Do you wear the blue shirt or the white? Choosing sides in ‘The Night Of.’
After John Stone played the eczema-ridden Hardy Boy last week, the show lets Chandra (Amara Karan) do her best Nancy Drew impression. And with their powers combined, we are finally getting our rogues gallery to come out of the woodwork.
She talks to the mortician and professional creepy person who quotes Judges 16, the Samson and Delilah story. Apparently he’s something of a zealot and has a higher misogyny-to-word ratio than a high school boy’s locker room, and Chandra flees before he can symbolically paint her nails too. Our next promising new lead is Andrea’s stepfather, Don Taylor. His motivations involve a trophy husband backstory and inheritance, and it’s at this point that I’m about to throw up my hands–not in dance–but in disgust.
Both are such hokey motivations for potential murderers that I pray to Stringer Bell they’re red herrings. They’re making me root for Team Naz-as-murderer just for a sense of narrative completion. Contrast that to the job Zaillian and Price are doing with Naz’s parents, two more bit characters who are not only beautifully expressed by Peyman Moaadi and Poorna Jagannathan but also delicately handled by our writers. Hearse Driver Guy and Evil Stepfather look like they’ve been ordered out of a villains catalog, and there was a clearance sale. For all the time we’ve spent on it, it better have been Naz or the eczema.
On that note, it’s nice to see Stone get his day in the sun (though as someone who’s grown up in a household that loves sketchy Chinese apothecaries, I ask you to temper your expectations against expecting such immediate miracles). Stone’s had enough humiliations and setbacks so it’s nice to see things break his way for once, which is unfortunate because his foil is going down a pretty bleak path.
As a college boy nerd who’s experienced some ugly things after 9/11, Naz is eager to taste some of the newfound power running with Freddy’s crew. Apparently he’s never heard of this thing called hubris, as he’s ripe for a good, hard fall. Though I did love the grace note of Naz choosing (incorrectly) his mother’s royal blue extra-in-West Side Story shirt. His transformation isn’t fully complete; there’s still glimmers of kindness in there, especially when Riz Ahmed is unspooling all that pent-up loneliness and pathetic longing to Chandra. But in this most darkest of timelines, it’s not your mother that’s right, it’s Freddy. Silly things like filial love and human decency are shed in place of the cold-brutal pragmatism and deal-making that rules our fictionalized Rikers.
Following him in a mini-descent is Chandra, who’s mourning a break-up, slamming drinks, and–definitely worst of all–slowly, cruelly phasing out John Stone. It’s a drop of rancid oil in the wine because I badly want to celebrate her jumping from Alison’s token minority to full-fledged lawyer. Rising above the murder motivation muck is her verbal chess match with Helen’s wily prosecutor. The D.A. goes for quavering-voiced and horrified onlooker in front of the jury, which is a bit of a waste of Jeannie Berlin’s talents. I hope she quickly drops the act and gets to return to the jerky rhythms and sharp-humored deliveries of her atypical line readings.
Either way, I’m looking forward to the trial shedding new light on the murder, or even a mistrial, because honestly, I could listen to Stone explain jury demographics to Chandra all day. As long as no one invites any sailors.