HBO's 'The Night Of' is incredibly good TV

149 Times Colonist •

149 Times Colonist •

The glitz and glamor of the city that never sleeps is stripped away to tell the story of the "good Muslim boy" and determine if he's capable of murder, and if he is, why.

The Night Of follows the case of a murdered woman through the experiences of Nasir "Naz" Khan (Riz Ahmed), who picks up the woman for a night of drinking, drugs, and sex, only to wake up the morning after to find her stabbed in bed. Defense attorney John Stone (John Turturro) and detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp) make great foils as rumpled idealists at odds, and fascinating new players keep entering the picture, including Michael K. Williams as a prison-inmate kingpin. This shows a keen awareness of what "The Night Of" strives to be and plays a key part in the overall success of the pilot.

The fictional crime story exposes the flawed and "predatory atmosphere" of the U.S. justice system as The Guardian writes. "I don't want to be stuck with the truth", he says. "But what the drama does really well is [show] the Dickensian feel of many layers, there's a kind of spiral to hell, if you like. You don't usually get to see that". "They haven't gone paperless yet". Then we remember that his good kid, the kid that the staff sergeant calls "Bambi" did actually steal that auto, and, in a drug-fueled revelry, did accidentally stab his lover's hand during a game of "five-fingered Freddy", and then laugh at it, as she did, both of them too glossed and primed with chemicals to feel anything. It also feels like the beginning of something: The network could use this format for an anthology series touching on various crimes, and viewers would be grateful. After Robert De Niro wasn't available for all of filming, John stepped in to play the role of Jack Stone.

Tranter still believes Moffat's first episode of Criminal Justice ws one of the best scripts she has ever read. "Peter wrote that and it was very strong, then because we only had five hours, the narrative was drawn like a magnet to the end of the fifth hour".

A total of eight episodes of "The Night Of" (not counting an unaired pilot from 2013) will air on HBO, HBO Go, and the over-the-top HBO Now service through August 28, 2016. "He's a serious guy, and he took it very seriously", Zaillian says. "Here's a guy who has all the capabilities of being a ideal lawyer, and yet he doesn't have the stomach for it". He regaled me with stories about this character who was said to be the one who stole a penguin from the Bronx Zoo and paraded it along the bar of his favorite gin mill, to the disbelief of the early morning patrons who thought they were hallucinating.

The series was filmed in and around Manhattan which included a real prison in Queens, Rikers Island. Whether you did it or not. That singular vision spares The Night Of from becoming the smooth paste which sometimes results from the filtration of the American writing process, leaving in its place a distinct and present voice. We often see Box or Stone exchanging embittered in-jokes with colleagues that convey a wealth of understanding of a world that gradually wears people down into indifferent, amoral cogs of figurative machines-an acknowledgement that's symbolized by Stone's painful foot eczema, which suggests years spent wading in muck.

"I liked that you dealt with not just the plot and the whodunit quality, but how the crime accusation affects everybody". And there's nothing wrong with HBO's tastes and methods in making and delivering this series.

"It was so finely etched and well-observed", Turturro says. It's this knife that Naz will be caught with later, of course, but the question is whether it actually killed Andrea. Your instinct as a viewer is to think not, but the evidence begins to mount around him. If you start out trying to do some kind of agenda, it can become stilted and obvious.

When we're bingeing on the stories of the incarcerated women of Netflix's Orange Is the New Black, experiencing a former inmate's rocky reentry in SundanceTV's Rectify, or watching, week by week, as John Ridley's ABC anthology, American Crime, dissects and examines a single case from multiple points of view, we're being invited to put ourselves in the place of people for whom a single awful mistake, theirs or someone else's, can have damning consequences.

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