Review: ‘The Night Of’ introduces a fan favorite from ‘The Wire’

A review of tonight's The Night Of coming up just as soon as I can't think of any last-minute advice…

“There's a whole separate judicial system in here, and you just been judged and juried.” -Freddy

At this stage of the story, The Night Of has essentially become two separate, but equally important, shows: a legal drama about the cops and lawyers working on opposite sides of Naz's prosecution, and a prison drama about Naz adjusting to his new life in jail at Rikers Island. But even as John Turturro and Riz Ahmed are playing the lead in their own mini-drama, the two halves are linked by the fact that Stone – like so many other characters this week – is fighting to protect Naz.

Naz is wildly unprepared for incarceration, but he appears to have a guardian angel in Freddy, a disgraced former boxing champ played by the show's latest Ghost of HBO Dramas Past: Michael Kenneth Williams from The Wire and Boardwalk Empire. Freddy has the run of Rikers – a private cell with every possible amenity, a female guard who has sex with him, and what seems to be a thriving business dealing drugs inside (albeit a business that has hit a hiccup now that the guard wants out of smuggling the stuff in for him) – and has decided for some reason that he wants to have Naz's back. His motivations are unclear, and at this point he's your archetypal jailhouse fixer and philosophizer – using a piece of veal as a metaphor for Naz's situation – but when played with Williams' usual quiet charisma, the familiarity doesn't much matter. Each Rikers scene is so filled with dread, with so many long and uncomfortable shots of Naz walking from place to place, seemingly always at risk of being jumped when he least expects it, that the fact that anyone shows an interest in looking out for him, much less someone played by the former Omar Little and Chalky White, feels like a tremendous relief, even as it's entirely possible that his offer could have terrible strings attached. Naz doesn't get attacked in the shower, even after Freddy has provided him sneakers for extra traction, but his bunk gets lit on fire, and he's obviously in huge peril. 

Naz rejects it for now, perhaps suspecting any offer too good to be true. It's the kind of skepticism his parents don't use when dealing with Alison Crowe (Glenne Headly), the high-priced, polished litigator who sees Naz's case as another excuse to get on TV. She recruits Chandra (Amara Karan) to do the sales pitch to Naz's parents, not because she's impressed by her legal skills, but because her parents came from the same general part of the world as the Khans. It's utterly cynical, and also successful: she's offering up the resources of a big firm at no cost, where even after Jack heavily discounts his fee, it would still cost more than the Khans can afford, especially since the taxi cab that's their primary source of income will be in police impound indefinitely, if not permanently.

It's troubling not only because Crowe is such a transparent opportunist, but because this episode and last week's have done such a good job of building up our sympathy for Stone, and desire to see him get his shot at the bigtime. Helen Weiss admits to a colleague that Stone having the case is a windfall for the prosecution, because he's such a bottom-feeder. And maybe she's right. But Stone's been hustling, he seems to connect with Naz, and in taking Andrea's neglected cat to an animal shelter, he demonstrates – as he did when he went back into the precinct to offer his services to Naz in the first place – a willingness to go beyond his basic responsibilities. (And it's clear that only his severe cat allergy is preventing him from just bringing the kitty home with him.)

That we keep following Stone even after the Khans choose to hire a different lawyer, and that he's being played by John Turturro, makes clear that the series isn't done with our man with the eczema quite yet. And a good thing, too. Because of all the people looking to help Naz at this stage, he's the only one I wholly trust to look out for the kid's interests ahead of his own.

Some other thoughts

* Often in these kinds of stories, you see the parents quickly begin to question whether their child could have done such a terrible thing. The Khans, though, are behind Naz 100 percent, even as his situation is costing them greatly in so many different ways. That's love.

* The miniseries was written and shot several years ago, and news media (and the way we consume it) has changed enormously over that time. Still, there's something timeless about the power and influence of the front pages of the two New York tabloid newspapers, so seeing Naz's face on the cover of the Post nicely illustrated what a big deal this case is locally.

* We're already starting to see the way cops and prosecutors do everything they can to sell the case in court, here with Box insisting on leaving in the detail about Maldonado getting sick at the crime scene, because it will humanize him for the jury.

* Again, Naz's situation is mostly serious, terrifying, and sad, but the show keeps managing to find moments of black comedy, like Stone failing to think of some advice to give Naz in what he thinks will be their last conversation, or the cop at the impound lot handing out Stone's business card to Mr. Khan and his partners as they seek to get the stolen cab released.

What did everybody else think?

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at