First you’re taken to a cold and dank room big enough for you to remove your disheveled clothing, but small enough to feel overwhelmingly confined with the three other people you’re sharing the room with. Handing off your clothes, and potential evidence, before you’re given a thin layer of light blue that will barely warm you from the cold aroma within the precinct. Barely given the choice to have swabs of your DNA, and potential evidence, taken by the medical unit. Finally you’re put in a cell with no information regarding what exactly you’re being accused of and no estimate of how long you’ll be there.
It’s certainly a bit paralyzing, especially if you’re a first time offender like the episode’s main character, Naz, and especially if the crime you’re being accused of is murder. It was hard to tell what direction the episode was going in, but that was exactly the point. The “murder” itself was not premeditated, at least not in Naz’s perspective it was, it just happened— sort of like any accident that happens really. And following Naz as he goes through this ordeal, from an eager college student to the prime suspect in an inevitably high-profile murder case— it’s like we’re going through the same random nightmare as he.
A ploy that has been used by many of the best dramas that television has to offer and The Night Of has a lot going for it by using this ploy. We do not know for sure if Nas is guilty, all of the clues seem to point to him, but what we do know is that we sympathize for him since his fears are fully on display.
Let’s discuss what the cops have so far, the victim’s blood on Naz’s hands, literally. Plus a knife in his jacket pocket with the victim’s blood after a game of five finger fillet. Two witness testimonies that put him at the scene of the crime. Broken glass on the front door that Naz punched through after he accidentally locked himself out in a state of panic after forgetting his car keys back inside. It also doesn’t help in the slightest that he blacked out after some drinking and pill popping.
Sometimes girls just do have it easier, after he kicks out two drunk dudes from his father’s cab, a beautiful, but afflicted young woman hops in and isn’t shy about suggesting some attraction towards him. Naz decides to ditch his party, which is why he took his father’s cab in the first place, willingly driving her first to “the beach” and then her home.
A few hours later she is dead and all the signs point to this being swift justice for a woman’s murder, but paying attention to all of the set ups seem to point to some conflicts that will eventually arise. One of the witnesses lied about being alone when he saw Naz with the girl, of course, leaving out the part where he threw some racial slurs at him too. Not to mention the original arresting officer who pulled him over for DUI had some racial things to say to him as well. “Cheech and Chong,” she refers to him— didn’t know people still referenced those two.
Naz, short for Nasir, is of Pakistani descent, seemed unfazed by some these comments as if he’d be used to these kinds of aggressive insults— I guess he better start acting insulted if he wants to get out of this situation. In the scene where the racist cop is patting down Naz at the precinct, eventually discovering the knife in his jacket pocket in total awe while the oblivious detectives beside them are describing the knife that they should be looking for was particularly brilliant in execution.
I don’t say this very often, but this series could be what True Detective Season 2 was certainly not. It’s a gritty drama that will inevitably encounter some difficult and controversial topics regarding the American Justice System. The show’s co-creator, Richard Price (Clockers, Lush Life), is no stranger to writing social commentary about unidentified segregation, and this show seems to be no exception. Delving into current and relevant issues regarding social statuses and police brutality.
Riz Ahmed, Jake Gyllenhaal’s simpleminded sidekick in Nightcrawler, is particularly sincere in his portrayal of a seemingly honest man thrust into a dishonest world. John Turturro, who takes over the role of John Stone after James Gandolfini’s untimely death, does not show up until the last ten minutes of the episode, but already establishes himself as a quick-witted accessible attorney who has undoubtedly seen it all.
After just one episode it’s very difficult to say where the show will go exactly, but I’m hoping for a Rashomon-esque kind of shifting perspective— that will certainly add some diverse flavor to Nas and the murder itself. However, it’s important to note that the show’s main themes seem to be themes that bring about questions regarding family and the fairness of the American Justice System. It’s a mixed bag that seems to have enough for everyone, those who are fans of detective and courtroom dramas, as well as those who are interested in social and family dramas. Even if you’re interests do not lie within those genres, it’s still a recommended viewing as it carries an entertaining narrative with current affairs.
Episode 1 Premieres July 10 at 9 pm on HBO