The Night Of: my thoughts on HBOs new miniseries

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched this show yet and don’t want to be spoiled by what happens in the story, then I suggest not reading this. If you have watched it already, or you just don’t care about spoilers, continue.


IMDb:

After a night of partying with a female stranger, a man wakes up to find her stabbed to death and is charged with her murder.

Pilot

The Night Of was a show that I wasn’t prepared for. I turned it on, without knowing anything about it. I turned it on to fall asleep (It’s easier for me to sleep while something is playing in the background). Once the show started though, I was locked in, sitting up, no longer tired, but instead, I was nervous, wondering what would happen next.

I could relate to Nasir Naz” Khan, both his appearance and his efforts towards going to that party. I could relate to him borrowing his dad’s taxi. He’d be back before his dad ever woke up and noticed the car missing, no big deal. I could relate to him not knowing how to operate that taxi sign, so it’s no wonder why people kept getting in the vehicle, expecting him to bring them to their destination. It’s easy to see myself in his shoes. That’s what captivated me, the thought of me, or someone like me, ending up in this position: what should’ve been an innocent night, completely changed Naz’s life forever.

Flaws

This show has many shortcomings, but episode one isn’t one of them. It’s an hour of my life that I’ll never forget. But it’s all of those middle episodes that I have a problem with. Most of them have very little to do with what actually happened during episode one. I would’ve rathered get four very dense and sharp episodes than get eight episodes with so much filler content. And that’s the biggest gripe I had with The Night Of: they didn’t build on the initial momentum from episode one. I can’t remember the last time a show had me glued to every second of it like episode one did. But after that pilot episode, the show started drifting into too much unimportant information. There’s only one reason we’re all here, we all want to know what actually happened the night of.

Towards the end, they started reeling things back in, but by then, and with only 8 episodes during this mini-series, I’ve already learned more about his lawyer’s feet than I needed to. I’ve learned more about the process of smuggling drugs into the prison than I needed to. Although interesting, it has nothing to do with the night of. There should’ve never been that many scenes about a cat, or about feet, or even Naz’s journey through prison. Even that was exhausting. None of it felt connected to the true story, the only story that should’ve mattered: a young man, wrong place, wrong time, being charged with murder, a murder that he didn’t commit. All evidence points to him, but in your gut, you know it wasn’t him.

Ending

As special as the pilot episode was to me, the ending was also special. In the final episode, John Stone, Naz’s lawyer, breaks down each crime committed:

The first time I saw Naz, he was sitting alone in a holding cell of the 21st Precinct. He’d just been arrested. I walked, past him, out of the station, and then…stopped. Turned around and went back. Why?

Because, I didn’t see what I see in my other clients. And I still don’t after all this time. What I see is what happens when you put a kid in Rikers and say.. ok, now, survive that. Why we trial you for something you didn’t do. And that’s how you survive Rikers.

Oh, there were crimes committed that night, no doubt.

  • Crime One: Stood up by a friend with a car, a young man takes his father’s cab without permission, to go to a party in Manhattan.

  • Crime Two: A young woman buys some, powerful illegal drugs.

  • Crime Three: On the banks of the Hudson River, under the George Washington Bridge, she gives him one of those illegal drugs: MDMA.

  • Crime Four: Later at her house, she gives him another illegal drug: Ketamine, which with the ecstasy, and enough tequila to topple a seguara cactus, knocks him out like the horses vets give ketamine to.

  • Crime Five: Upon discovering the body, instead of reporting it, he runs.

  • Crime Six: He makes an illegal left turn.

  • Crime Seven: He resists arrest.

Those are the crimes that are committed by these two young people that night, and the only ones we have proof of. What we don’t have proof of, is who committed the crime he’d been charged with. But at the end of the day, it’s circumstance and speculation.

The transformation of Nasir Khan: the anticipation for the party, the journey to get there, wrongfully accused of a murder, going into prison, doing what it takes to survive the intense lifestyle behind bars, and then becoming free. And once he’s free, in that last scene of the show, he’s sitting by the water—the same place he went with the girl in the first episode, before she was murdered—but now, sitting alone, no longer convicted, but also no longer innocent, as he lights up the aluminum foil, and starts this new journey of what I believe will be an ongoing addiction. Prison changed him, from his hair and tattoos to his attitude towards his family, his friend, and now this addiction.

Final Thoughts

What I’ve learned from reflecting on this show and how all the episodes played out was that: who’s guilty and who’s not guilty wasn’t the most important storyline to this show—which sounds crazy, but the ultimate reveal for The Night Of was understanding that nobody is innocent (so many red herrings, so many main characters showing a different side of themselves). If you are innocent, you won’t be innocent for long. The Night Of reminds me that good people can easily be turned into bad people, and sometimes good people aren’t really that good to begin with.


Making My Own Version

If I had the time to do so, I would recut all the scenes from The Night Of, putting them in the order that I think would make it a much better show. But since I don’t have that kind of time, talking about it will have to do.

I believe episode two should’ve started off with the trial, and that trial should’ve extended throughout all episodes, instead of just being part of the finale. Episode two would start up with the judge’s voice in the background, starting the trial, getting everyone prepared, and basically setting the tone for a case that’s about to be underway. And without ever showing the courtroom, you hear the judge talking, while Naz begins his process into prison (getting on the bus, arriving at Rikers, and walking in line, as the other inmates watch). What I’ve done here is kept that initial momentum episode one had.

By allowing the trial to flow through the whole series, instead of just the ending, would breathe new life into what I consider filler content. It wouldn’t be considered filler if it’s looked at as moments to break up the intensity, tucking it in-between two important moments, and ultimately giving The Night Of a constant feel of progression.

The more I think about this show, the more I realize that the show only suffers from bad editing. The cast, the acting, the dialogue, basically everything else other than the editing, is something I really enjoyed. Putting the puzzle pieces in the correct order was the only thing missing.

★★★ ★ ☆

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