One of the details that has stood out since the beginning of HBO’s “The Night Of” is the foot condition ailing defense attorney John Stone (John Turturro). Eczema is a tricky situation and one that can be ugly to look at, itchy and painful to deal with and really … just an overall nuisance. As viewers have seen over the course of the past four episodes, Stone has taken all sorts of measures to fix this problem — but to no avail.
A major infliction such as this informs the John Stone character in pretty much everything he does. From his daily life habits to the career decisions he makes. So, of course, fans have come to create their own theories on the deeper meaning of John’s eczema and how it relates to the over-all story of Nasir Khan’s (Riz Ahmed) incarceration.
During HBO’s 2016 summer TCA press tour panel, executive producer and writer Richard Price explained that BBC’s Peter Moffat suffers from the skin condition. As a way to deal with it, he wrote it as a subplot into “Criminal Justice” — the British series “The Night Of” is inspired by.
“He wrote me an email saying it went away in the last few years but, guess what, it came back,” says Price. “When you have a malady that is so personal it becomes part of who you are. I always put asthma sprays in what I write, because I have asthma.”
So, while it seems that John Stone’s ailment is there to inform his character — in a similar way that Dr. Gregory House’s limp/Vicodin addiction influenced his behavior — fans online have come up with a few interesting theories of their own.
It’s pretty obvious that John Stone is considered a bottom feeder in the world of criminal law. His business card has that familiar commercial look to it — it’s the type of ad you’d see on a metropolitan bus.
In the episode “The Art of War,” Stone’s position as Khan’s attorney is swiped like a rug from under his ailing feet. A scene follows which has him staring in a window of a shoe shop, looking longingly at the items.
It’s a safe assessment that between the derogatory comments, the struggles to be taken seriously and the surprise at his “get” with the Khan case, that Stone is aiming high while still being stuck in the lows of his life. His eczema is a symbol of his ongoing class struggle and efforts to be taken seriously as a legitimate attorney.
Khan relies on an inhaler to treat his asthma. Stone relies on an assortment of items to alleviate his eczema — plastic wrap, sandals, Crisco and chopsticks, to name a few.
These maladies bring the two together as both Khan and Stone exist as outsiders in this series. Stone isn’t taken seriously in the legal world and there’s a bullseye on Khan in prison. Both have something to prove and an uphill battle to achieve their seemingly impossible goals. With the odds against them, it’s hard not to see the bond that brought them together.
A crumbling judicial system
This theory is the most popular one online as it is the most blatant. This notion finds that Stone is an overall symbol of America’s criminal justice system. And while there are good intentions interspersed throughout, the foundation for which our laws and processes are based on is festered and cracking.
While these are intriguing theories, they all point back to a deeper understanding of the character study aspect of “The Night Of.” John Stone’s foot ailment helps peel back the curtain on what it’s like to deal with such a condition. To put it bluntly: John Stone’s eczema defines who John Stone is.
But it’s hard to say at this point whether there’s a bigger symbolic nature to the eczema or the asthma or how they may unfold with the story. Is there something deeper at play here? Are there clues in either ailment that point to an answer in this ongoing whodunit?
It’s possible, but we’re going to assume that Stone’s eczema and Khan’s asthma will not be the story tools used to help prove the boy’s innocence or, more importantly, unmask the identity of Andrea’s true killer. But, as they say … only time will tell.
“The Night Of” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.