For the past eight weeks, we’ve watched the life of Nasir Khan slowly unravel.
We were first introduced to Naz, our doe-eyed 23-year old protagonist, in the pilot episode of The Night Of. It was a brilliant episode of television that played out like a painful nightmare. We cringed at every one of Naz’s missteps, from taking drugs with Andrea to fleeing a murder scene with a bloody knife to his all too trusting conversation with Box.
Ever since Naz’s eventual arrest for the murder of Andrea Cornish, the lives of our large web of characters have worsened. Let’s take a look at our characters current state of affairs. The Khan family is in shambles. Naz’s father, Salim, lost his cab and was forced to take a buyout from his partners. His mother, Safar, has had to make peace with herself for raising “an animal.” His brother, Hasan, can’t even make it through a school day without getting retribution from his fellow students. In fact, their entire Pakistani community is suffering from violence and is being further ostracized from the rest of society.
Box is on the edge of retirement while simultaneously grappling with feelings of guilt. For a man who hates golf more than George Carlin, he’s going to have a lot of free time to think about whether or not honing in on Naz at his only suspect was the right call. Chandra is up against “a mountain of evidence” and an experienced prosecution. Oh, and that kiss certainly didn’t help matters. The only character you could argue has the potential for a happy ending is Stone. That’s only because at the beginning of the series, Stone was a shady lawyer being laughed out of courtrooms. Now he’s a shady lawyer who got the case of a lifetime by being in the right place at the right time. When it’s all over, something tells me Stone isn’t going to catapult himself into a reputable gig. He’s still going to be the lonely man with a cat, only with less eczema.
Then there’s Naz. Ever since the pilot, his life has panned out as if he’s the human embodiment of Murphy’s Law. Despite his insistence of his innocence, Naz has had to adjust to his new life as someone labeled a murderer. Regardless of your feelings about Naz and who killed Andrea (personally, I’m team creepy hearse driver), there’s no denying that prison has changed him. When he arrived at Rikers Island, he was a witness and victim to the violence of prison. Now? He’s smuggling drugs, beaten a man mercilessly, and assisted in a prison murder without breaking stride. This is a stark change from the sympathetic college student we were introduced to in the pilot. No matter his innocence in Andrea’s trial, Naz is now forever tainted by his life at Rikers Island. Sadly, so are his knuckles.
So it goes without saying that if you’re expecting a happy ending on The Night Of, you’ve been watching the wrong show. Cue Tyrion Lannister.
But that’s okay! The legacy of The Night Of isn’t going to be determined by whether or not Naz is found guilty. What made fare like Making a Murderer, Serial and Fantastic Lies so appealing wasn’t it’s warm and fuzzy center. It was its insight into the criminal justice system and how the easiest route is sometimes taken in lieu of figuring out the truth. The Night Of gives us a peek inside how a conviction comes to fruition – and how tunnel vision can impact even the most noble prosecutors.
That’s what makes The Night Of so compelling. For a man that loathes procedurals, that’s essentially what it is. It’s a detailed look into a criminal justice world that is deeply flawed. It’s not a show that gives us a few David Caruso one liners and a gift wrapped conclusion in an hour. We get to see every painstaking moment that goes into a murder trial. We also see the dark marks that the criminal justice system leaves on everyone it touches. The Night Of gives us some insight into why we should care about the bigger picture. For a nation that falls back on innocent until proven guilty, we see through Naz how much that rings true. We see the transformation of a young man to a hardened prisoner in a country with the highest prison population in the world.
No matter how it ends, The Night Of has already cemented its place as one of the best shows ever. I don’t know if the killer is Duane Reade, Don Taylor, or even Naz – and I don’t know if we’ll ever get the answer. I do know that whatever happens we are past the point of a happy ending. With everything that’s happened, The Night Of has made The Leftovers look like Modern Family. I’m not expecting the ending to rapidly change course.
I do expect a finale that is satisfying in the way The Night Of has satisfied viewers all along. It’s going to take us through a painful yet important journey through a broken system. For Naz, the Khan’s, Stone and the myriad other characters affected by Andrea Cornish’s murder, their lives were permanently changed well before the jury’s final verdict. So let’s not break out the pitchforks if we see further injustice or a Sopranos style cliffhanger. Let’s agree to enjoy the finale for what it is. Unless of course they show more of Stone’s eczema. Again, thank god for Dr. Yee.