“The Night Of” is an HBO Limited Series created by Richard Price and Steven Zaillian and stars Riz Ahmed who plays Nasir Khan, a Pakistani student charged with murder, and John Turturro who plays John Stone, a deadbeat lawyer that lives paycheck-to-paycheck. The story centers around Nasir “Naz” Khan when he is accused of the murder of a twenty-two year-old girl that he just met. Unlike other crime shows, the story is told in a linear fashion and focuses on the character development, rather than twists in the plot, to engage the audience.
“The Night Of” delivers on all fronts. Price and Zaillian know when to bring intensity and when to bring a splash of comedy, and at no point did any of it seem forced. Most of the story takes place while Nasir is in prison for his allegations and centers around his transformation as an individual. The writers also illustrate the immense burden that is put on his family while he is locked up.
Price and Zaillian begin the first episode by showing how Nasir is an ordinary student that is just trying to get by, while inside, he really longs for a more intense lifestyle. During the first episode, I was able to get a sense of Nasir’s personality, as well as a sense of how he made decisions. The first episode focuses only on the “Night Of” the incidents, while all of the other episodes elaborate on the complexity of the court system and what actually happened that night.
The writers definitely tried to step aside from the standard “Lawyer TV Show,” as you can see by the lack of spontaneous speeches, one-day trials, and out-of-the-blue placed evidence that automatically resolves the case. This is NOT Law & Order, and nor should it be.
“The Night Of” also heavily criticizes the United States’ criminal justice and court systems. Nasir’s transformation throughout the story focuses on the lack of rehabilitation services in prison. As you story unveils, there is definitely some skepticism of the role of the police and how they handle crimes. Price and Zaillian also exploit the media as money hungry racists that are willing to produce anything, so long as they can gain viewership. Many times during the series, I found myself thinking, “This shouldn’t be legal in the United States,” when these scenarios were brought up.
The acting in this series was superb all the way through. Riz Ahmed (Nasir Khan) channeled some of his characteristics from his prior role in Nightcrawler (which I highly recommend you watch, if you already haven’t) which tremendously benefits his role. Ahmed surprised me in many ways throughout the story, but I will not say anything else so that I don’t ruin the story.
John Turturro, on the surface, portrays John Stone who appears as a sleazy, money driven lawyer that will do and say anything to earn a quick buck, but in reality, he cares the more than the big-time lawyers do. Again, I do not want to ruin anything, but you will gain a different sense of who “Jack Stone” is as the series continues. Also, take note of how Jack Stone’s eczema flare ups coincide with the mood of the story.
Many of the supporting characters are also well crafted. The cops in the show are most of the time shown as ordinary people, rather than authoritative figures, which is a change of pace.
Jeannie Berlin plays Helen Weiss, the prosecuting lawyer in the trial, and is wonderful in her role. At first, I thought she was kind of dull, but as the trial went on, I could see that Berlin chose to portray her character this way. This “dry” sense of acting was definitely used to contrast the usual pompous, arrogant, and spontaneous characteristics that television lawyers bring.
The music in the series is phenomenal. The music was scored by Jeff Russo who had also composed for “Fargo” and “Tut.” His music fit extremely well with the show, and his theme song and end credit song are among one of my favorites of any TV series. While listening, I picked up influences of Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones) and also noticed similar styles to the Legend of Korra’s Jeremy Zuckerman. Here is the theme song from the show:
This show masterfully created an abstract look at the legal justice system, and also portrayed an in-depth look at what it is like to be accused of a crime. I highly recommend this series for anyone that enjoys crime and drama television shows or anyone in general that is looking for a gripping series to watch. With only nine episodes, it can easily be binge watch in a week. If you do not have an HBO subscription, I recommend checking out “HBO Now,” as they offer a free month trial for first-time users.