Warning: This post contains spoilers for the most recent episode of “The Night Of.”
On this week’s episode of “The Night Of,” Naz (Riz Ahmed) broke bad.
Naz has been accused of murdering a woman, a crime that he claims he did not commit. While waiting for the trial that will determine whether or not he’ll have to spend the rest of his life in prison, Naz sits in New York’s infamous Rikers Island. Even though he claims to be innocent, Naz is starting to look and act more like a criminal every week.
In this week’s episode,”The Season of the Witch,” he got violent revenge on another prisoner and helped smuggle drugs into prison. He’s now riding around with Freddy (Michael Kenneth Williams), the most feared man in Rikers, who sees that Naz has some pent up rage inside of him.
It’s a sudden transformation that is starting to remind us of “Breaking Bad,” in which cancer-stricken chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) transforms into notorious meth kingpin Heisenberg.
The first point of comparison is pretty obvious: Naz’s shift it marked after he shaves his head:
Same goes for Walter White:
Walter White’s transformation helps to explain what has happened to Naz.
Just like with Walter White, we automatically assumed that Naz was a good kid from the get-go, and therefore he seems unlikely to be a murderer. He’s the hardworking son of immigrant parents who can barely keep down a shot of tequila.
You get the same feeling about Walter White, who at first seemed so incapable of being dangerous that you couldn’t imagine him becoming bad for any reason besides trying to protect his family.
It helps that Riz Ahmed, who plays Naz, has a boyish quality to him that makes you believe he’s still a good kid even as he’s kicking someone in a prison shower. Just like with Walter White, you can’t help but wonder whether Naz was bad all along, or if prison is slowly turning him into a monster.
According to a 2005 study from the Bureau of Justice, within just three years of release, about two-thirds (or 67.8%) of released prisoners were rearrested. As pointed out by the National Institute of Justice, that same study found that people arrested for crimes like burglary, arson, or theft were the most likely to be rearrested, and typically for a new crime.
Basically, prison can turn people into criminals. We still don’t know whether or not Naz is actually guilty, and as Stone (John Turturro) points out, there is still a lot we don’t know about him.
If prison is turning Naz into a criminal, then it’s an indictment of the criminal justice system. If he was bad all along, then it shows how little we actually know about these characters so far.
Just like “Breaking Bad,” “The Night Of” proves to viewers that you can’t make assumptions about anyone.
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