Editor’s note: The following article discusses events within some of the first five episodes of HBO’s The Night Of and contains spoilers. It is written under the assumption that the reader has watched the first five episodes in their entirety. Proceed with caution.
After the premiere of HBO’s The Night Of, we posed the vital question: What the fuck is that powder the show’s protagonist, Naz, was snorting with Andrea, the soon-to-be victim of a brutal murder? Was it cocaine? Ketamine? We knew it had to be one of the two but which was it? Each theory had its pros and cons, but in the end we went with ketamine:
Allowing some artistic license for the writers of The Night Of, our guess is ketamine. Both theories have their faults, and it’s possible they may have meant cocaine. But the characters’ behavior after snorting it indicates a more dissociative, content, and euphoric experience, which cocaine would not have provided under these circumstances. One small dose of ketamine would have enhanced the evening, while one little bump of cocaine would have basically killed the night, not necessarily Andrea.
We explained further:
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic, which, when used recreationally, is typically snorted as a powder; though as with any drug there are multiple ways to consume it. Its effects can range from alcohol-like inebriation to lucid thinking, bizarre conversations, mild hallucinations, a robot-like feeling, and straight-up out of body experiences at higher doses. Unlike cocaine, ketamine can actually complement the ecstasy high. And people can fuck like rabbits on the shit.
And, damn were we right. Turns out it wasn’t just a stupid question from a blog that’s obsessed with drugs, either. No, the ketamine snorted in the first episode has turned out to be an integral piece of the puzzle that’s falling into place as the show builds up steam leading into its final three episodes. And it looks like the writers were actually thinking exactly the way we were–maybe that’s why HBO declined to comment for the story (ha).
In a strategy meeting, Helen Weiss, the district attorney (played by Jeannie Berlin) who is prosecuting the case speculates as to what defense Naz’s team will be deploying.
“Prints, blood, semen, witnesses. So we have everything and they have nothing. What do you do when you have nothing?” she asks her team. After some back and forth she zeroes in on the defense team’s probable angle. “If it were me, I’d focus on one thing: the drugs. She drugged him; he’s not responsible.”
Meanwhile, Naz’s motley crew of a defense team is having a strategy meeting of its own. An unlikely duo of ambulance-chaser John Stone (John Turturro) and the low-level attorney Chandra Kapoor (Amara Karan) assigned Naz’s defense by the high-powered law firm that no longer wants to deal with him but has to because they agreed to (long story) is poring over toxicology reports.
“What’s ketamine?” Kapoor asks.
“It’s what was in the vial he had in his pocket”
“It’s an anesthetic vets use on horses when they do surgery.”
“Why would anybody take that?”
“Why would Michael Jackson take propofol? Same reason.”
“He took it to sleep, didn’t he?”
“Well it worked for that. You take ketamine because–before it knocks you out–you get a feeling like, like uh, like you just wanna fuck…I mean…I don’t know how to say this to you, Chandra”
“There you go–that’s the polite word for it.”
“Then it, what, knocks you out?”
“Yeah, like the horse. Unless you mix it with coke, meth, whatever; take the edge off, so to speak. We need to show it was hers she gave it to him and where she got it.”
So that’s that. Except, of course, now there’s a new twist: Amphetamine was found in Naz’s blood, but not Andrea’s. That’s not going to look good to the jury. Neither will the fact that Naz is now a straight-up drug mule in what is clearly becoming a story of the ugly transformation America’s penal system can create in young men who make one bad decision.
Episode 5, The Season of the Witch, is an episode in which tensions rise, painful scenes become even more intense and graphic, and the program’s strengths are on full display in its amalgamation of jailhouse drama, legal thriller, and murder mystery.
Keep an eye on that ketamine subplot, though.