This The Night Of review contains spoilers.
Sometimes you just want to hang a jury. The prosecution and the defense rested in the Andrea Cornish murder trial in The Night Of’s finale “The Call of the Wild.” The jury is still out on just who committed the crime of homicide because the producers committed the crime of ambiguity.
Prosecutor Helen Weiss’s (Jeannie Berlin) voice sounds like he just switched to e-cigarettes that morning. I’m sorry, I have them in my house and they still look like they were described on season 2 of True Detective, a robot’s dick. She is a kind of terminator robot, looking for the quick kill. Passing on a possible suspect because another one will look better to a jury or even prepping witnesses and experts to do their best to keep things locked on target. But even the prosecutor can’t stopper reasonable doubt with the blue tip of a fake smoke.
The series presented enough evidence to make Nasir’s own mom (Poorna Jagannathan) wonder if she raised an animal for a son. She says she always believed his innocence but never without a shadow of a doubt, a reasonable thing to ask from one’s own mother. Salim Khan (Peyman Moaadi) never loses faith in his son. He also doesn’t want to look to hard at anything that might shake that belief. He’s given up his friends and social ties in order his son cleared, regardless of whatever doubts may linger with the public.
Freddy (Michael Kenneth Williams), the hardened convict who doesn’t profess innocence, even takes further legal hits just to be more convenient to his family, knows Naz has the smell of innocence on him. Freddy doesn’t need convincing. He turned the young unicorn into a one-horned beast so he could survive because he cared for the one man in stir whose innocence he did not doubt. Freddy took Naz’s innocence as payment for services rendered and a nice white shirt.
I don’t quite see why Naz got the last-minute neck tattoo. On the day he has to present himself to the jury. The very last thing they will remember on him is his new prison tattoo. Has he been institutionalized so quickly that he’s already given up on getting out of jail? Or is he just taking advantage of the cheap prison rates he won’t see at a tat place on St. Marks Place?
Chandra and Naz are truly bookends of the experience. Chandra (Amara Karan) has truly had the greatest character arc of the series. Naz’s life changes beyond recognition to the point where he no longer even resembles himself physically. Chandra looks exactly the same. She still rushes a little bit when she walks on heels. Her eyes are still clear and her hair still has the same part, while Naz no longer even has hair. His boyish locks have long since hit the concrete floor of his cell. But still, Chandra lost her innocence because of her innocence and is less the person she was then Naz will ever be. Her career is ruined while Naz now has options. She does far worse than the specific gaffe she’ll be disbarred for, and she did it more than willingly. It’s a miracle no one caught a tape of her pulling an eight-ball from her snatch that was too big for Naz to swallow.
Poor Stone (John Turturro), all of his miracles fall through at the same time. He blows the mistrial and has to actually stand up in front of the jury and the pressure of it destroys all the good work that was done on Canal Street on his exema. But the patron saint of lost causes is his own novena as his flaky skin peels to reveal the essence of his best defense. Look at me. You shouldn’t have to look at me but do it. If someone who looks like me will brave standing in front of you, the jury, I must have a real good reason for doing it.
That whole “What’s your name? Duane Reade” scene cracked me up, but I wonder if the judge would let improv happen in his courtroom. He doesn’t allow much leeway in other things. He may be polite about it, but he insists on answered questions. He does not like the end run to mistrial that John Stone presents with the case of the kissing attorney. He probably could have tortured the jury a little bit longer. I expected him to just because the actor played the murderous Yellow King on the first season of True Detective. That itself presents some room for reasonable doubt.
There was certainly enough room for reasonable doubt. Between the angry trespasser forever maligned by a drugstore chain moniker to a righteous funeral director with a long hair fetish to a broke ass stepfather who cashes in on a trust fund before his daughter’s body is even cold. But it was the prosecutor who revealed the final clue to possible acquittal. She got Naz to give the ultimate display of reasonable doubt. She lays on the guilt and she lays it on thick, mentioning Mohammed by name and piercing the sac of true affection Naz felt for the Andrea at first sight.
When Prosecutor Weiss asks if he killed her, Naz is confused by implications that go beyond the facts, remembered or not. In a larger sense, did he cause the end of life for that woman? He weighs the question like the jury, in front of the jury. And all he comes up with is reasonable doubt. He doesn’t know. He will never really know and we will never really know.
There was a TV series back in the seventies that my mom watched ironically called Ellery Queen. At the end of every episode, the detective would run through all the suspects and ask the audience at home whether it was one of them, or if it was someone else. Just once, my mother said, she wanted it to be someone else. Anyone else. Ray hits the scene and our consciousness too late in the story to be fair and I’m being impartial. I’ve loved this show and was looking forward to whatever they were going to throw at me within the parameters of what we’d been shown. We weren’t shown this and in some ways it feels like a cop out.
Except that it’s a cop that brings it out. The series has been consistent in its approach to the reality of police procedurals. Both Richard Price, the screenwriter, and Steven Zaillian, the director, are too professional and probably a little too OCD to allow fakery and fabrication when it comes to the lives of the players. Sure, they can tug at our heart strings with the beautiful strains of Roberta Flack and a happy cat given free rein in the apartment of a suffering man who is allergic to cats. So, I accept that last minute evidence, like a new suspect, can be uncovered towards the end of a trial or long after a trial concludes. I accept it as true to life more than I am inclined to accept it in a story. But then I also like the taste of ambiguity sprinkled over an open and shut conclusion. Closure is overrated.
“The Call of the Wild” was written by Richard Price and Steven Zaillian and directed by Zaillian.