by Olivia Hill
Warning: this article contains spoilers.
The Night Of (TNO), a new HBO miniseries, premiered on July 10 to an expectant audience and wrapped up on Aug. 28 after eight captivating episodes. TNO is set to revive HBO after many criticized the network for having a lack of dramas besides Game of Thrones. TNO spent years stuck in production and seemed destined for the same fate as HBO’s string of unsuccessful new television shows, but the recent trend in crime-centered plots piqued interest in the show. TNO offers a look into what happens after a person is accused of a crime, similar to the hit podcast Serial (which helped to grant Adnan Syed a new trial), and cable favorites The Jinx, The People v. O. J. Simpson, and Making a Murderer, but in a fictional setting.
In the show, Nasir “Naz” Khan (played by Riz Ahmend) wakes up after a night of partying to find the body of a girl he met hours before, and the police arrest him for her murder. TNO then follows a multitude of characters, all while maintaining a primary focus on the courtroom where Naz will be tried.
The plot does not explore new terrain, navigating similar themes as other crime dramas, but the show never feels “been there, done that” due to its intense focus on the characters. The depiction of those in the police force, prison, and legal system is honest and doesn’t “gussy up the criminal-justice system” as Vikram Murthi puts it, prompting many to compare TNO to the critically acclaimed show The Wire, also produced by HBO.
TNO’s creators, Richard Price and Steve Zaillian, are skilled at creating tension in the writing; while the story can lag at times, it is never boring. As the final episode closes with a verdict of not guilty, Naz’s involvement in the murder is still questionable. TNO ends with loose strings, and the conclusion is not simple or convenient for the audience. It does clearly punctuate the meaning of the show: the effects of a criminal investigation are wide-ranging and damaging.
Despite the strengths of the story, the last two episodes are padded with a series outlandish actions by Naz’s legal council, Chandra (Amara Karan) that are unsupported by her nature and push an otherwise clear-eyed show to the point of disbelief.
What TNO truly relies on is the actors. Ahmend and John Tuturro who plays John Box, Naz’s lawyer (a part originally meant for James Gandolfini before his untimely death) are stand-out stars, adding a level of emotional depth to their scenes that elevates the show. Poorna Jagannathan as Safar Khan, Naz’s mother, beautifully portrays the harsh reality of a mother who slowly begins to doubt her own son’s innocence.
While TNO’s plot may seem trite, it’s no wonder why the core of the show is the characters. It’s a must-see for fans of courtroom dramas and, being only eight episodes, perfect for a weekend at home watching television.