By: Oberst von Berauscht –
One night in New York City, a young Pakistani-American college student Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed) is headed to a party. Instead he picks up a woman and takes her back to her place. They drink, take party drugs, and soon enough adjourn to the bedroom. Later that night, Nasir wakes up hungover in her kitchen, and he gets up to collect his things and leave, before discovering her body in the bedroom with multiple stab wounds. He panics and runs, but is soon picked up by the police for driving while intoxicated, and before long is connected to the crime.
Attorney John Stone (John Tuturro) offers his services to Nasir, and begins the long process of investigating his client’s story and preparing for court. The Night Of follows Nasir’s case through the criminal justice system from beginning to end, through all the twists, turns, and dangers associated with it.
This HBO miniseries follows a crime from arrest through the trial process, seen through the eyes of everyone the crime touches. It’s a fascinating and raw journey that explores the challenges an accused person faces in mounting a defense, most notably the way jail culture can impact those completely inexperienced and unprepared for it.
The expenses of trial, the way it forces those professing their innocence to consider plea-bargaining, the way prosecutors pick and choose what evidence to present in court, the way the media manipulates facts. All of these factors are showcased inside of a solidly compelling mystery.
Riz Ahmed was perfectly cast as Nasir, with one of the most dynamic character arcs in recent memory. His character begins the miniseries a doe-eyed, naïve college student who lets his guard down long enough to make a series of very big mistakes. As he experiences the impacts of the criminal justice system, he becomes increasingly hardened, survival instincts taking over in the face of some very violent situations.
John Turturro is equally fascinating in his portrayal of John Stone, the small-time attorney who is struggling with the scope of the case he happens upon, dealing with pressure from bigger firms to give over control of the case, and dealing with one of the most horrifying case of eczema ever seen in film.
Idealistic by nature, Stone suffers through the constant bite of his horrifying skin condition. Making matters worse, the victim of the murder left a cat behind. One nobody seems to want, and one Stone is too much of a softy to leave behind, even as his cat allergies wreak havoc.
Honestly, the deepest subplot in the miniseries is “but what will happen to her cat?”
The supporting cast is buoyed by solid character performers such as Jeannie Berlin, Bill Camp, Michael K. Williams, Poorna Jagannathan, & Glenne Headly.
The Night Of is not without flaws; the character Chandra Kapoor (Amara Karan) is a young attorney who winds up working alongside Turturro on the case, eventually taking over as lead council. The series plots out a flirtation between her and Nasir that results in some very big consequences. The problem is in how her underwritten character isn’t really given much of a reason to fall into such an unethical romance, much less to be compelled to do some of the things she ends up doing for him. It’s a glaring flaw in an otherwise exceptional and realistic-feeling series.
The Night Of is a harrowing and realistic journey into the criminal justice system, from crime to trial all the way to its denouement.
The Night Of (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: any time someone says “The Night Of _______”
Take a Drink: for any gruesome shot of John Turturro’s eczema
Take a Drink: for every bad decision Nasir makes
Do a Shot: for every bad decision made by anyone else
Do a Shot: for every “d-awwww” cat moment