The Night Of: Ordinary Death review

The Night Of episode 7 opens and closes with an ordinary death.

This The Night Of review contains spoilers.

Even as it opens on a basic uptown misdemeanor homicide similar to the Andrea Cornish scenario, The Night Of’s seventh episode “Ordinary Death” casts more reasonable doubt on the collegiate killer while it shakes the faith of his believers. As hard as it is for his family to stick by him, Naz (Riz Ahmed)  is getting even harder in prison.

The pictures are hard to look at for anyone. The neighborhood has already turned on the Khan family and the hatred is spreading against all neighborhood Muslims. Graffiti is going up telling them to go home, and probably worse.

No matter how much she may believe in her client, Chandra (Amara Karan) can’t hide the broadsides to her faith. When the teacher at Naz’s high school reveals that the seemingly docile Muslim student put not one, but two kids in the hospital for post-9/11 taunts, her head does the full JFK assassination trajectory, back and to the left. She looks like she is mortally wounded. She comes back, but you can see her mind was blown.

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Chandra is shocked by every revelation that comes out about Naz. A lot of it is truly news to her, but she is professional enough to tell Nasir’s mom (Poorna Jagannathan) to keep it together in court. The mother is truly wracked with doubts. She is questioning whether she raised a monster, but as The State v. Nasir Khan case moves to the defense phase, she has to hold out for reasonable doubt. That’s not enough for a mom. Naz would have to be cleared completely for her to get over the doubts that are consuming her and even then, she’d have doubts.

Salim Khan (Peyman Moaadi), Nasir’s father, is also devastated as he loses his friends, partners, livelihood and hope that his son is not a killer. He sells his share of his cab for a fraction of what it is worth and he can’t do a thing about it. He is powerless. Moaadi plays very hard against this powerlessness with an inner pride and grace we see slowly being eaten away. He’s looking for something fair in an unfair life. The full awareness of being the father of a killer, whether he accepts his son’s guilt or not, douses all the lights in his face.

The parents are both played with the inner intensity of a flame that is being extinguished. When Chandra tries to comfort the mother after she loses faith in her son, Nasir’s mom first backs away as if she believes she will be struck and then slaps away the comforting hand. It looks like some kind of post-traumatic stress reaction to more than any photographic evidence.

Chandra is very professional and I don’t know how she fell into that kiss. That seems like something she would have known to avoid. This goes beyond the trust of client attorney privilege. She said she believes him but there is a shudder that says doubt brings on enough adrenaline to be an aphrodisiac.

Anyone who can pass the bar should be smart enough to get a proper spotter in the weight room, even if he’s an invisible man. Stone (John Turturro) isn’t even used to wearing socks and here he is wearing hightops to the gym. He’s not above irony as he follows in the footsteps of the dead girl’s step-dad, even if he won’t play footsie under the table. What he had may not have been infectious, but he knows a contagion when he sees one. Too bad he can’t share that with his son, who pretends he doesn’t know who the old man in the new shoes is when he shows up at school trying to pass of a stray cat. The cat got out and cuddled up to Stone, who will never get rid of it now, no matter what his Chinese herbalist says.

Dr. Katz (Chip Zien) is a famous enough expert in pathology, but he really missed the chance to shine on Antiques Roadshow. He knows his knives, and the rest of the cutlery, as well as he knows the rules of mumbly-peg. He has an easy rapport with the prosecutor, who is more than respectful, she gets downright friendly. At one point, she intimately says her husband doesn’t deserve a replacement gift for a lost set of tools. She turns into quite the fan.

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Prosecutor Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin) gives her opposing council quite a few admiring looks as the young defending attorney scores points.  You can see she likes her style, especially as the young lawyer flatters the soon-to-be retiring inspector Box, who has had blinders on from the beginning of the investigation. He doesn’t talk to witnesses he doesn’t know about and he certainly isn’t going to go looking for them when he can wrap things up in a t-shirt that says “off duty.” He missed Dwayne Reade and Royal Day even as they hid in plain sight.

I liked how the cameras took similar angles from the weight bar to prison bars and how they catch the smoke Naz was chasing and the steam Stone was huffing. Nasir’s inhaler is such a big part of the case and we have the foreshadowing coming at us without dialog.  That inhaler can be very distracting.

There are some major spoilers following, so watch before you get into this part of the analysis. The whole ending sequence shows that Freddy (Michael Kenneth Williams) has gotten what he always wanted. The way Naz calculates and performs his function, the way he gets almost into lock-step with his Dutch Uncle, shows that he is the best student on Riker’s Island. Freddy finds the carotid artery like he was in pre-med instead of a proud high school graduate. And then, when Naz nibbles the eightball straight from a grieving mother’s snatch, we see that Freddy made a proper convict of him.

It doesn’t matter if Naz gets off for the killing. The damage has already been done.

“Ordinary Death” was written by Richard Price and Steven Zaillian and directed by Zaillian.

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4.5 out of 5