The following review of HBO’s Limited Series ‘The Night Of’ contains spoilers for the entire series.
The Night Of is about the murder of a young woman named Andrea Cornish (played by Sofia Black D’Elia). Andrea was killed on an October night, after having slept with Nasir ‘Naz’ Khan (played by Riz Ahmed), a Pakistani-American college student, who took her for a ride in a ‘stolen’ cab car, before returning to her home to spend the night.
Naz flees from the scene of the crime, but is apprehended later the same night. The protagonist of The Night Of soon makes an appearance, as John Stone (played by John Turturro), a lawyer, decides to take on Naz’s case. Soon Stone and Khan must prove that Naz didn’t murder Andrea Cornish, while the show highlights what is wrong with the system.
Law, order, cats, and, uh, eczema. If that’s your thing, then this show was made for you. Richard Price and Steve Zaillian take you on a thrilling ride in HBO’s The Night Of, which might be the most exciting new show to hit HBO since the first season of True Detective.
The Night Of can be infuriating, and that is a great reason why the show works well. The Night Of comes on the heels of the Serial Podcast, which asked similar questions of the system and of a guy who looks like he has been wronged by it. You play the part of Sarah Koenig, the host of Serial, and you have the same problems as she did with her very real case.
There are some things that don’t quite work – or always work. One subplot works in the end, but in the first half of the mini-series it makes the show stumble a bit. And Chandra Kapoor, played by Amara Karan, makes some odd decisions that you have tough time getting behind, even if her character is inexperienced. But if you can look past those kind of flaws, then this show is going to be right up your alley.
The Night Of is propelled forward by some incredibly strong and awards-worthy performances. John Turturro gives one of his best performances as Naz’s lawyer. Turturro’s character is a ‘good guy,’ or as good as a show like this can have a character of the system be. At times he reeks of desperation, and his eczema subplot will drive you insane, until you start caring about the character.
Riz Ahmed, who plays Naz, is equally wonderful. You see a real transformation here. The Naz in the pilot looks as innocent as you can be, until he flees the scene of the crime. And the Naz of Rikers Island becomes strong and gutsy.
You may remember Ahmed from Nightcrawler, where he starred opposite Jake Gyllenhaal, but Ahmed’s performance in The Night Of is much stronger than what he delivered in the aforementioned film. You feel like you should trust him, and for the most part you do, but Ahmed does so that you never feel one-hundred percent certain about whether he did it or not.
Bill Camp is strong as detective Box, and Michael K. Williams – who plays Freddy, an inmate at Rikers Island – quickly becomes the most interesting supporting character on the show, and he gives a remarkable performance as well. Even Nasir Khan’s mother, played by Poorna Jagannathan, has her moments of brilliance here. These performances made this show so fun to watch, and gave it that extra spice it needed to become must-watch television and to separate it from the rest of the crime dramas out there.
Now, let’s talk about that ending. I’ve heard people saying it was unsatisfying, or that they didn’t get all of the answers they wanted. Sure, that would’ve been nice, but, in my opinion, it wouldn’t have been right for this kind of show. Although The Night Of looked like a ‘whodunnit’ for a very long time, the show wasn’t always trying to answer who did it.
The Night Of was always about the system. The show highlighted the flaws in the system. Box, the subtle beast, was doing his job, but he didn’t really look into anyone else until it was ‘too late.’ When Box showed up at Helen Weiss’s office with his newfound evidence, the flaws in the system once again reared their ugly heads. What The Night Of gave you was the happiest of happy endings that a grim show like this one could ever have given you.
And it gave you that without breaking the format of the show. Who did it? Most likely Raymond Halle, but I’m sure some of you out there still think the undertaker did it, the step-father did it, or that Duane Reade did it. The only important thing we’re left with is that, at the very least, Naz’s life wasn’t completely destroyed on the night of Andrea Cornish’s murder.
– Jeffrey Rex