Sunday, July 31, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Night Of' - Naz Is Given a Deal While Stone Continues to Investigate the Case in 'The Art of War'

HBO's The Night Of - Episode 1.04 "The Art of War"

Stone works to uncover information about the crime.

Naz has held steadfast with his belief that he did not kill Andrea. He has been arrested for the crime but is looking forward to proving his innocence. That's the thought he has held onto in order to survive this grueling ordeal. His family believes him but the rest of the world does not. Everyone else looks at him as a guilty man. All of the evidence points to him being responsible for this heinous crime. There is simply no other explanation for Andrea's murder. Naz is an unreliable narrator. There's a significant chunk of time that he simply cannot remember from the night in question. It was during that black out that Andrea was killed. He could easily be responsible. He doesn't want to believe he could have done it. But he reasonably could have. He's still holding onto proving his innocence. Meanwhile, the legal teams are battling it out to determine how much time he should serve for this crime. No one is concerned about getting him released as a free man. His lawyer, Alison, just wants as little time as possible while the attorney trying the case, Helen, doesn't want to waste a ton of money with a trial. And then, there is Naz who is grappling with the fact that he is being pulled in so many different directions.

Alison is able to get an incredible deal for Naz. He pleads guilty to manslaughter one and is sentenced for 15 years with the possibility of early release for good behavior. That's the best deal he could ever get. Helen just gives that to him. It is a hard won battle but it's incredibly telling that she's willing to agree to this deal. It shows that the District Attorney's office is feeling the pressure to get this case over with as quickly as possible. No one actually wants it to go to trial. It has created such a news storm that it is affecting people's ability to work at the courthouse. The District Attorney wants the court date moved up so the cameras and reporters can be less disruptive. That's the kind of pressure Helen is facing right now. Detective Box believes he has such a strong case against Naz. He thinks any competent attorney can convict him with a life sentence. He feels the DA's office isn't doing enough to lock up violent criminals for the appropriate amount of time. Alison is able to manipulate all of this to get Naz his deal. She's a very skilled lawyer as well. This was the outcome she was hoping to get the moment she signed onto this case. She wasn't expecting it to go to trial. She just wanted to be a part of this high-profile case. And she was able to negotiate the best deal Naz will ever get.

And yet, that creates quite a problem for Naz. If he takes that deal, he has to plead guilty and go into detail about how and why he killed Andrea. That's not something he is mentally prepared to do. But if he refuses, the case goes to trial where a jury could easily convict him for the full sentence. He is still holding onto the idea that the truth will set him free. He still is just slowly accepting his reality. Alison argues that they are long past discussing his guilt or innocence. It is now about how much time he will actually serve. Everyone agrees that this is an incredible deal for Naz. Everyone is telling him that he should take it. He's torn because he doesn't want to spend years in prison. He believes he can still emerge unharmed from this experience. And yet, he is being harmed every single day - by both the prison and legal systems. This is his life. He needs to be the one to make the decision. But he also needs help from people who will actually talk to him as a human being. Alison is a great lawyer but she's trapped in the attorney mold of needing her client to do what's in his best interest. He seeks advice from another inmate and from Alison's associate who his parents actually like, Chandra.

It's not until Naz is back in the courtroom that he makes his big decision though. At first, it seems like he is going to take the deal. His family would be disappointed that he's confessing to a crime they don't believe he committed. But even Stone is pushing for him to take the deal. An opportunity like this won't come again. Now is his time to confess to the crime and get a much lighter sentence. He could easily have a life after prison. This doesn't have to be the end for him. As hard as he tries though, he cannot remember the explicit details about what happened that night. He tells the story about what happened. He talks about the blackout where she was murdered. Both Naz and the audience get brief glimpses of what may possibly be memories of that missing time. And yet, it is nothing. It is just images from the apartment that both Naz and us know about. It informs nothing new about that night. So, Naz listens to Chandra's advice. He asks himself if he did this crime. He doesn't believe so. So, he doesn't take the deal. That's a huge action and is the highlight of this episode. And yet, that action could have serious consequences for Naz in the future. It humiliates the entire courtroom. That means Helen and the judge will be pushing even harder against him. He'll have to defend himself without Alison who quits the case. Chandra will stick on for the firm but they are no longer willing to do it pro bono. So once again, money could have a serious impact on this case and the Khan family.

It's not as if things are going smoothly for Naz in prison either. Whereas the courtroom scenes in "The Art of War" felt powerful and meaningful, the prison story felt repetitive. It's Naz once again learning the rules about prison from an inmate he doesn't know if he can trust. It feels like the exact same story as last week's episode. Naz doesn't know how to survive in this place. More importantly, so many inmates are targeting him because they believe he is guilty of killing Andrea. He is able to survive because of Freddy's influence and willingness to help him. But he doesn't know if he can trust Freddy. He doesn't know what's in it for him. He doesn't want to become indebted to Freddy. Naz wants to continue to keep his head down and keep to himself. That's impossible to do though. Last week's episode ended with the inmates setting his cot on fire during the middle of the night. The tension is only continuing to escalate too. It's forcing Naz into admitting that he needs Freddy's help in order to survive. That just felt like a foregone conclusion and the show takes its time getting to that point. It's a journey that includes Naz getting cut, a toxic acid being thrown in his face and watching Freddy beat up another inmate. It shows just how violent and cruel this world is. But it's mostly a relief knowing that things are perhaps looking up for Naz now that he has Freddy in his corner.

Additionally, Stone's eczema is only getting worse. Despite being fired by Naz, he's still committed to the case. He's tracking down new clues that may help in Naz's defense. But Stone's quest for answers is crippled by the fact that his eczema pretty much defines his entire life. It's noticed by everyone who comes into contact with him. Plus, it's spreading over his whole body. It's no longer just staying with his feet. His condition is essentially a metaphor for the entire show. He's desperately looking for a cure to this skin condition. He wants it treated and a non-factor to his life. And yet, every cure he is given only seems to make things worse. That's similar to Naz's decision-making process over the course of the series so far. Every move he has made has only made his life worse. His case is looking bleaker than ever before. Freddy may help him survive in prison. But he's still facing a harsh sentence. Stone is feeling that as well. His condition is slowly overwhelming him. It's a little too on-the-nose to work all that effectively. But it's still a unique and interesting way to define character.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Art of War" was written by Richard Price and directed by James Marsh.
  • Alison only includes Chandra in the case because she looks like the Khans. That's largely why Naz's parents like her. She was the only lawyer who was actually comforting to them. But Naz likes her because she speaks to him like a human and not a client who needs to do whatever she says. She'll need to be a good attorney too because she's now in charge.
  • It did seem unlikely that Naz would accept the deal considering Stone is uncovering new information about Andrea. He learns that she has been in and out of rehab. She never finishes the program. Plus, her stepfather is seen arguing with someone after the funeral.
  • Naz's father wants to say something to the press about his son's innocence. The media has descended upon his house and is affecting all of their lives. And yet, he manages to keep himself together without ruining Naz's case.
  • And yet, Naz's younger brother is taken out of school by the administration because of other students having a problem with him being there. Naz's case really is affecting the whole family.
  • Stone's eczema treatments are only getting more severe too. Now, his new doctor is prescribing him steroids and telling him to bathe in bleach. That does not sound good at all. I'm sure the show will show the consequences of that treatment as well.