The Night Of Part 6 Recap: 'Samson and Delilah'

It's inarguable that the most compelling aspect of The Night Of has not been the mystery of whether or not Nasir Khan killed Andrea Cornish, but the characters that have budded out of that accusation. What we thought was a mild-mannered, straight-A young man in Naz has turned out to be a complex, layered individual with a mean streak. What happened to Naz awakened things in him, broke free the side of a man that can create criminals out of people who would otherwise never even purposely hurt a fly.

From that perspective, The Night Of is a show about the inherent irony of the criminal justice system. It's supposed to put criminals, thieves, rapists and murderers away, but it only exacerbates the issue by sticking all of those people in the same place. And you throw in a couple of people like Naz who otherwise wouldn't think to actually commit a crime, and you only wind up making things worse. Throw in the subplot about the cab a father has to sue his son for, and what you have is a crystal clear message about how this criminal justice system is completely broken. Presuming, as we have to, that Naz didn't kill Andrea, if Naz ends the series getting off, he's getting off as a jaded man who was publicly dragged through the mud by the media, who probably won't be able to live a day of his life without being reminded of the shit he got himself into. Luckily, his cellmate Freddy has already prepared him, as he said himself in this week's episode, to be a proper convict.

So it isn't completely out of the blue that Naz is suddenly a shaved-head, "sin" tattoo-donning badass who runs Riker's. As we peel back the layers week-by-week, we start to understand that. And in "Samson and Delilah", it's as evident as it's going to be, when Naz shares his story about why he pushed a kid down a flight of stairs in high school, a result of the bullying he received after 9/11. He's so nonchalant about it too, he doesn't regret doing it, he just did it. Because he got harassed, beat up, accused of somehow being responsible for those tragic events. But no one other than him talks about the injustice he suffers. They just try and paint him a murderer.

With that in mind, I don't know if it matters to me if we ever find out who actually killed Andrea. That's just an end to a means, as we look to understand Naz's transformation. Riz Ahmed's performance sells the fuck out of it too, and that post-9/11 story is only going to prove that come next year's Emmys. Plus the show has given us arguably two of the most compelling TV characters in a good long while, as we've been introduced to John Turturro's ecxema-suffering, Subway schlepping lonely lawyer John Stone, and give-no-fucks five-or-six time convicted murderer Freddy, played by the equally incomparable Michael K. Williams.

Just remember those performance (and all the rest, from Amara Karan as Chandra, to Bill Camp as Detective Box, to Jeannie Berlin as the DA, and even the actors who beautifully portray Naz's weary, quiet parents), the amazing character development and layered, brilliant writing as we enter the final phase of the miniseries. Because while the mystery of the murder isn't this show's most compelling aspect, it's the kind of thing that draws people in. And it's the kind of thing that a show is probably forced to resolve. Because when The Night Of first premiered, people were not only comparing it to other great thrillers and murder-mysteries, they were calling it the fictional version of Making A Murderer or The Jinx. And maybe rightfully so, as those shows too dealt with injustice and the failings of the criminal justice system. But people were into those shows because of the mystery, because of the obsession with needing to solve said mystery.

Unlike Making A Murder, however, The Night Of has the opportunity to satisfy the need for a solution, because it's fictional. And more than the five episodes prior, it finally, truly felt like we were going down that path. Two new counter-suspects were added to the pile after John chased a wanted felon down a dark alleyway at the end of last week's episode (which bizarrely goes unmentioned this week). We finally look into that creepy mortician who confronted Andrea in that first episode at the gas station, and he's just as creepy when Chandra talks to him. In fact, he has all the makings of the kind of bad guy you might be introduced to towards the end of a season of True Detective, when it comes time for Marty and Rust to stop talking about their feelings and start solving a crime. And now, because of that creepy scene, every time someone knocks at Chandra's door we'll be left wondering if he's come back for more. Then there's Don, Andrea's sorta stepfather. We find out that the man he was arguing with at the funeral is Andrea and her deceased mother's financial advisor, and that Don is the prototypical golddigging personal trainer, who married Andrea's mom while she was on her deathbed and had a dispute with Andrea because he wouldn't get his half, not over her dead body. And of course there's Duane Reade, the random criminal who could have done this as well because he's prone to violent behavior.

So we have three potential suspects that could save Naz, but they're so cliche that it kind of scares me. Would this complex, multifaceted show about the failings of the criminal justice system and the darkness most people have inside them really drop the ball on solving this murder? Frankly, is there anything that could satisfy the viewer at this point after everything we've been presented? Would even revealing that Naz actually did it be a satisfying conclusion? Or is the show merely misdirecting us as we come to the inevitable conclusion that if the criminal justice system is truly broken, then it wouldn't be fair to give Naz a happy ending. Either way, his life is essentially over. The show has conveyed that beautifully, and continues to do so. Now the question turns to what the show needs to do with the realities of this case, and whether or not that can in any way satisfy the viewer.

It's sort of unfortunate that the speculative nature of the plot progression detracts from what was otherwise a beautiful episode. Naz continues to be incredibly compelling, the case is moving along and we finally got a couple of great courtroom scenes, and John even cured his eczema. "Samson and Delilah" was a great episode, I just hope that as we near the conclusion, the show doesn't lose sight of what made it so great, just for the sake of resolution, because I don't know if it needs it. "Samson and Delilah" gets 9.5 golfers, bowlers and sailors out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • Seriously, if the mortician winds up being the guy who did it, you might as well rename this show True Detective Season 3. Right down to his misuse of the Bible story this episode is named after, it feels like that character was ripped straight out of that show. But namedropping Samson and Delilah is relevant to the story even if he misunderstood it. The Mortician sees a story about how a woman is the end-all be-all of the strong man. The story is really about how prodding a snake that lays in wake will only lead to you getting bitten. Naz had the power of Samson inside of him but seldom used it to harm anyone. Now they're making a murderer out of him and trying to bring him down, and he might destroy everything.
  • John Stone continues to be an on-the-nose bad metaphor. From the cat he plays with through the crack of a door to having his medical problems solved by unmarked Eastern medicine powders. The best part of it though has to be how everyone hates how much time the show devotes to him.
  • Meanwhile, Freddy continues to be a delightful mystery. The only thing we found out about him this week is that he let a cellmate pin another murder on him so that his wife and kids will have a shorter bus ride to see him.
  • "I'm gonna make a proper convict out of you yet."
  • "Do you remember the man she was with?" "That wasn't no man, that was a ball of yarn."
  • "Next time, leave the Nancy Drew work to me."
  • "Why no sailors?"
  • "I broke up with my boyfriend." "Oh, fuck that, who cares. This is important."
  • "Young urban women, well phrased."
  • "What the hell is this? You look like an extra from West Side Story."
  • "Three hundred dollars and he throws in aphrodisiacs."
  • "Off the record, sitting here, just us chickens." "You know, I never understood that expression." "Me neither."