Sunday, August 14, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Night Of' - Naz's Trial Begins as Helen Lays Out Her Evidence Against Him in 'Samson and Delilah'

HBO's The Night Of - Episode 1.06 "Samson and Delilah"

As prosecutor Helen Weiss prepares for trial, Naz's alliance with Freddy deepens.

This has been a very transformative season for Naz. In the beginning, he was just a doe-eyed college student struggling to get athletes to take their schooling seriously. He was a sweet and innocent kid living with his parents. And now, he's standing trial for murder while falling further into a criminal lifestyle in prison. It's one thing to smuggle drugs into the prison. It's a different thing entirely once he starts using the drugs. This is a dark season for Naz. Even if he is somehow proven innocent, he won't be able to return to being the sweet, innocent kid he was before. This experience is changing him. It will define him even after all of this is over with. It's not even just him either. His parents are struggling with the weight of his perception of guilt as well. They've had to find other employment just to scrap together as much money as they can for his trial. It's humiliating for them. Jobs as janitors and delivery men are all they can get too. So while Naz has the most visual transformation, change is hardly contained to just him throughout this arduous process.

More importantly though, Naz's guilt is seeming more and more likely with each passing episode. In the beginning, it was hard to believe that Naz was capable of this crime. That first episode showed Naz at his best. A smart, kind and capable student. He was simply a guy who got caught up in something he didn't want. He didn't know how to adapt to his changing circumstances as he stood accused of this horrible crime. But as the season has gone along, the investigation has peeled back the many layers of Naz. Yes, he's still incredibly naive about how the system works. But the story has revealed a dangerous side to him as well. Last week's episode felt like the first one where Naz maybe could have killed Andrea. He still has no recollection of that night after they had sex. So, he still may be guilty. And now, there's the evidence to back that up should the season want to pull off that reveal in the end. He has acted violently before. He had to transfer high schools because he pushed a kid down the stairs. He explains that he did it because of all the hatred against his family in a post-9/11 world. But that action still proves he is capable of acting violently. It isn't an isolated moment in the past either. Just last week he beat up a guy in prison. All of this largely just shows that the audience really doesn't truly know Nasir Khan.

This season has also shown just how truly susceptible to suggestion Naz can be. His transformation as a character has largely been because of the people around him. They tell him how to act and what to say in order to survive. And then, he embraces those ideas no matter how damaging they may be to his case or his life. He only stole his father's taxi because he got invited to a party where he had a delusional shot with a girl. Everything he did on the night of Andrea's death was her suggestion. He took drugs and played that game with the knife because she told him too. He believed Box when he said he wanted to listen to the truth about what happened. He listened to Stone's legal advice but struggled to obey it when Stone wasn't in the room. When faced with a plea deal, he was only able to decide what to do after Chandra presented him with an easy decision. And now, he's doing whatever Freddy asks of him just in order to survive in prison. Freddy presents Naz with a choice on whether or not to smoke the drugs. At first, Naz doesn't want to do it. But later on, he gives in to it for no other reason than he needs the release. This has been quite the struggle for him. One that has fundamentally changed him as a person. But he's still that sweet kid too. In the end, it seems like he's calling Chandra to fire her from the case because she believes his story and that isn't an effective trial strategy. And yet, he doesn't have the strength or courage to actually do it. Instead, he only falls further into the criminal system - using it to his own benefit.

