HBO’s The Night Of: Breaking Down Episode 1
Enter the mysterious alpha dog Freddy (The Wire‘s Michael K. Williams), a former pro boxer-turned-prisoner who takes a shine to Naz and has most of the prisoners – and several of the guards – wrapped around his finger. But should Naz trust him? We’ll get to that later.
On Episode 3 of HBO’s The Night Of, it’s unclear who has Naz’s (Riz Ahmed) best interests at heart, both within Rikers Island and in the outside world. At Rikers, we see Naz adjust to the harsh realities of prison life, realizing that he’s going to have to form alliances in order to survive.
Outside the prison walls, Naz’s parents (Peyman Moaadi and Poorna Jagannathan) are being vigorously courted by two lawyers. First is John Stone (John Turturro), who’s been working with Naz since practically the minute he was arrested, and who offers Mr. and Mrs. Khan a bargain fee ($50,000 flat, after some haggling) to represent Naz. Then there’s Allison (Glenne Headly), a buttoned-up social justice crusader who loathes Stone and tells Naz’s parents she’ll handle Naz’s case on a pro bono basis. Clearly they both have ulterior motives – but what are they? (It might not matter, as Naz’s parents give Stone the pink slip by the end of the episode.)
Here’s a look at those two mysteries, as well as our other burning questions after Episode 3:
The Night Of: Burning questions from Episode 2
1. Does Stone really have Naz’s best interests at heart? It’s pretty obvious that John Stone’s main motivations for taking Naz on as a client are money and publicity, not necessarily in that order. It’s also pretty obvious that Stone doesn’t particularly care whether Naz committed the crime. But does that mean that the Khans inherently shouldn’t trust him? There’s something about the way Stone jumped on Naz like a vulture before he even knew the specifics of the charges that suggests there’s more at play than just a desire to see his name in the papers. Is it just that Stone really is that opportunistic, or is something else going on?
2. Is Stone in over his head? As Allison points out, Stone has never tried a murder case before – let alone one in which the evidence against his client is so overwhelming. It’s a little concerning that, in the conversation with district attorney Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin), he didn’t even seem to know that Andrea had been stabbed 22 times. Does he have what it takes to get Naz off? That may be a moot point, as Naz’s parents apparently don’t think so.
3. Why is the DA trying to help Stone out? Last week, I talked about how it seems like most people in the justice system either love or loathe Stone, with little in between. This week, we got a glimpse of someone else who seems to be on his side, sort of: District Attorney Weiss. Initially, it seems like she falls in the “write Stone off” camp, as she says she’s relieved to be going up against, essentially, a hack in such a high-profile murder case. But when she’s talking to Stone in her office, it seems like she’s trying to help him out, giving him the number of a tailor so that he can go get a new suit for the trial. What gives?
4. Why is Allison so eager to take on the case? Allison, like Stone, seems to have her own personal motivations for taking on Naz’s case (not that there’s anything wrong with that). We get the impression that she’s more of a cause-based lawyer, and of course, the publicity for her practice can’t hurt. But the case she makes to Naz’s parents that Stone is trying to screw them over is interesting, as is her decision to bring Chandra (Amara Karan) along with her because the young lawyer is Indian (“close enough” to Naz’s Pakistani background). The Khans evidently don’t trust either of them, as evidenced by Mrs. Khan’s mistranslation of her conversation with Chandra in front of Allison. Between Allison and Stone, who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy? Or do they both fall somewhere in the middle?
HBO’s The Night Of is must-watch TV
5. Should Naz align with Freddy? Switching gears to focus on Naz for a second, it’s clear that, despite his best efforts, he’s not going to be able to stay above the fray of prison politics during his time at Rikers. For apparently no other reason than their shared ties to Queens, Freddy takes Naz under his wing. There’s no other way to put this: Freddy is scary as hell, and can apparently order executions with a wiggle of his fingers. You can’t blame Naz for not wanting to get involved with him. But at the end of the episode, as Naz gets his first real glimpse at the potential dangers he faces when he sees another inmate’s bed being burned to a crisp, he’s starting to rethink his decision. Will Freddy really be able to protect him, or is teaming up with him just a flat-out bad move?
6. Will Naz’s father’s parents file theft charges against Naz for taking the cab? In case you didn’t catch it, the police officer told Naz’s father that his only hope of getting his cab back (since it’s being held as evidence) is to file theft charges against Naz. Mr. Khan dismissed that notion out of hand, but the two co-owners of the cab also have the option to charge Naz, according to the same officer. Will they go through with it – and what will that mean for Naz’s case?
7. Did Naz do it? The Big One, which we return to week after week. I’m still sticking with “no” after this week’s episode.
The Night Of airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.