“The Night Of” is an eight-episode American miniseries from 2016 that follows the story of Nasir “Naz” Khan played by Riz Ahmed and a crime that occurred late at night in New York City. The miniseries was written by Richard Price and Steven Zaillian based on the 2008 British series “Criminal Justice.” Broadcasted on HBO, “The Night Of” received 13 Emmy Nominations, winning five, including “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series” for Riz Ahmed. It is a mystery as to why such a wide variety of TV fans are not aware of this masterpiece.
John Turturro, who played the magnificent and vulnerable character of Naz’s lawyer John Stone, notices a Pakistani-American college kid from Queens sitting helplessly in the precinct after he was arrested for murder. Why? Because Naz is caught off guard after he gets invited to a party in Manhattan. When his friend bails on him on the night of the party, Naz decides to take his father’s taxi to go into the city. He stops over at a random spot downtown, and a beautiful young woman gets into his cab and asks him to take her to the beach. Naz gets captivated by her looks and decides to play along. By the end of the night, Naz is convicted of murder, and Stone is on a mission to prove his innocence.
The unique aspect of this project was the emphasis on the story, the plot development, and the character development. The story was a slow-burner that focuses on the cultural aspect of life as the main character wrestles with the outcome of a crime due to his environment, which in this case took place in a post 9/11 city of New York. Each episode is so immersive that you seem to forget the one question you ask yourself during every crime show or documentary you watch: “Who committed the crime?”
The center of attention is the terrifying nature of the corruption that takes place in America, and the tragedy of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Flaws in the legal system and police force are apparent as shown by Detective Box, played by Bill Camp. The emphasis on every feature of the human body is intriguing and tells a story, such as Naz’s eyes, Stone’s eczema, and the way each character walks. Even the prosecutor Helen Weiss, played by Jeannie Berlin who is fighting to prove that Naz is guilty, has a little token of symbolism at the end of the show. All these elements end up being a significant player in the outcome of the case.
Price’s precise writing stays away from the dramatic nature of some crime shows. Some scenes leave you in shock, not due to the unfolding of an extraordinary event, but due to how the plot plays out. Some moments will leave you “ooh-ing” and “ahh-ing.” The most intriguing thing was Naz’ and Box’s character development, who become the opposite of who they were when the show starts. Naz’ innocent eyes become full of danger and hate after he is sent to the hell that is Rikers Island, and Box comes to a realization after jumping to conclusions without uncovering the case properly, but who could blame him? Every piece of evidence pointed directly at Naz.
It’s surprising how a large audience isn’t aware of the existence of this show because the artistic writing will leave you wanting for more, wishing that it had lasted longer than eight episodes. The best thing to do is to watch it once, and then rewatch it to catch every single detail initially missed that is thoughtfully portrayed by the actors, writers, and producers.
Published by HOLR Magazine.