A Stab in the Dark; Naz Didn’t Do It

A Stab in the Dark; Naz Didn’t Do It

HBO’s miniseries The Night Of has been an absolutely enthralling deep-dive into to finer points of the courtroom/crime procedural. The Steve Zallian and Richard Price creation is not only beautifully shot, but the duo has done a really great job in painting a vivid picture of the criminal justice system while still keeping the answers to their mystery hidden in the haze. With just one extended episode of the series remaining, we the audience still have no inclination of whether the accused Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed) is guilty of the murder he’s been charged with, or if he’s just a dumb kid who was in the worst possible place at the worst possible time.

It’s been fascinating to see how the minor details like the color of the defendant’s shirt play a role in the whole prosecution process, but now, with the conclusion of this case just around the corner, it’s start hedging our bets and turn this grueling wait for the finale into a game of “Who done it?” I haven’t done any research on this show’s BBC predecessor, Criminal Justice (mainly because I’m terrified of spoilers) so I’m just as lost in the dark as the rest of you probably are, but my money’s on “not guilty.”

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Firstly, I keep trying to think of all the possible endings that put the characters on top that we think should be there when it’s all said and done. We’re obviously supposed to root for Chandra (Amara Karan) and John Stone (John Turturro), and Turturro’s character may have the most concrete redemptive arch of the entire show as a down on his luck lawyer scoring the case of his career. It just makes sense for them to win even if we never find out if Naz is truly innocent or not.

Secondly, I just don’t see it on a character level either. Naz’s transformation, while jarringly quick and radical at times, gave a sense of validity to the prosecution’s case; however, I think those changes are nothing more than your classic storytelling devices, red herrings.

All we saw Naz do in the tombs of Riker’s Island was for survival. The case put a huge target on his back in the prison so the knuckle tattoos and drug peddling were both a means of finding protection. Even being an accomplice to Freddy’s (Michael K. Williams) murder was so Naz could stay on his good side and stay safe. Yeah, the smoking heroine doesn’t look good, but it does keep up a his hardened persona which has got to be helpful, right?

Also, I don’t buy what he did back in school as real evidence that he’s capable of a murder of this magnitude. Selling adderall is illegal, but very common, and the incidents with bullies following 9/11 were just a result of an angry kid finally snapping and fighting back. There’s still a lot left to learn about Naz in the upcoming finale, but his behavior so far hasn’t once gave me the impression that he’s a full-blown psychopath who’d stab someone 22 times.

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Lastly, after seven long weeks, we still don’t have a crystal clear motive for Naz. Of the slow burn yet gripping procedurals of the past few years, The Night Of is the only one I’ve encountered that didn’t established some sort of motive early on. Netflix’s Making a Murderer and the first season of Serial are two prime examples of homicide cases that gave the possible motives early on, and then worked towards other possible outcomes. I mean, the confluence of events before Naz fell asleep that night sure made it look like he was going to get lucky, so I don’t think that rape accusation will stick. Also, I don’t know much about the side effects of Ketamine, but I doubt it puts a person in a particularly “stabby” mood.

Like I said before, we could learn something groundbreaking about Naz in the first five minutes of Sunday’s episode that changes everything, but if I were to take a stab in the dark (pun intended), I’d say Naz didn’t do it.

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