The Night Of Part 7 Recap: 'Ordinary Death'

It's become somewhat standard practice in serialized television drama to make the penultimate episode of any given season the one where, for lack of a better way of putting it, shit goes down. Finales often tend to be a time for reflection, for wrapping up; the episode prior is what gets us there.

For much of "Ordinary Death", I was lulled into a false sense of security; a state of mind where I thought that The Night Of might go counter-culture one more time and not do what your standard serialized drama tends to do at this stage. After all, for a show that tries to shove the idea of procedural crime investigation down the viewer's throat, not to mention heightened prison drama, very little about it has been standard over the course of seven episodes. It's that false sense of security that was what wound up being the big twist, in a way.

Because for the final fifteen minutes of this penultimate episode, the show did exactly what you might expect it to. The protagonist who's been searching for the truth and justice this entire time stumbles onto a McGuffin that leads him to breaking the case wide open, the defense gets their ace-in-the-hole testimony and it appears as if the moment swings Naz's way in his murder trial. But because this is The Night Of and it has to do things the hard way, much of the episode before that is fairly tame; even relaxed. We follow Naz's parents more than ever before as they cope with the realities and consequences of their son's actions, including some heavy post-9/11 commentary. John follows Don around to try and pin the murder on someone else. And the prosecution and defense continue questioning an array of different witnesses and experts.

It all turns out to be misdirection though. The plight of Naz's parents is important but secondary to what's actually going on. And John's investigation might yet bear fruit but it's not the right lead that he should have been chasing at that time. His focus should have been getting Naz off, and not someone else off. On any other show, finding the real killer would be paramount, but in this one, where it's not the crime itself but the consequences of said crime that are important, he should have been doing things that would have led him to finding that picture of the asthma inhaler. The distraction had a purpose, but it led to arguably the only negative I have about this episode, because the way that he finds it at the copy store is most definitely a McGuffin. Not a terrible one, but a McGuffin nonetheless.

Naz's inhaler is the gift that keeps on giving though. It's the break in procedure that will most likely get Naz off, but it gets him off on a technicality. Detective Box returns it to him in part because, at the time, it gave him trust with Naz as he was looking to wrap up what would likely be his last case, but there was also a sense of humanity to it. Now it's the detail that mars him on the literal day of his retirement, which in and of itself is a trope that I absolutely love the show for not shying away from using. Getting Naz off on a break in procedure casts doubts around his innocence and it leaves Box dissatisfied, which is a great way of shoeing in the need to find the actual killer in the finale.

More than that, the inhaler plays a part in the final sequence of the episode, as Naz uses it as a distraction, allowing Freddy to kill the fellow inmate that was raping the new kid and forced him to kill himself. That leaves Freddy without anyone capable of getting drugs into Riker's, so he kills the dude out of revenge. And Naz is a more than willing accessory. Obviously nothing official will come of it, but it merely reinforces this idea that Naz is indeed a bad guy now. Juxtaposing it with Box's unsatisfying retirement party is even better, since neither of them are having a good time, but Box's actions in particular are what created this monster. He's sad because he didn't do a good enough job of putting a killer away. But he doesn't realize that he inadvertently created a new killer by putting an innocent albeit troubled person in a place where he could actually do bad things. Naz is a closing argument away from potentially going free and he's celebrating by helping Freddy kill a dude. This is how far we've come from a kid who just wanted to go to a party in the premiere.

It makes a layered episode of this show difficult to fully unravel. Because Naz is a complex character. He's innocent of this particular crime, but we've come to find out he's capable of doing some damage. And locking him up has only unlocked the badness inside him. You could blame that on Box for sloppily handling his final case, leaving all these witnesses and potential suspects go to the wind because it was just easier to pin it on Naz. You could blame Chandra and John for being so passionate about getting this kid off even though they keep finding out that he may not be as innocent as suggested.

And then there are the bigger subjects that this show deals with. The one that was fairly on the nose this episode was everything related to the post-9/11 racism many Muslims were subject to. Not only the things Naz did in retaliation to what that school janitor almost hilariously refers to as "patriotism" when describing how Muslims like Naz were bullied, but also how his parents have to now deal with flare-ups that the murder caused. A fellow cabbie gets assaulted because of Naz, so his dad's business partners force him out. "Go home Muslims" is graffitied on a wall. If anything I'm surprised it took them seven weeks to really hammer that stuff home.

But then there's also this idea of the criminal justice system seemingly falling apart that we've been dealing with from the beginning. Initially we thought it was just failing Naz. It's sort of jarring to see now that it isn't only Naz, someone who may have wound up in prison some day anyway, but also Box, a jaded detective who's near retirement and makes mistakes. Or the kid who kills himself in prison, and his mom who has to humiliate herself stuffing condoms full of crack up her vagina, and everyone else affected by Freddy's influence and greed, and abuse of a broken prison system. Or the women who Don manipulates and extorts. Or Andrea herself. Because what better way to hammer home this idea of injustice than to have Naz go free next week in the finale and not discover who actually murdered Andrea on that night.

"Ordinary Death" is like a beautiful rose which suddenly blooms overnight. It's the result of something that was great for a long time - seven weeks now - but transformed into something extraordinary as things finally came together to reveal The Night Of's true nature. As this is not only a show about a case, about a wrongfully accused man. About a murder. It's something much larger, and the fact that it's able to portray it so concisely is incredibly impressive. "Ordinary Death" gets 10 empty asthma inhalers out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • Two great instances of directing that need to be pointed out this week: The way the camera fuzzes in the benchpress scene when Don catches John, and the close up of Naz's "sin" and "bad" tattoos in the scene where he makes out with Chandra.
  • Speaking of either of those scenes, you gotta wonder how things come crashing down for John and Chandra in the finale. John's been playing it fast and loose, both with the cat and his side investigations, and I'm worried something bad is going to happen to him in the finale. And Chandra making out with Naz... honey no.
  • Doctor Katz is a delight.
  • "My wife's got a type. I'm not it."
  • "What's your major in college?" "Business." "Do you know what Mr. Khan's is?" "Business." "Which of you would you say is learning the most?"
  • "Fucking cat."
  • "I don't want to get rid of the cat."
  • "Is this for Law & Order? I do a lot of props like this for them." "Yeah, yeah, Law & Order."
  • "I'm at the copy place, living la vida loca of a high-priced attorney."
  • "What were you really thinking up there in front of all those people saying things you didn't believe in such a convincing manner?" "Honestly? Dessert."
  • "If the glove doesn't fit, you must acquit."
  • "There goes the party train."