Feet often slip. They and whatever coverings shield them don’t always take people where they want to go. Typically because the wearer doesn’t have a good sense of the direction in which they’re headed. This pretty much describes the eight-part drama “The Night Of” – it could easily have been called “Feets, Don’t Fail Me Now” – which broadcast its finale last night.
“The Night Of” is a stark yet reflective take on crime and punishment. But the murkiness of where your path takes you is a significant theme that’s interwoven through the narrative and its characters.
In the esoteric world, the human body begins at the head – all Aries, Mars, action and ego. The physical nadir, farthest removed from the I-me-mine outlook, is the feet, ruled by archetypal Neptune. Neptune’s bailiwick is reality-denial, lack of clarity, murkiness, drugs, addictions, criminals, victimization, irresponsibility, compassion, innocence and the unconscious. Unlike the law, which is bound by an arsenal of Saturnine rules, Neptune eludes regulations, swimming around them like those Pisces-ruled fish slithering out of one’s grasp.
Aside from its law-and-order procedural nature, “The Night Of” is about Neptunian activities and, by extension, the feet. Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed), a Pakistani-American college student from a New York City borough, takes without permission the taxi cab co-owned by his father to go to a party. He picks up an attractive female, goes to her home, and wakes up from a drug stupor to find her stabbed to dead. While Naz waits in a cell at the police station, his doe-eyed gaze attracts the attention and sympathy of self-effacing Jack Stone (John Turturro), a cut-rate attorney who usually gets people who hire him to plead out, but who is committed to defending Naz.
Stone, beset by eczema, wears sandals. It’s as though his plastic-wrapped feet validate his transparency and strong Neptunian streak of altruism. But he also venerates that planet’s vagueness when he tells Naz that the truth won’t help him.
At Riker’s, scheming Grand-Poobah inmate Freddy (Michael Kenneth Williams) is also like a fish, unbound by captivity’s rigors. He gives Naz a pair of sneakers – for traction to prevent him, if attacked, from slipping in the shower and losing his groundedness. Although his compassion comes at a price, he also taps into his own brand of transcendence, embracing Naz as his personal unicorn.
Neptune also rules the divine and, with his eczema-generated stigmata, Stone carries the Wounded Healer archetype, capable of great kindness but unable to cure himself. Freddy, a murderer who converts Naz to full-blown drug addiction, regards his protege as the real innocence-proclaiming deal.
Carl Gustav Jung noted that the shoe that fits one person pinches another. In “The Night Of,” the takeaway is that reality is a moving target – think of the large blur which makes it impossible for Naz to pinpoint his critical interaction with the murder victim – and that much of life is not as it seems, a Neptunian concept. In the last moments of the finale, prosecuting attorney Helen Weiss also gets a shoe moment. She slips out of her courtroom footwear into sneakers, a hint that she is now free of artifice and has removed the Neptunian veil that had kept her from considering other suspects.
As for Stone’s little ginger cat feet, felines are nocturnal, which aligns them with the world of the unconscious, Neptune’s domain. Freddy, through The Call of the Wild, has his dog Buck, which also relearns to embrace its primitive ancestry and true nature. Both men, in possession of their totems, seem to like their reality served up with edges blurred.