These last two episodes have also presented some ulterior suspects for Andrea's murder as well. So far, Naz has always seemed like the reasonable killer. He was the only one who had access and opportunity to kill her. The motive has always been murky. But there's only so much about that night that the audience can trust because there is that missing time. Anyone could have slipped into that townhouse and killed Andrea while Naz wasn't aware of what was going on. Last week introduced Duane Reade, the guy walking down the street with reluctant witness Trevor who turns out to have quite the criminal record of breaking and entering. And now, two more serious threats have been introduced. First, there's the creepy guy talking with Andrea at the gas station. Turns out, he seemingly followed the taxi after they left. More importantly, Chandra goes to ask him a few questions and is completely disgusted by his views on women. He totally believes Naz is justified in killing Andrea because she deserved it since she was a manipulative girl toying with his emotions. That's a horrifying statement. But it works to give the defense another suspect to focus on. And then, Stone learns even more from the financial advisor of Andrea's deceased mother. He was the man arguing with Andrea's stepfather, Don, after the funeral. It turns out they were in the middle of a heated financial battle following her mother's passing. Apparently, Don has a pattern of preying on older women to collect the money once they die. Andrea wasn't going to let him take advantage of her mother in death and basically proclaimed he'd have to kill her to get anything. A powerful statement that could change this entire case.

But these other viable suspects for the central crime are only important if the defense team knows how to use them. After going to see the man at the gas station, Chandra is worried that she made a mistake by asking these questions and giving him her card. She basically accused him of being involved with this crime. An accusation that could come back to hurt her if she decides to use it in court. The trial has officially started. Stone lays out the hopes for the jury. He knows the people he doesn't want to plead this case to. And in very frank terms, he pinpoints the people he really hopes to get. But it's also incredibly telling that the majority of the court proceedings in "Samson and Delilah" are from the prosecution's point-of-view. Helen lays out her case for the jury. Stone, Chandra and Naz largely just sit back and listen to everything that is happening. It's interesting that Chandra's cross examination only happens two times. The first is just an objection. She forces the officer who first pulled Naz over to explain why she detained him without recording his alcohol level. And later on, she forces the officer who drove Naz to the precinct to clarify what Naz's statement of "Is she dead?" could theoretically mean? Chandra is a very competent attorney. But this hour is about the prosecution laying out their case. They are confident a jury will convict Naz. The evidence is on their side. But anything could happen.

Just like it's a miracle that Stone finally finds the cure to his eczema. That's a stunning achievement. It felt like something he was going to have to suffer through for a long time. It's an important part of his character. It defines him to the outside world before they even get to know him and his blunt personality. It also stands as a metaphor for the series and the near constant search for answers. The solution for the eczema may be easier to accept than Naz's trial. Stone is starting to get really pissed by how much Naz has kept from his lawyers. Though Stone hasn't exactly been there all the time to coach Naz through this process. Neither Naz nor his mother knew that he should wear white during the trial's first day. That lead to an awkward moment where Stone and Naz had to change shirts just as the jury was being led into the room. It shows just how unprepared this whole defense team really is. Stone is doing his best to represent Naz but that's getting increasingly harder to do with each episode. Stone has collected the other viable suspects. He can use them in his defense of Naz to create enough reasonable doubt about the night in question. But will that be enough to get Naz released from prison? It's a solid strategy that has almost nothing to do with whether or not Naz is innocent. Stone is representing his client to the best of his abilities. It may be a lonely existence but it's all that he has now that's bringing him pleasure.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Samson and Delilah" was written by Richard Price & Steven Zaillian and directed by Steven Zaillian.
  • Because Stone's eczema has been such a defining characteristic, he wants people to notice when he's wearing shoes again. And yet, Chandra's too busy preparing her opening statement to care. Though his support group is desperate to learn how he finally did it.
  • Chandra just broke up with her boyfriend as well. It was a relationship that didn't exist until Chandra told Stone about it. But it's enough to get her off her game just as she's preparing for trial.
  • Chandra is unable to escape the pressure of Naz's trial either. As she's at home working on her opening argument, she can't be bothered to listen to Stone's advice. But then, the delivery guy for her takeout turns out to be Naz's dad. That just shows how much is at stake with this trial.
  • Box scrolls through Naz's Facebook account. It's pretty hilarious how he is trying to make something scandalous out of some innocent posts and comments. But it's through social media that he is able to find out about Naz's troubled past in high school.
  • Naz spies on another member of Freddy's crew receiving oral sex from the new, young and innocent-looking inmate. Apparently, it's a big enough deal that the guy threatens Naz in the shower to keep it to himself.