TV Review: The Night Of

Posted: September 2, 2016 in Drama, TV

The Night Of

Episode 1: The Beach

Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed) wants to go to a party.  He can’t get a ride so he borrows his dad’s cab, but before he gets to the party, a mysterious girl named Andrea Cornish. (Sofia Black D’Elia) They go back to her house, have some drinks, do some coke, play a strange game with a kitchen knife, and then sleep together.  When Naz wakes up, Andrea is dead.  He panics and flees the house, only to be picked up by the police for making an illegal turn. He is held, until they find the knife that killed Andrea in his pocket.  Naz is then questioned by Sgt Box (Bill Camp) who tries to make him admit to the murder.  Naz steadfastly denies killing Andrea, and finally gets a lawyer, John Stone (John Turturro) who advises him to say nothing without him being present.  Did Naz kill Andrea? Or is he innocent?

Is The Night Of a morality play, or a cautionary tale?  I don’t like the idea either way.  To inject a Muslim  character into a murder mystery is a sure fire way to spark controversy.  If he did it, one side will say, “The writers are profiling Muslims as murderers.”  If he didn’t do it, some people will scream “political correctness” and they will be outraged.  It’s a no-win situation. The story is hackneyed, the writers are clearly trying to create a modern day To Kill A Mockingbird, guilt by ethnicity, and not succeeding in my opinion.

The pacing is slow, and the length is too long.  There are a lot of scenes of Naz waiting in a squad car or in the police station, which is supposed to build tension, but adds to the boredom in my opinion. The acting is nothing that stands out.  Ahmed is trying to be as bland and non-threatening as possible, but that makes for a boring drama.  Turturro is playing a grizzled lawyer, who’s seen it all and is unfazed by the savagery of this crime.

Episode 2:  The Subtle Beast

Sgt. Box tries to get Naz to confess, unsuccessfully, but he does get a version of his story when Naz talks to his parents.  Box talks to Don Taylor (Paul Sparks) Andrea’s stepfather, he seems reticent to talk about his step-daughter. Box talks to the prosecutor, Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin) and suggests that Naz be charged with homicide.  Naz is arraigned, denied bail and is sent to Riker’s Island to await trial.  Now does Naz plead?

This episode feels like a police procedural, and not a great one. The only character that has any depth or humor about him, is Turturo.  He even has a little Andrew Cuomo lilt to his voice.  The writers try to make Sgt. Box a duplicitous cop, kind on the outside formulating judgment on the inside, but the writers make it obvious that he’s playing a double game.  The director does a good job of conveying the claustrophobia of being sent to jail, but the pacing is stiill slow.

Episode 3:

Stone tells Naz’s parents that his retainer is 50,000 dollars.  Naz’s parents have to think it over.  Another lawyer, Allison Crowe,(Glenne Headley) tells Naz’s prents she will do it for free.  At Riker’s Island, Naz meets Freddie, (Michael Kenneth Williams) an inmate who wields a lot of power.  Freddie offers to protect Naz.  What does Naz say?  Who do his parents choose to defend him?

The episode starts slow, but at least the writers are trying to stir the pot a little by introducing Freddie, and Allison Crowe, to provide a little fear for Naz in jail, and a little competition for Jack Stone outside prison.  This was a better episode than the previous one.

Episode 4:

The Art of War

Freddie continues to dangle an offer of protection to Naz.  But another inmate, Calvin Hart (Ashley Thomas) tells Naz not to get mixed up with Freddie.  Stone digs up some dirt on the defendant and gives it to Allison’s co-council Chandra Kapoor. (Amara Karan)  Naz’s lawyer arranges a plea deal for Naz, does he take it?

This series is good so far, not because of the storyline, but because of the acting.  For example, no lawyer in Stone’s position would investigate the murder victim. And the answer to the final question I posed above should be self-evident, so the plot is out of a dime-store detective novel.  What separates this show from similar shows so far are the performances, and it’s not just Turturro this time.  Ashley Thomas is amazing as Calvin, he shows a lot of depth in his role, sensitivity, yet toughness.  Glenne Headley is also amazing as Allison, she had a couple of speeches in this episode that knocked me out.  I find it condescending that the writers had to bring in an Indian lawyer for a Pakistani defendant.  We’re all Americans aren’t we?  This show throws ethnicity in my face in ways that aren’t necessary. Also, enough about Stone’s foot fungus, it was amusing for one episode, but not for 4 episodes.  This episode had some humor, which was good.

