Sunday, July 24, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Night Of' - Naz Struggles in Prison While His Parents are Unsure About Stone in 'A Dark Crate'

HBO's The Night Of - Episode 1.03 "A Dark Crate"

Awaiting his formal arraignment at Rikers Island, Naz realizes that his survival, or perhaps his demise, rests with a particular inmate, Freddy.

Naz has been in over his head for the entire series so far. He has found himself in this horrifying situation. The trauma of it is keeping him from acting in a rational way. It's a deeply personal experience for him. It's a trying time for him as he stands accused of this horrible crime. He doesn't believe that he could murder Andrea. But then again, he doesn't know for sure. He has realized that the two of them had sex and then he woke up in the kitchen. He doesn't know how he got there or what happened after they fell asleep. He doesn't believe he could ever kill someone. But he just doesn't know for certain. He's maintained his innocence throughout this whole process. And yet, he's made countless mistakes through this whole process. He doesn't know or understand the criminal justice system. He just wants to tell the truth. But the system is forcing him into a corner by manipulating his words and actions. It's an arduous process. It's bound to only get more gruesome with his arrival at Rikers Island awaiting trial.

Stone did his best to get Naz released on bail. It failed because of the severity of the crime. Murderers and rapists just can't be allowed to go home again until the trial. So now, everyone is adjusting to their new realities. Naz is learning how to live in prison while Stone is furthering his investigation of the case while also keeping Naz's parents informed about the financial cost of this endeavor. A trial isn't going to be happening anytime soon. The District Attorney is moving quickly because of how solid their case is. They need to get this violent individual off the streets and paying for his crimes. But there's still a procedure that needs to be upheld. The lead prosecutor, Helen, needs to present the case to a grand jury to formally move ahead with a trial. After that, it will still be awhile before an actual court date is set. Naz is looking at a long time in prison. He wants to believe he can continue keeping his head down and wait for all of this to be over. But how he survived in a holding cell at a precinct isn't going to help him much in prison. Something he definitely learns much quicker than expected.

Throughout the entire episode, there is a feeling that something bad is about to happen to Naz. The DA's office has released the details to the public about the case. So now, his fellow inmates know that he is in prison for murder and sexual assault. That paints a target on his back. It's much larger than the inmates just scoping out the new arrivals. At first glance, Naz isn't a threat at all. That perception has been a really important piece of this story. Naz doesn't look like a killer or a rapist. He just looks like a normal college student and devout Muslim. He doesn't look like he could do this horrible crime. But all it takes is the accusation to paint people's understanding of him. The inmates rally around the idea that killing a woman is the most despicable crime that can be done. They are killers too but the gender politics involved make Naz's case even more potent. They don't care if he's innocent or guilty. They just assume he did these crimes because that's the amount of information given to them. They don't care to look at him and his behavior. They don't care to talk to him. They just want to punish him for this crime - whether he's guilty or not.

The question becomes when is this assault on Naz going to happen? The tension is high throughout the entire episode. Naz is in this strange and unfamiliar place. It does seem like the procedure operates more smoothly at Rikers than things did at the precinct and in the evidence collection. But that's hardly an encouraging sign when it becomes immediately clear that the guards have their own personal interests in this world as well. Sometimes that means the inmates can order them around. Sometimes it's rewarded with sexual favors. Freddy seems to be the beneficiary of all of that attention. He's the man in control of at least this cell block. He has importance the moment he appears on the screen. Michael Kenneth Williams is a powerful addition to the cast as well. Freddy sits back and analyzes Naz. He looks at him much differently than everyone else. He sees that sweet and innocent nature. Of course, he still manipulates those qualities. Those won't help Naz survive in this place. Only Freddy's protection can do that. Naz has held steadfast about surviving in this place by himself. But that is going to be impossible. His fellow inmates can strike at any moment in time - in the shower, in the rec room or while he's sleeping. It builds to the moment of the inmates setting fire to his bunk while he goes to the bathroom in the middle of the night. It's a chaotic final moment that shows just how out of his depth Naz really is. He needs Freddy's protection in order to survive. But what will Freddy want in return?

