The defense on the defensive. Credit Craig Blankenhorn/HBO
With 75 percent of the show of Summer ‘16 in the books, “Samson and Delilah” delivered some of those sweet, sweet procedural goods that we’ve missed thus far in “The Night Of.” With only two episodes left, both the audience of the show and the characters within the show are no closer to pinpointing exactly what happened on October 24th while red herrings continue to pop up all over the place.
Heading into Episode 6:
- Is Freddy actually helping or hurting Naz?
- What happened after John chased Duane Reed down the alley?
- Whose funeral did we see in the previews?
- At what point will we see some holes poked into the murder scene evidence?
- Does Det. Box actually believe Naz is guilty? How much is his retiring weighing on his approach to this case?
Even when removing the vastness of the Dick Wolf cannon, the courtroom procedural is the backbone of television. Lawyers defending and prosecuting good guys and bad guys in gorgeous, aesthetically pleasing, and well-lit courtrooms is right up there with “situational comedies” as a staple of television. What the creators of “The Night Of” did with this classic aspect of the procedural in “Samson and Delilah” was one of the most engaging aspects of this series. It was the least sexy courtroom I have ever seen on TV. Drab, dreary, and dark with only a few streams of light coming through the windows to illuminate a courtroom that has seen better days was just as telling about what we’re dealing with in this case as actual plot developments.
Ask any lawyer and they’ll tell you that legal work is not the sizzle you see on TV; it is a plodding stomp through the dirt to find a shred of evidence or doubt to lay at the feet of the judge and jury. “The Night Of” is at its best when its characters are digging around in the dirt where only a few shards of light are allowed to poke through.
Everything about this week’s episode was designed to crank the audience’s anxiety level up to 11. The introduction of flashbacks to the first episode, the music, Chandra and John’s bedroom eyes at each other, etc. While no episode has yet to match the anxious feeling we got when watching Naz get first brought into the precinct, the sixth episode’s presentation of just how far each character has come is a very close second. The shock of the situation has completely worn off and reality is setting in as each character is dealing with accepting where exactly they are now. Life is not going back to normal, and most likely never will. While this trial will be wrapped up shortly, they’ll be living with the aftershocks of this case for the rest of their lives.
Hanging on to the idea that Naz is innocent is getting harder and harder every week. He is changing before our eyes, and while all credit goes to Riz Ahmed’s star-making performance, it really shines a spotlight on the question, “what comes next for Naz?” At this point, the verdict doesn’t matter; the Naz that stole his father’s cab to go to a party in Manhattan is dead and buried even if he is found innocent. Naz may get out of Rikers, but he is never getting out of prison, and I think that is what the show is trying to tell us. It’s not about who killed Andrea Cornish; it’s about how a seemingly small series of events can dictate the rest of one’s life. There is no going back for this character no matter what the jury decides. The damage is real and has already been done.
“The Night Of” has been big on drawing parallels between its characters and the steps they are taking in the aftermath of Andrea’s murder. Last week, we saw John go off on his own to chase down Duane Reed and tonight we saw Chandra track down Mr. Day, the driver of the hearse in episode one. In both instances, our characters wound up chasing ghosts. This device — John and Chandra willing to explore every possible theory — does two things specifically:
- It establishes that this is not a story about the solving of a murder, it’s a story of redemption.
- It allows the audience to vicariously pursue every red herring swimming down the premium cable river.
As menacing, creepy and misogynistic as Mr. Day is, he’s not the guy that killed Andrea Cornish. As easy as it would have been to have the murderer be the most likely suspect from the first episode, it wasn’t Duane Reed either. That theory literally got up and ran off-screen before we could accuse it of a crime. What “The Night Of” is doing with exploring these theories (in addition to giving the people what they want), is reinforcing that the answers we’ve been looking for the entire time are right in front of us, and we’re too busy chasing ghosts in order to see them.
The only lead that came up in “Samson and Delilah” that looks like it might pan out is super creep step-dad Don Taylor may be the culprit after all, or at the very least be closely involved. In the preview for next week’s episode, we see Det. Box on the witness stand stating that he’ll take evidence over a confession any day. While the evidence is lacking as of right now, Don Taylor is the only character we’ve met with the motive to commit this crime. At this point in the series, motive counts for something. By next week I’m sure we’ll see evidence to back it up.
- Stone finally found something that cured his ailing feet. He found it by chasing down every possible remedy for the problem and found success with least conventional means. What does say about the case? What non-traditional tactic is going to prove to be their best defense?
- Naz’s two tattoos – “Sin” and “Bad” or “SINBAD” across his knuckles and a howling wolf on his arm; one tattoo about a protagonist of Middle Eastern origin that survives a number of trials and tribulations, and another of an animal answering the call of the wild. Two very appropriate tattoos for someone who is coming to grips with possibly being in prison for life.
- Det. Box is so focused on the evidence of the case, but no one has mentioned how Naz left the crime scene with no blood on him save for the cut on his hand. How can that possibly be and why hasn’t anyone brought it up?
- Where was Stone’s independent forensic scientist this week?
- Is Don Taylor another red herring or is he actually a suspect in this murder case?
- My theory after six episodes is this: Naz is innocent, but winds up being convicted, or is guilty and winds up being found innocent. Either way, the final scenes of the series will be the audience finding out what truly happened.