Sunday, August 7, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Night Of' - The Defense and Prosecution Build Their Cases for Naz's Trial in 'The Season of the Witch'

HBO's The Night Of - Episode 1.05 "The Season of the Witch"

Box reconstructs Naz's whereabouts on "the night of."

The first episode of The Night Of has been the best hour of the show so far. It was distinctive and full of so many unique details that would become important later on. The tension crafted in that opening hour was magnificent. It's something that the show has struggled a little bit to maintain in the episodes since. It has still been a wonderful and compelling series to watch week to week. But things have gotten more into the procedure of things as Naz walks into a system he has virtually no understanding of. In that first episode though, there were many moments that would become important later on in the season. Naz's night out on the town in the taxi was filled with so many events. It's enough to add true dimension and chaos to the main investigation. And now, the defense and prosecution are honing in on the night in question. They are looking at the events of that night and are determining which details are vital to their case and which are not. It makes for quite a captivating hour as the show ramps up to the big trial.

Detective Box is actually retracing all of Naz's steps on that fateful night. He has collected all of the evidence that paints a pretty exact picture of what happened. He maps it out with all of the details featured - Naz leaving his house, crossing the bridge, getting lost, picking up Andrea, stopping for gas, stopping at the river, and finally going back to her townhouse. It's something that he needs to do in order to give Helen the best case she can present. The evidence points directly at Naz being responsible for this crime. And yet, he refused to take a plea deal. He ultimately decided to have his day in court. So now, everyone is getting ready for trial. That takes priority over everything else. Instead of planning for his retirement, Box is walking around the city finding the cameras that captured Naz during his night on the town. It's something that proves very beneficial to the prosecution as well. Naz chose to drive Andrea around town. They have the video tape that proved he was persuaded to spend the night with her because she was a pretty girl who got in the taxi. That's the exact piece of damning evidence Helen needs right now. She can now prove intent. He didn't want to drive two guys around but changed his mind a moment later once Andrea got in the taxi. That video tape only strengthens the case against Naz.

The defense makes a couple of breakthroughs as well. This hour does a phenomenal job in balancing the two sides of this legal battle. They are both being given the same pieces of evidence at the same time. Naz's defense is no longer as strong as it was. Alison has left the case and placed Chandra in charge. That means Naz's parents have to find a way to pay for the trial. But it also means that Stone is back on the case in an official capacity. Chandra reaches out to him for his experience but also because of his personal attachment to the case. She is able to learn a lot from the street smart knowledge Stone brings to the table. It really does seem like this is her first big case as well. She's taken aback by the brutal images of the crime scene unlike the jagged veterans who surround her. She doesn't have the experience to understand everything that is happening in this world. But she's a smart and capable attorney. Sure, Naz is proving to be a more and more difficult client. And yet, they are able to find a new lead thanks to information he provides. It's because of him that they learn that there were two guys walking down the street outside Andrea's apartment. Helen and Box only interviewed one - and eventually crossed him off the list for likely being a bad person to have on the stand. The other one is staying quiet because he could be an alternate suspect for Andrea's murder.

So far, the season has been very focused on showing this grueling experience from Naz and Stone's perspective. They don't know everything that happened that night. All of the evidence points to Naz killing Andrea. But it's difficult for them as well as the audience to believe that. As the season has gone on though, it hasn't presented another viable suspect for the murder. That's because the narrative has been so focused on Naz struggling to survive in the system. In order to properly defend Naz, Stone and Chandra need to start coming up with a solid strategy. The prosecution believes that the defense will focus on the drug use. Naz didn't know what he was taken which led to horrifying side effects that aren't characteristic of him. That's certainly a possibility - until, of course, the toxicology comes back showing Naz had his own drugs in his systems that night. So, Stone and Chandra really needed a breakthrough in order to have a chance in court. Fortunately, they got it with the reveal that Trevor lied to the police and is protecting his friend. That friend, Duane, happens to have a warrant out for his arrest. He is a career criminal known for breaking and entering. The defense can reveal him as another suspect the police didn't even investigate because they were so focused on Naz. That's their new strategy. But then, Stone decides to take this investigation one step further by actually tracking down Duane and trying to confront him about that night. That just seems like a very foolish move on Stone's part. One that could very easily get him hurt. It's odd to see Stone in pursuit of a violent criminal. It's even more powerful when the episode closes with Stone seemingly have lost Duane but his life still being in a perilous situation.

However, "The Season of the Witch" is the first episode where it seems possible that Naz actually did this crime. It has been hard to believe because Naz comes across as so impressionable and naive. He doesn't seem like a person who could stab a woman to death multiple times. But now, the show is laying the seeds of Naz potentially being guilty of the crime. The mystery has been able to persist for so long because Naz blacked out and doesn't remember what happened that night. In this hour though, he is embracing the criminal lifestyle of prison much more than previously thought possible. It shows just how damaging the system can be to anyone even if they are innocent of the crimes they are accused of doing. Naz has asserted on numerous occasions that he did not kill Andrea. People believe him because of his sweet and innocent nature. But now, he is beating people up in jail. He was surprised when so many of the inmates acted violently towards him. He was pushed into accepting Freddy's help just in order to survive. And now, he is becoming more confident in this environment. He is pushing back. That can be a very dangerous thing moving forward. It's altering the outside perception of him. That transition is complete with him shaving his head. He no longer looks like the kid who was first arrested for this crime. Now, he's a hardened criminal doing whatever it takes to survive in prison. Of course, it's not a smooth transition. It highlights that Naz is capable of doing some violent actions and lying. He was taking adderall and deliberately kept that from Stone. But he still struggles when Freddy asks him to bring drugs into the prison. It's a crime that he is guilty of doing. Stone knows he's doing it too. But there's no going back now. He needs Freddy's help to survive. But that help is only changing Naz at his very core.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Season of the Witch" was written by Richard Price & Steven Zaillian and directed by Steven Zaillian.
  • The side effects of Stone's new medication for his eczema is really starting to kick in. He is unable to perform sexually which only further adds to his frustrations. He's pushed to the point where he needs to buy viagra off the streets. That's desperate. And yet, those moments didn't really seem necessary at all. They just add to the overall difficulties in Stone's life.
  • Stone talks about his career in front of his son's class and does a really poor job with it too. It's a conversation that boils down to him electing to represent Hitler because it's what his job would require him to do.
  • Stone also goes back to the pound and picks up Andrea's cat. He figures the animal could be more useful alive than dead. It may provide some bigger clue to the night in question. But it's difficult for him because he's allergic. And yet, he has fun picking up toys for the cat to play with. But he's also desperate for someone else to take care of it for him.
  • Helen successfully gets the medical examiner to testify that the cut on Naz's hand came from him losing his grip on the knife while stabbing Andrea. The other possibility was him cutting it on the glass after breaking into Andrea's apartment. The medical examiner said it could go either way and Helen coerces him into delivering the answer she needs for her case.
  • Naz's father is still struggling with his business associates who need to get their taxi back as soon as possible. They tell him about suing his son for grand theft auto. Something he's not willing to do because it would include jail time and he believes his son is still innocent and will be freed.
  • There were only three bags of drugs that Naz swallowed in the visiting room. And yet, he insists that there were four. He managed to get them all out for Freddy. But he still fears that something with this plan has gone terribly wrong. It mostly just showcases that he is now willing to do whatever Freddy asks of him.