"All warfare is based on deception. Hence when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when we are using our force, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make the enemy believe we are near."
The recurring ideology behind Sun Tzu's iconic war strategy novel, The Art of War, is a central thread to the themes of HBO's new summer obsession The Night Of for a multitude of reasons. The obvious one being that Freddy (Michael Kenneth Williams) gives Naz a copy of it and proposes that he read it like gospel if he ever intends to survive his time on Rikers Island.
The other being an allegorical response to the primitive system of incarceration and rehabilitation. When you think about it, not much as changed since Sun Tzu adapted his 5th century Chinese war tactic book. We still think in a rudimentary fashion where the strong prey on the weak. This, of course, goes beyond the prison system and continues to make appearances in our economic and social systems as well. Nasir Kahn (Riz Ahmed) is weak, and therefore, considered the prey until Freddy offers him a helping hand. For what true reason is up to interpretation. Freddy suggests that he needs an academic mind in this primordial environment, but he does seem to be holding some pretty hefty cards at the poker table. Which is what the American system is depicted to be in The Night Of. Essentially an ongoing poker game with the chips embodying the lives of those confined within the jail walls as well as those who work to keep them in between.
Everyone has a part to play and everyone has poker faces on display. Even Naz, the center of all of this, has one on. His poker face reads of an innocent college student who was thrust into an underworld of drugs and violence, however, violence, as Naz's attorney, John Stone (John Turturro), found out is no stranger to Naz at all (nor are drugs). The Night Of is an excellent dissection of the overpopulated and, inevitably, corrupt due process. The limited series thrives on irony considering what due process is supposed to be about. The limited series also thrives on symbolism. That hauntingly dreaded stag's head hanging on the wall of the victim, Andrea Cornish (Sofia Black D'Elia). Andrea's cat, who somehow knows its way around New York City better than I do (and I grew up here). And finally eczema galore! Stone always seems to get a nice big, juicy close-up of his eczema infected feet in every episode. What all of these symbolic references mean, we have theories, but I'm not sure if we will ever really find out. Which is what is so interesting, or frustrating, about the show.
Just like everyone else, I was obsessed with True Detective when it first aired (the first season, obviously). I remember being captivated with the show like so many (there were even bars we would go to that were hosting the Sunday night episodes in Downtown Brooklyn). However, when the show rolled out its final episode I soon became one of the few that actually enjoyed the ending. I realized that we were captivated by the series for two different reasons. While others were intrigued with the murder mystery while I was fascinated with the detectives themselves. Once you realize that True Detective's murder mystery was somewhat of an overly detailed subplot while the detectives investigating the murder mystery were the real focus then you would have no trouble being enthralled by the series from start to finish.
I bring up True Detective because everyone seems to have theories regarding to who the killer of Andrea Cornish might be. However, I feel we are going down the same True Detective route and people will feel more than inclined to be disappointed with the ending. Of course, the disappointing ending being that the killer is an obvious choice or someone that we will not meet until they have the cuffs slapped on them. The first clue being that Richard Price,The Night Of's co-creator, is a novelist who specializes in urban crime novels and the subliminal segregation that co-exists with current society and the justice system. The series is more about Naz being corrupted by those who are responsible for helping in his rehabilitation. When you think about it, Naz first appeared as a pure-eyed college student who did not ask to be in the environment that he currently is in. Now, he's shaved his head, getting tattoos, doing and sneaking in drugs; he had to go to prison to be a criminal. Series is about the violent impact of living in, essentially, a war zone. When Naz is released, if he is somehow proven innocent by series end, he will no longer be the pure-eyed college student he once was, but rather a violent man prone to violent acts.
However, that does not mean we cannot warrant ourselves with our own investigation. Some are red herrings, diversions that are meant to mislead us from other suspects; and there could very well be more than one killer too. Here are possible outcomes/suspects to consider before the 95 minute season finale premieres next week.