Episode 5:

Season of the Witch

The other cabbies want Naz’s father to sue Naz for Grand Theft Auto.  Chandra and Stone team up to defend Naz.  Naz starts to do Freddy’s dirty work in Rikers.  Helen starts to build the prosecution case.  Sgt Box retraces Naz’s steps on the night of the murder.  Stone interviews Andrea’s drug supplier.  Who is Duane Reed, and why is Stone suddenly so interested in him?

This episode was just ok, until the last 5 minutes, then it got interesting.  The scenes inside Riker’s were interesting, but the last 5 minutes were exciting,  with a little cliffhanger to boot.  That’s what made this episode interesting.  Naz as a character was annoying in this episode, anyone can be a tough guy if he has Freddy behind him.


Episode 6:

Samson and Delilah

Chandra has a creepy encounter with a funeral director before the trial begins.  Chandra and Helen make opening statements while Naz enjoys the “fringe benefits” of being Freddy’s new favorite.  Stone pursues another lead, while an old Chinese herbal treatment cures his eczema.  Naz calls Chandra from prison, what did he say to her?

This episode bothered me to no end.  Chandra is intimidated by the funeral director because she’s a woman right, and then Stone acts all chivalrous, WTF, its 2016, if she can’t handle seedy people why the heck is she a defense attorney?  And then we hear about her personal life, why?  Then the clichés come pouring out, Naz is acting like DeNiro in Taxi driver down to the tattoos, Nancy Grace is on tv railing against Naz, and the suspects come out of the woodworks all of a sudden.  Also enough with Stone’s foot fungus or eczema or whatever it is, 6 episodes and constant focus on his feet. Enough.  Also the lady playing Helen the lead prosecutor has the dullest delivery of all time.  She put me to sleep in this episode. And the writers said nothing about Duane Reed in this episode.

Episode 7:

An Ordinary Death

Naz’s mother walks out of the trial during the prosecution’s case.  Naz’s father refuses to sell his 1/3rd of the taxi medallion to his fellow cabbies.  Stone follows up on a possible suspect.

This episode made me want to quit watching the show, it really did.  The writers shamelessly stole so much material from the OJ Simpson trial that it wasn’t funny, and then they had the gall to make reference to the trial in the same episode, TWICE.  Do the writers thing there’s no one in the audience older than 20?  Then they have Chandra do something so egregiously unethical that it could only happen on a television show. A BAD television show.   Then to waste time the writers show Stone with his cat, even though he has a cat allergy.  WHO CARES???  First it was his feet, now it’s a cat allergy?  Really, that’s how these writers fill air time?

Episode 8:

The Call of The Wild

Naz’s trial comes to an end, unforeseen circumstances force Stone to make closing arguments.  Sgt Box retires.  What is the verdict?

The ending of this final episode is unsatisfactory, but not surprising.  Chandra sinks deeper into an ethical morass.  John Turturro really gives a powerful closing, but it cannot save the series from the corner it boxed itself into in the first episode.

Overall the series spent a lot of time satirizing television shows like Special Victims Unit, but at times, it is just as gratuitously sensationalistic as one of those ripped from the headlines episodes of a network cop show.  The writers are so careful not to inflame certain sensitivities that they end up stereotyping every other race and ethnicity.  Every face in the prison is black or Latino.  Did no one else commit crimes worthy of Riker’s No Bernie Gietz or Son of Sam types lurking around? Is that what passes for reality these days?

Naz starts out naively stupid, and becomes hardened and stupid, but stupid all the same.  I can’t blame Riz Ahmad, he made the most of a badly written role.  John Stone is a quirky lawyer, and I didn’t like his quirks.  John Turturro is a great actor and humanizes Stone the best he can, but sometimes the character even spins out of his control. Turturro will probably win an Emmy, and deserves one. Sergeant Box is the most badly written of all characters, I did not find his character believable in the least, and the character arc did not have time to develop.

The women are written even worse than the men.  Chandra goes from a token, to a plot device, to a complete embarrassment.  No woman would put herself in the situations that she did, and for what reason?  The reason given just doesn’t make sense.  The prosecutor Helen, is portrayed as such a bitter woman, that she doesn’t trust anyone or anything, except the explanation of the crime that she puts forth.  This is what happens when men write women’s roles.

The Night of.  A crime against television viewers everywhere.


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