The Night Of is an eight part mini-series on HBO.
The series starts out with a young college student, Nasir Khan, trying to find his way to a party in Manhattan. He ends up spending a drug and alcohol fueled night with a girl he has just met, and when he wakes up beside her dead body with no memory of what happened he panics and runs. He is later picked up on a minor traffic violation and later charged with the girl’s murder.
I first heard mention of the show on the podcast, My Favorite Murder. On the MFM podcast comedians Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark talk about real life murders. Discussion on the podcast was mostly “did you see the latest episode” with quick thoughts about the show.
After the first mention I made a mental note to check out the show. When I finally remembered to check out the show the last episode had already aired, but all eight episodes were available OnDemand which meant I could binge.
I like binging. Binging’s my favorite.
So one night about a week ago I clicked play on the first episode, and was a little bit worried when I was not immediately hooked. There wasn’t a lot of hype about the show, but I had looked into it before watching and people online were saying that it was pretty good.
The first episode is a slow burn. I like shows that take their time and pull you in, but for some reason I was itching to get to the dead body. It was only after the dead body appeared did the show really start to suck me in.
The show used everything at its disposal to create a high level of tension throughout the rest of the episode. From camera angles and the way shots were set up, to character dialogue and lack thereof, to the characters themselves and the actions each of them take or don’t take.
Subsequent episodes pick up the pace as Detective Box presents a slam dunk case to the District Attorney, bottom trolling lawyer Jack Stone, played superbly by John Turtorro, tries to prove his new client’s innocence, and Nasir tries to adapt to life in prison while he awaits trial.
There are two separate sub-plots, one involving a cat and the other involving eczema riddled feet, that add depth to the show and parallel the main plot. Although, out of context like this you might think those two things are weird for a show about a woman’s murder.
The show it very good. I watched all eight episodes over a few days and then re-watched most of it yesterday because HBO aired a marathon of the show for Labor Day.
I like the way it is shot. I like the characters. I like the way things are layered in and revealed to the audience. I even liked the ending, even though some people seemed disappointed.
But there are a couple of things that bothered me. They didn’t bother me enough to say they ruined the show, but the irked me a little bit each time. I am going to mention them below, but be warned there are some spoilers.
Naz is held without bail while he awaits trial. Now, I know that a kid like him is gonna do what he has to do to survive at a place like Rikers Island, but his transformation seems a little too quick. The part that got me most was the tattoos on the neck and knuckles. What happens if you are found not guilty and have to get a job and get back to a normal life? You say that you didn’t do it so why jump right in with the ink?
The courtroom scenes during his trial seemed to grind the show to a halt at times. But the thing that irked me was when the attorneys would man handle evidence without it being in a bag or having a tag on it. Like everything was just laying around. Is this how it really happens at murder trials? Maybe I am just so used to seeing bags and tags during other court room dramas that I take it as gospel.
His other lawyer, Chandra, kisses him and sneaks drugs in for him. Ummmm….what the fuck? OK. She is a young lawyer and suddenly thrown into a big case. I can believe that she might be attracted to Naz and just messed up by leaning in and kissing him. She even reacts like she knows what she did is stupid. But then he asks her to sneak in drugs and she just goes along with it and risks her career and possibly her freedom just because she wants him to testify in his own defense. Even after Stone, a much more experienced lawyer, says he shouldn’t be put on the stand?
I DID like the ending of the show.
I saw quite a few people online say that the ending was disappointing. That they didn’t feel fulfilled with that ending. That is exactly why I liked it. Naz was innocent the entire time, and even when he doubted himself he fought to prove that innocence. But the flaws in the justice system, the flaws in the prison system, the fact that a bad decision put him in the wrong place at the wrong time, meant that his life was drastically changed.
Life doesn’t always give us a fulfilling resolution. Sometimes we are left disappointed.
Sometimes one bad decision can snowball into an entirely different life.