The Night Of Part 8 Recap: 'The Call Of The Wild' [Season Finale]

For a few weeks now, The Night Of has been setting us up for disappointment. Regardless of what the verdict in trial of Nasir Khan was going to be, it wad fairly evident that no one would really wind up happy when the final credits were going to roll with Sunday's finale. In fact, Naz getting off, as he did, might actually be the worst possible outcome for some of the people involved.

This is a show about the failings of the criminal justice system. How this system, set up at the intersection of various bureaucracies, unions, and publicly funded organizations, aims to do the least amount possible despite its original intent to be this bastion of a free, democratic society. Police officers don't give a shit about any individual person, criminal or not. Lawyers on either side need an ample amount of convincing to have any vested interested. Prisons are set up in such a way that it breeds criminals, gets the worst out of people. Detectives and prosecutors are trained to search for the easiest, most simple answer because they're on the taxpayer's dime. It's essentially the only way to operate in a free, capitalistic society, but it's also terribly unfair for some people.

Through what seemed at first no fault of his own, Nasir Khan got caught up in the web of these failings. What would otherwise be a fairly innocent white lie led him down a dark path. He chose the wrong night to go out, to take his father's cab without permission, to uncharacteristically pick up a girl who was under the influence, suicidal and the source of a lot of dangerous drama, to panic at the scene of a crime. Through the luck of the draw he got the wrong detective, anxious to wrap up his final case before retirement, before he realized he didn't want to retire at all even, missing evidence in the process. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time when he made it to Riker's and was introduced to Freddy, a charismatic murderer who awakened the beast inside of him.

But this isn't just a one-sided takedown of the American penal system. Even though Naz didn't kill Andrea Cornish, over the course of these eight episodes we also found out that he was sort of a bad egg. He had violent tendencies, he took advantage of his friends selling them prescription medication, he lied to his family, and all it took is a couple of bad nights in prison for him to align with the worst criminal of all, start smuggling and taking drugs and tattooing himself with the worst things imaginable, short of a teardrop or two. People don't just because the almost unrecognizable person Naz is at the end of the serious. He made a choice not to be the guy who gets taken advantage of in prison, or beaten up, or raped, or has to resort to killing himself. Just like he made a choice when confronted with bullying after 9/11. Some might argue those are necessary choices, while others might argue they're wrong choices. Nevertheless, Naz made them, and now he has to live with them, a changed man. The central thesis of this show therefore becomes whether you can blame the results on who the man is, or what the system makes of him. Nature versus nurture, if you will.

Naz ends the series sitting on the same dock that Andrea took him to in that first episode. Only now he's alone, and he's smoking crack, because that's all he has. People look at him funny, his family has lost everything, his own mother has lost faith in him. Free man or not, Naz is a lost soul. And it's only fitting that the way he gets off is via a hung jury and an unwillingness by the prosecution to continue to pursue him as a suspect. Of course that's because the defense presented them with enough doubt that Box pursued a different lead and found a real suspect. Ironically not even any of the suspects that wound up as witnesses on the stand, even. We never find out if they catch him, or if he's really the guy, which is also fitting.

As for the defense, a hung jury means that John goes back to living a life as the bottom-feeding lawyer he was when we first met him. He's no one special now, he just helped a kid that he saw something in, possibly naively. People will still look at him funny, he'll still suffer. And appropriately, he winds up saving the cat as well, because that's his fault. He can't help but be a knight in shining armor, even if it hurts him. Despite the perceptions we have at the top of the series, he's actually the antithesis to Naz. He's the real hero of this story, and he gets absolutely nothing out of it.

It's just as depressing for Chandra, who's life is also ruined now by being associated to Naz. She gets caught in her makeout session with her client, by Freddy of all people, and it costs her her job and potentially even her license. But no three people do I feel worse for than Naz's family. His brother gets kicked out of school for defending him, now he can barely say anything to him. His mother loses all faith in him and has to spend the rest of her days cleaning bathrooms. His father is the only person who can still muster to even look at him, who still believes in his son, even though he's financially ruined, he's lost his friends, his job, his cab. No one shot in this entire series was more uncomfortable than a lingering shot of his father at the dinner table. Mr. Khan looks beaten, broken down, yet he still smiles at his son and tells him it's okay to live his life now.

In other words, absolutely no one is happy. Add to that the fact that this finale clocked in at over 90 minutes, and it truly does methodically beat you down. Prior to the finale, I was really saddened by the fact that what wound up being the surprise hit of the summer would be ending. Now I'm kind of glad it's over. While it's technically, stylistically, and narratively wonderful and easily one of the best things to air on TV this year, it's also draining, and goddamn depressing man. Robert Price (who wrote much of the series, as well as the novel and British series on which The Night Of is based on) and Steven Zaillian really do a remarkable job of hammering these ideas home. As a result, "The Call of the Wild" leaves you with a lot to ponder, but it's different than the seven episodes prior. There's a finality to it, but it isn't necessarily satisfying. It gives you what you ask for, but it makes you realize you may not have necessarily wanted it. There's a beauty to that, a brilliance, even, but on the scale of entertainment, it's a hard pill to swallow.

That's why a somber finale to The Night Of has to get 8 series about cops who don't give a shit out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • Probably the biggest take-home from this show is that on any given night out in New York City you can run into a handful of people that would be prime murder suspects, and yet still wind up arrested for a crime you didn't commit.
  • I have no idea if this has been discussed, but with the current fad of anthology series, I wouldn't be surprised if this show got a second season with different characters. The British series got a second season but I don't know much about it. It would be hard to picture a second season though without some overlapping, and I wouldn't be upset if this were the end.
  • I felt like the show gave us ample closure on many of the characters, even if it was purposely unsatisfying, but i liked how that wasn't the case for Freddy. He doesn't get to say much in this supersized episode, and he ends it by simply continuing to exist, taking advantage of people in this terrible world.
  • Did Naz set Chandra up from the beginning? Earlier I may have felt like he was too naive to seduce a lawyer like that, but think about it. He makes out with her then immediately uses her to smuggle in drugs, and then Freddy turns around as uses it to ostensibly get her off the case. She makes a mistake putting Naz on the stand but John pretty much fixes it with a good closing argument. Maybe that's purposely left open to interpretation, but it would make that kiss an easier pill to swallow, no pun intended.
  • "Is the 5th okay here?"
  • "Is that how people usually put out cigarettes, on a window?" "I know guys who put it out on their mouth."
  • John trying to intimate the widower by telling him he knows a guy who can beat him up: "He's from New Jersey."
  • "What do you care, you like her like you liked Andrea? Take your hand off your dick."
  • "Are you under any unusual stress?" "You could say that."
  • Box works as university security now: "You sure you wouldn't rather slit your wrists?"
  • "Everyone's got a cross to bear, Naz. Pardon the expression. Fuck 'em all, live your life."