NOTE: If you haven't finished The Night Of, you might want to just save this piece to Pocket and finish watching the show before reading any further.
For the litany of armchair investigators deeply invested in The Night Of, the finale could be seen as underwhelming. If you went into this wanting to know who killed Andrea Cornish, you were probably unhappy when the finale ended with the only confirmation being that attorney John Stone did end up saving her cat. Sure, Naz walked free, but it was on a technicality, as the jury was deadlocked on their verdict and the prosecution decided they weren't pursuing a case against him anymore. The numerous suspects that were presented over the last few episodes? They all had their time on the stand, from Duane Reade (who's currently locked up) to the creepy undertaker, who kept his creep turned ALL THE WAY UP. We even get a strong case built against Raymond Halle, who was apparently bilking Andrea to the tune of $300,000+, and appeared to have a heated argument with her that was caught on surveillance camera on the night of her murder. For a show that trotted out a number of suspects in front of you, there's an overwhelming lack of closure to the actual case, but if you've been paying attention to The Night Of, you know it is bigger than "whodunit."
On its surface, The Night Of is more about our flawed justice system. Set aside the actual murder for a hot second, along with all of the dumb shit Naz did that night, and a jacked up system is staring you right back in the face. From a prosecutor who would rather fumble her closing arguments in contemplating who actually committed the murder to a guard who doesn't pay attention to a lawyer sneaking in drugs to her client, Naz's arrest and trial was one huge fuck-up from the jump. The fact that he was able to walk free isn't surprising, but it's the cost that tells the true tale. Naz might've been Freddy's "unicorn" (if that's what you call the most innocent guy in prison who would boof dope in exchange for protection), but he ended up leaving jail worse than he entered.
Naz might've won his freedom, but the loss of innocence is worth so much more.
The Night Of tried—similar to most prosecutors do on trials—to paint a darker picture of the accused, highlighting that the doe-eyed, sheltered college kid had a past that involved throwing people down stairs, selling drugs, and Allah knows what else. What the show ended up doing was turning Naz into the kind of drug mule that'd get horrendous, visible tats days before he has to go on trial for his life. The kind of inmate who might not be guilty of the murder that happened on the outside, but definitely was an accomplice to a murder on the inside. The kind of "free" individual who's sizing up at the coffee shop, and scoring dope to smoke as a free man. There's no telling where his life will be taking him, but based on how the legal system left Naz out to dry, one can only assume the worst for himself and those who touched him during this time.
Look at the list of casualties left in the wake of The Case of Andrea Cornish. Chandra Kapoor, the employee-turned-lead defender is looking at getting fired and disbarred after Stone leaked the footage of her hooking up with Naz to the judge. Stone had a panic attack when he realized he had to give closing arguments, and while his speech was heart-warming, his panic attack led to a full-blown return of his eczema. Detective Dennis Box let his doubt about Naz in the Cornish case get the best of him, leading him back to the police station just days after he'd retired from the force, poring over new information (and netting himself a security job). Naz's parents are down a taxi cab, have to deal with harassment and scorn from their community, and are in the process of selling their house. Freddy's out a unicorn of a drug mule. And, as of right now, there's no word if Andrea's murderer has been brought to justice.
It's the flipside of the O.J. Simpson trial that was highlighted in The People v. O.J. Simpson earlier this year; it's about the system continuing to fail people. In the eyes of the legal system, that "not guilty" verdict that O.J. Simpson was given means that we're no closer to finding who killed Nicole Brown-Simpson or Ron Goldman than we were at the start of The Trial of the Century (nor does it seem like anyone is trying to find "the real killer"), and while the circumstances between Nicole and Andrea (or O.J. and Naz) are oceans apart, the system is just as screwed as it's always been, which is exactly why we need shows like The Night Of to illuminate that.