Stone wants to help Naz as well. He knows what he needs in order to survive in prison. He gives him money and new clothes for the place. Naz's parents didn't know to do that. They were clueless about how invasive the process is just to visit their son in prison. Plus, they are realizing that they can't just get the taxi back in order to continue making money to play their bills. Stone has all of that knowledge but isn't able to communicate it very well with Naz's parents. He has a bond with Naz. Stone decided to take the case because he could see that Naz needed his help in the holding cell. Sure, it wasn't the kind of case he was expecting. But he is committed to seeing this through for Naz. He has become drawn to the case. He has his own problems to deal with. But he keeps going back to his defense strategy for Naz. Yes, a part of that is asking Naz's parents how they are going to pay him for his services. He can't legally start working on the case until they sign a retainer. He doesn't get that. Naz's parents don't sign. And yet, Stone is sill heavily investigating the case. He has a meeting with the prosecutor to determine how strong a case they have. He visits the crime scene to surveil the place. He even takes Andrea's cat to the pound to make sure it has the possibility to find a new home. Of course, none of this is building to a happy ending. The cat will be put down after 10 days if no one wants it. But more importantly, Stone is fired from the case.

The money was really a huge issue for Naz's parents. They aren't the clients in this case. Naz is. He is an adult who is legally able to make his own binding decisions about his defense. But they still have an aura of control over his life. He's embarassed to tell them the details about the night in question. He needs them for support. He listens when they say they have gotten another attorney to represent him. Naz really likes Stone. He has always been brutally honest with him through this whole process. He doesn't know why his parents have fired him for someone else. It's just something he accepts as soon as his parents tell him. It's devastating for Stone. He's been committed to this case because he likes Naz. He's not doing it for the money or the publicity. But the money is a huge issue. Naz's parents can't afford him. They are pulled away by a new lawyer, Alison, who comes in promising to do it for free. Alison is a lawyer backed by a powerful firm. She knows how to preside over a trial. She has the experience Stone may be lacking in this case. But it's also clear that she is able to manipulate the optics of the situation to her advantage. In a separate case, she is able to expertly craft a tale about societal and professional demands taking away a voluntary decision to have plastic surgery. With Naz's case, she is able to comfort his parents by bringing an associate of hers along for the ride who happens to speak Hindi. She knows how to play this game. And right now, it seems like she's winning. But in order to help Naz, she'll need to believe in him and become invested in this case. Stone already is. It seems unlikely he'll be able to let it go. But will Alison become just as attached as he is?

Some more thoughts:
  • "A Dark Crate" was written by Richard Price and directed by Steven Zaillian.
  • Not much of Detective Box this week. He informs the arresting officers that this case will be decided based on whichever side appears more human and believable. Plus, he's at the press conference with the DA's office. But that's about it.
  • Stone and Box have talked about getting the taxi back to the Naz's father as quickly as possible. But now, he and his employers are realizing just how difficult that will actually be. The state will be holding onto it until at least the trial is over. And even then, these guys would have to sue to get it back - which they probably won't.
  • However, the taxi represents a new way for Stone to stay connected to the case. When the guys who actually own the taxi are upset about not getting it back, the officer hands them Stone's card as someone who may be able to help them out.
  • Stone's eczema really is getting a lot of screen time as an important part of that character. When he's not with Naz or in court, he's dealing with this condition. He goes to the doctor who gives him a new suggestion. And then, he goes to an eczema support group. That's a peculiar detail.
  • Stone is unable to take in Andrea's cat because he is allergic to it - just like Naz! And yet, he's the only person who shows the creature any compassion. He delivers milk to the cat and makes sure it has a home and isn't just wandering the streets.
  • During the intaking process, Naz didn't know if he should or shouldn't be worried for his life while in prison. But it's now very clear that he should be very afraid.