HBO’s The Night Of – Episode 3 – The Dark Crate: Recap & Review

The Night Of, the hit series currently airing on Sunday nights on HBO, unwrapped Episode Three called The Dark Crate last night. The Dark Crate is a reference spoken by inmate Freddy about how young lambs are kept (or more accurately imprisoned) prior to being taken to the slaughter-house. That’s what Freddy was speaking of.

But below the surface it is also a reference to Naz with Naz being confined and really not knowing or understanding how dire his circumstances are – just like the lambs confined to their crates.

While the reference was only a small slice of the episode, it did lead up to Freddy asking Naz if he wanted Freddy’s protection in this particular over-crowded cell block in Rikers.

We didn’t see or hear Naz’s answer to Freddy, but whether Naz did not answer or answered either in the affirmative or the negative, it seems clear that this is not the last we’ll hear about Freddy’s protection.

Williams as Freddy

Williams as Freddy in The Night Of

By the way, Freddy is portrayed by Michael Kenneth Williams who was the actor who played Omar Little in HBO’s The Wire. For the record, Williams also had a small role in HBO’s The Sopranos Season 3.

Williams as Omar

Williams as Omar in The Wire

The episode itself breaks down into three areas: The case and Naz’s lawyers, Naz’s entry into Rikers, and the aftermath about what happened to Naz’s father’s cab. While the cab remains missing neither the elder Khan nor his two partners can make a living. And at this point I am shocked that neither the elder Khan or his wife have even asked either the police or Naz about the cab.

As far as the investigation, it seems that Detective Box thinks he has a slam-dunk case. Meaning there’s been nothing new from him.

Stone (John Turturro) continues with his agita provoking skin disease. His latest advice from his skin doctor – Coat your foot and lower leg in Crisco All Vegetable Shortening then wrap it all up tight with Saran Wrap. Then Stone sits in at his support group. But he’s got a tough assignment ahead of him.

He’s got to see Nasir Khan’s parents about his fee. Now Stone is known in the criminal justice system as a lockup crawler. Which means most of his clients are going to receive a plea offer rather than a trial. That’s because an accepted plea offer is easier on everyone from judges, prosecutors, and other assorted court officers. So at Stone’s urging most take the deal. Which means that Stone hasn’t much if any in the way of trial experience.

He’s sort of a low-rent version of Tom Cruise’s Lt. Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men. He’s also sort of a modern version Lt. Columbo – which means he doesn’t shave every day, his clothes are down market, he’s just this side of disheveled. It also means that he cannot command the high fees of more experience criminal trial lawyers.

So he does his spiel for the Khans. After telling them that most criminal trial lawyers get $150K and up. Or on an hourly basis every meeting, every call, every note taken and on and on carries a charge. So to help the Khans, he offers to do the case for $75K – a figure well beyond their means. Eventually he comes down to $50K but the Khans must sign off on that figure right now – and we’ll worry about the fee payments schedule later.

But the Khans can’t even see their way at that ‘bargain’ rate. Mr. Khan tells Stone that he has just $8K in the bank.

So Stone leaves without a signed retainer statement. He heads over to the DA’s office where he meets the ADA in charge. That would be Jeannie Berlin as Helen Weiss. She’s not willing to offer a plea deal, and the best she can do is to offer Stone a card of a tailor she knows. Get yourself a new suit. Tell him I sent you. Anything but brown. 

Rebuffed by Weiss, Stone heads over to the apartment on W. 87th Street where the crime took place. Stone walks up the steps to the bedroom, all the while taking video with his phone. Not sure what he’s hoping to find, or expects to find – but it is my guess that he would argue that given the size of the blood spatter on the wall in the bedroom, Naz would either have blood on his clothes, or there might be some blood on the staircase, or on Naz’s shoes.

Stone doesn’t say anything, so it is me thinking out loud with the above surmises.

Meanwhile, another lawyer appears on the scene. She is Alison Crow, the name partner of Crowe & Associates. She’s a big time trial lawyer who not only knows to work the press, but she also knows everything about getting the spotlight on herself. Crowe is played by Glenne Headley.

