Vaping Prosecutors, Cats, And Murderers: Seven Takeaways From The Season Finale Of ‘The Night Of’

HBO’s The Night Of ended its limited run with an extended-length season finale. Some questions were answered definitively (Naz’s fate, the supposedly cured foot thing), some were answered almost definitively (the identity of the real killer), and some were not answered at all (the reason J.D. Williams isn’t on every television show, just playing some variation of Bodie from The Wire). Also, there was a not-insignificant chunk of the episode dedicated to the ongoing ballad of John Stone’s cat. Is it weird that I was more relieved to see that guy trot across the screen at the end than I was when we saw what happened with Naz? I don’t think so. Maybe if the cat had made its lawyer sneak drugs into jail in an extremely humiliating way, I’d feel differently about that. No way to tell, really.

In any event, here are seven takeaways I had from last night’s conclusion.

It was the Royal Pains guy! The Royal Pains guy did the murder! Probably!

The biggest question going into the finale was who, exactly, was responsible for the death of Andrea. There were a bunch of possibilities, from a creepy morgue guy to the shady stepdad to noted burglary aficionado Duane Reade, all of whom were paraded out to the witness stand to give some degree of potentially incriminating testimony. A special shout out here goes to the creepy morgue guy, who took the stand wearing Morpheus sunglasses and proceeded to answer a question by telling Naz’s lawyer that his whereabouts were none of anyone’s business. That’s… that’s not how court works! Between his whole deal and Bodie swearing and attempting to plead the Fifth almost at random, we got some pretty solid “Oh, brother” looks from the judge, who, in this show’s grand tradition of casting “that guys,” also played the Yellow King in the first season of True Detective.

But anyway, speaking of “that guys,” our answer, probably: It was Ray the financial guy, also known as the “Hey, that’s the annoying accountant brother character from Royal Pains” guy. Here are some fun things we learned about Ray last night:

  • He had been stealing from Andrea
  • He had been having a relationship with Andrea
  • He has a gambling problem
  • He likes to beat up prostitutes
  • He was recently shot in the groin by a pimp
  • He argued with Andrea hours before the murder and was outside her house moments before it happened

Well! I promise if I had known any of that I would have given him more than a zero percent chance of being the real killer.

Congratulations to Chandra the Lawyer on being dumber than Naz, somehow

I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to be dumber than Naz, who did just about everything he could to get convicted, from bumbling into a half confession to quite literally getting a knuckle tattoo that said “sin” and “bad” before the trial started, but then his lawyer went ahead and made out with him in front of a prison video camera, smuggled drugs in for him, and then put her drug-addicted teenage murder suspect on the stand where he could be cross-examined. At least Naz had excuses for his actions, between being a scared kid and trying to survive in Rikers. Chandra… not so much. This was a problem. We’ll get to it in a minute.

Naz is a free drug-addicted unicorn now

Despite Naz getting beat up pretty good on cross and the prosecution having something between a large hill and a mountain of evidence against him, the jury ended up deadlocked 6-6. And because the prosecution decided not to retry the case (a combination of throwing more resources at a case that didn’t go anywhere and Detective Box creating enough doubt in Helen’s mind about Naz being the killer), Naz ended up going free. That’s good for Naz!

Unfortunately, months at Rikers under the wing of a prison kingpin who referred to him as “a unicorn” resulted in him becoming a hardened, emotionally bankrupt drug addict with big jail muscles and the aforementioned jailhouse knuckle tattoo, in addition to a new one of a crown on his neck. That’s less good!

They paid off the feet thing

I was a prominent critic of John Stone’s whole feet thing, because a) feet are gross, and b) the amount of time the show devoted to it took away from time in a limited series that could have been spent chronicling Naz’s transformation from fuzzy innocent woodland creature into bad mean prison man, but I reserved the right to backtrack on that if they managed to tie it all into the story and pay it off. Well, they did. I mean, mostly. Giving him a short term cure when things looked good and then bringing it back with a vengeance at the end helped to drive home his whole schlubness and make his closing argument more powerful. He was like Itchy Jack McCoy out there.

The Gandolfini of it all

Knowing that James Gandolfini was originally supposed to play John Stone made the series wild to watch, because every now and then when John Turturro was on the screen, I’d stop and try to picture Gandolfini in the role. Go back and picture that yourself. It’s weird, right? He was a great actor with more range than he gets credit for, and his take on the character would have been fascinating, but he’s so identifiable as Tony Soprano that your brain, like mine, probably jumped to that first.

Was this show even good?

So, here’s the thing: I don’t know, which is an awkward position for me to be in, because it is my job to have an answer to questions like that. On the one hand, it was supremely well-acted. Turturro was great, and Riz Ahmed was really great, conveying both Naz’s fear in the early episodes and his confidence and power toward the end. The problem was that their performances succeeded almost in spite of the plot of the show. This sucker was clunky at times. I’ve made the point about Naz’s arc feeling rushed, but just look at what happened with Ray and Chandra this episode. Look at that list of things we learned about Ray. He suddenly became a thieving ex-boyfriend gambling addict who was at the scene of the crime and once got shot in the junk because he liked to rough up hookers. And as fun as that sentence was to type, it was probably more than we needed to believe he was a bad dude. Any combination of two or three of those things would have been enough.

And Chandra. Dear Lord. I’m still not exactly sure if the point of all of that was to show that she was in love, or that she was desperate to win, or that she was desperate to win because she was in love, but she went from a composed, competent attorney to an incompetent mess really quickly. Not an impossible transition, but again, a little fast.

But again, I don’t think the show was bad. Some of it was quite good. I just don’t think it lived up to its billing as HBO’s next great thing. Watching the show, it felt kind of like a regular procedural snuck into its prestige drama older sibling’s closet and put on a bunch of its clothes to look more sophisticated. I think that’s the best way I can describe it.

If there is a second season, it should be about Helen the vaping prosecutor

Vaping prosecutors > Eczema lawyers