HBO’s latest drama, The Night Of, promises to be a crime drama/mystery/divisive look at our criminal justice system, but in order to get to all of that there needed to be a murder in the first episode. And that proved problematic.
The Night Of opened by introducing us to Naz (Riz Ahmed), a young, smart college student who just wants to meet some girls. In that quest he steals his father’s cab and sneaks off to the city to attend a party he was barely invited to. But, once in the city a girl understandably mistakes his cab for a viable ride and, because she’s pretty, he decides to forgo the party to take her to the beach.
Granted, nights that end in homicide rarely begin with good decisions, but everything he does from the moment this mysterious girl gets into his cab to the moment he’s arrested was so frustrating. The episode gave us so little time to get to know Naz that there was no understanding of his choices beyond being really, really dumb.
Once the action moved to the legal side of things it became infinitely more interesting, but I fear that the weak reasoning behind his actions on the night of the murder will negatively impact further developments as well. But, the strength of the second half of the episode bodes well for a series that will mostly focus on the legal system from here on out.
The show also benefits from a strong performance from Ahmed and equally solid work from Bill Camp, as Detective Box; John Tuturro, as a surprisingly charitable lawyer; and the rest of the supporting cast.
Final Verdict: It’s an intriguing premise that stumbled a little out of the gate, but there’s still enough evidence to assume it’ll only get more interesting. Give it at least one more episode to prove that assumption right.
*The Night Of airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.
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