (a crown). “I wish you hadn’t done that,” Stone tells him, “It’s on the jury side.” He also has become good at targeting new prospects for Freddy’s drug ventures. When a newbie comes in, Naz immediately goes over to him and greets him, asks if he’s married and offers protection. When he goes back to Freddy he tells him, “He’s married. He can take the drugs from his wife himself.”
As the trial ends Freddy tries to reassure him that staying in prison won’t be that bad. “You got people that care about you. I care about you.” Freddy tells him. “Why?” Naz asks.
“You smell like innocence. You’re the real deal, Naz. You’re unique, like I got a unicorn. So why would I not take care of you? What kind of cold hardened man do you think I am?”
Well, I didn’t see this coming. Much to the judges dismay the jury is dead locked 6-6.
When the judge asks Weiss if she wants to set a new trial, Weiss looks over at Naz and tells the judge, “No, your Honor. My office declines to prosecute further.”
“You’re free. You get to go home.” Stone tells Naz.
Wow. And just like that he’s packing up his things in his cell and being led out of Rikers. He goes to say goodbye to Freddy but he’s not in his cell. As he’s leaving he hears the heavy bag being worked and turns to see Freddy working the bag. Before he exits the prison a guard hands him a book from Freddy. Call Of The Wild by Jack London.
When the last gate swings open his father is there to greet him. Mom stayed home.
Chandra cleans out her desk and leaves probably never to be a lawyer again.
Weiss meets with Box, who is now working as a security guard at NYU. “Let’s go get him” she tells him as she places the photo of Andrea and Halle arguing.
Box is seen tailing Halle. He’s still doing detective work but can he build a better case on Halle than he did on Naz?
Naz is having dinner at home but as they say, you can never go home again. His father is sweet and happy to have him back but his brother looks at him funny and his mother looks scared of him. He knows she thinks he did it even though she won’t admit it.
He meets with Stone at a deli near his home. Everyone is looking at him. He was set free but in the eyes of many he may still be guilty. “Fuck ‘em all” Stone tells him, “Live your life.”
“Thank you, for everything you did fore me.” Naz tells him.
Then we see Naz score some drugs and go back to the spot where Andrea and he sat by the Hudson River. He gets high and thinks about her. For a moment I thought he was going to OD and fall into the water. Perhaps he’s still wondering if he did kill her or not. It’s a bittersweet moment.
And Stone. He’s back to square one. He’s just as he was when we first met him; walking around in sandals, scratching his feet with chopsticks and looking gloomy. He sits at home watching TV and gets a call. It’s a new client. He’s back to his usual clientele and $250 cases. He gets dress as one of those sad commercials about abandoned pets comes on the screen. Roberta Flack is heard singing ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. Is he thinking about his cat that he took back to die? Then just as he goes to leave the apartment we see the cat scamper across the floor!
The show wasn’t a whodunnit and it wasn’t really a court room drama though the last two episodes showed a trial. It was really a character study of the men and women that work in the criminal justice system and the kind of games that are played with peoples lives. It paints a depressing picture of how someone can get tossed into the system and prison to fend for themselves while decisions are made that have nothing to do about their guilt or innocence.
There really was no happy ending for any of the characters though Naz being freed from prison was a big win, he comes back into the world a changed man, a marked man, an addicted and haunted man. The scene of him by the river getting high and thinking of Andrea was terribly sad.
And John Stone, who is arguably the hero of the story, seems worse off than when the story started. But at least he has the cat.
Richard Price and Steven Zaillian created a good, moody, New York story. I’d like to see more from them so I’m hoping HBO picks up the show for another season. New York is full of good stories.
Box sleeping at the precinct as he continues to investigate Andrea’s murder. That’s dedication.
Another detective keeps seeing Box at the precinct and says “You still here? Do we have to throw you another party?”
Box to Halle at the casino bar; “Why are you still here? Waiting for me to throw the bracelets on you? I told you I’m retired. The fuck out of here!”