Everyone's favorite stepfather has been on the radar for sometime now. He could not possibly careless about Andrea or what trouble she has gotten herself into. Finally, to no apparent amazement when Detective Box breaks the news to him about her death. A lot of talk has been given about his first appearance when he looked at the morgue photos. First saying that it is not her, it was not until a suggested visit to the body in-person that he finally admited it was. So, why could it be him? First off, with Andrea out of the way he gets all of the earnings of Andrea’s mother. Don Taylor, a personal trainer, has a history of swindling older widows. He was only married to Andrea's mother for two years before she croaked and he asked for half of her money. To say the least, Andrea was not pleased. He has every reason to hire someone to murder Andrea, however, he does seem like a red herring. Given Andrea and her condition after the murder, a crime of passion seems to be the preferred choice. Don Taylor may be an a**hole, but a killer he is not.
Aptly named, Reade (Charles Hudson III) jumped to our prime suspect list the second that close-up stayed on his face in the first episode. Trevor (J.D. Williams), the man who Reade was walking with, felt compelled enough to not mention his presence to the police. His past history of breaking and entering, assault with a knife, and the arrest warrant out on his name also doesn't help his case. In fact, he is such a good suspect that it does not seem entirely likely he would be the killer. However, I do have another theory regarding our pharmacy named friend. I will get to that in a minute or two.
He has red herring written all over him considering his racial outbursts, but he also seems too scared sh*tless to be a killer. Then again, I could be completely wrong about him.
Hearse Driver (Mr. Day)
Given his choice of profession, this guy should be the prime suspect in every murder investigation. I was wondering when we were going to see him next since the last time was briefly in the first episode. The Hearse Driver is a bible fanatic, cause the suspect list would not be properly filled without one of those. Considering himself to be an apostle of some sorts, the Hearse Driver has a creepy talent of seeing people for who they truly are. Upon first glance, he declares Andrea a "cat", or "someone who thinks they're God's gift", and Naz as a "ball of yarn," or another one of "her play things." He's an obvious suspect given his choice words of bible passages, which is why he is my favorite suspect on the list. The details of the murder seems pertinent to religious passion which puts him on my prime suspect list (and that's without the hearse).
This was created out of sheer fanbase. Ray Halle (Paulo Costanzo, where are my Road Trip fans?) is the CPA of the Cornish estate, as well as the one who Don Taylor was seen yelling at during Andrea's funeral. He was more than inclined to provide information on Taylor's past, throwing client confidentiality agreement out the window. If he was to be considered a serious suspect, the series should provide a bit more information about him beyond what his job titles are. Until then, consider him a red herring.
Someone We Haven't Seen Yet
As said earlier, the series is about Naz and the impact that due process and life in jail will surely play into his life from now on. So, do not be surprised if there is no surprise come final episode. If it is not a random character then I can foresee it being the motorcyclist from episode one or a drug dealer that Andrea owed some cash to.
How insane would be if Naz somehow started to remember what happened the night of (no pun intended) realizing that he was the culprit all along? Not an entirely original twist, but the set up has definitely been put in place. When Naz was smoking with Freddy, he began remembering bits and pieces of that night. Either this will provide knowledge of the real killer or Naz will come to terms with the crime he has committed while under the influence.
My personal favorite theory. Not that Freddy is the one who committed the crime, but that he actually knows more then he is letting on. Like I said, Freddy is the type who holds his hefty cards close to his chest at the poker table. This would also explain why has taken such a leery liking to Naz at first glance. Sure he looks innocent and he is well educated, but Freddy practically took out his hand and offered it to him for no apparent reason. Also, let's not forget that Freddy has an abundant amount of contacts in and outside of the prison walls. He even helped out that prison guard with his daughter's birthday. It may very well likely be that Freddy hired Duane Reade (told you I'd come back to him) or someone else to take out Andrea. Maybe feeling guilty for Naz's incarceration has led Freddy to take on a mentorship role for him.