Crowe stops at the home of the Khans. She makes them an offer they can’t refuse. She will take on the defense of Naz pro-bono. Or in English – for free.

Of course she is poaching/stealing Stone’s clients but since he has no signed retainer, he has to take it on the chin, or more accurately take the hit to his wallet.

While all of the above was going on Naz was being admitted or is the term received into the prison at the Rikers Island Prison Complex. We see the barbed wire adorned by the wind-driven bits of plastic. We see the cracked windows, and we hear the dark and foreboding sounds of the Reception Area. Gates, Electronic gates, heavy doors, doors that are a collections of steel bars all have separate and distinct sounds.

This is the central institution for prisoners being bound over for trial in New York City. Naz gets his ID badge, his blanket, pillow, and uniform. Yes, there is a welcoming speech which basically breaks down to:

You will do what you are told. If you don’t, you can expect to be beaten with our clubs and batons, which will likely cause some injuries. We had 2000 of these events last year, so you know we are just waiting for you to not follow orders.

Or something like that. Naz is interviewed, seen by a doctor, and eventually marched into a two-tiered cell block. The place is so crowded, Naz doesn’t even get a cell. His bed is in the central common area of the cell block, as are many other beds. Many of the inmates eye him and the other newbies. Some make catcalls and lewd gestures.

Welcome to Rikers kid.

The next day Naz’s parents arrive to visit him. Trust me this is no picnic for them. Each parent has to be separately interviewed and then to compound the indignities,Mrs. Khan has to be inspected behind a medical screen. The female corrections officer is allowed to not only pat her down, but is also permitted to do a hand search inside Mrs. Khan’s panties and bra.

Naz and his folks talk and no mention is made of the taxi, but they do tell him about his new lawyer Alison Crowe.

Later, (or the next day) Stone arrives, laden with changes of underwear, socks, tee-shirts and some other articles for Naz. Stone asks if Naz has set up an account. Stone says, You need money in here.

The city of New York is not going to give you soap, tooth paste, deodorant and the like. Shortly thereafter Naz gives Stone the news. You’ve been replaced. By whoAlison Crowe says Naz,

Stone knows the deal. Crowe may be willing to try the case for free; after all she has the resources of her own huge law firm. She’s after the publicity. But without a signed retainer, he has to step aside.

Later Stone tries to meet with Crowe about poaching his client. Crowe, of course, through her assistant, Chandra (played by Amara Karan) doesn’t meet with Stone. She’s left for the day, says Chandra. Stone isn’t going to just leave. Chandra asks, Is there any message you’d like to leave? Stone replies, You know what the message is. And then as a parting shot – Is this what you went to law school for?

But wait there’s more. Naz’s journey down this long and winding road is nothing like what McCartney wrote about. Not even close. Naz is heading into a hellish situation. Only he doesn’t know it fully yet.

During the night he gets up to pee. When he returns this is what he finds:

His bed has been set on fire.

Naz is unliked. He’s not black, he’s not Latino, and he is a true-born Muslim as opposed to the Nation Of Islam prison converts. They also hate him for his crime.

Looks like Naz is going to have to align himself with Freddy. (Or so it seems).

Did I mention the cat that Andrea put outside all the way back in Episode One. Well Stone takes the cat to the Animal Shelter and is told that the cat will be euthanized in 10 days if not claimed by some one looking to own a cat. I’m not sure what the cat actually means to the story – but maybe it has to do with the under-the-steps gate into the house on West 87th Street.

Well we are three episodes in and I’m sure Stone is not done with the case even though he’s been replaced as Naz’s attorney. I’d also like to point out that this series is really well made and has got its hooks into me. This is not a classic who-done-it, and beyond that it is not a classic character development story either.

Steve Zaillian and Richard Price, the show’s creators have gone to great lengths to establish the New York Justice System as a character. This is not a series about guns and chases. Even the prospect of trial seems bleak. And yet we are involved, and involved deeply. We actually want to root for Naz to be innocent, but we aren’t sure yet. All we have are his protestations of innocence.

And that’s why we are hooked. We can’t be sure of anything beyond the thought that more grim days are ahead.

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