By Jaelin Wilson
This is the only television show that makes sex, drugs, and murder supplementary plot devices—and it’s more engaging than anything you’ve seen this year.
Steven Zaillain’s (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, American Gangster) and Richard Price’s (The Wire) “The Night Of,” is HBO’s newest crime mystery, and it’s the best show you’ve never seen.
In New York City, After a spontaneous hook-up and night of tomfoolery, Nasir Khan, a seemingly studious college student, awakes from a drug and alcohol induced slumber to find last night’s hook-up slain. She was stabbed 22 times—enough to make Jack the Ripper’s arm sore.
This is when “The Night Of” stops being a whodunit and morphs into something else.
“The Night Of” is hardly about a college kid who’s suspected of murder; it’s about people. The human condition is given the centerfold in this TV mini-series. Like in all of our lives, passion and circumstance dictate how we react in real time.
This idiosyncratic show starts to portray what a real reality show might look like. It taps into the world we live in, where the rules aren’t always followed, where the good guys finish wherever they finish, and sometimes, where the obvious isn’t so obvious.
Due to this approach, the mini-series is critiqued for having “holes.” But really, it has just strayed from television’s status quo. Something that goes like: (A) happened because of (B), and I expect this character to do (X) because of (Y).
Unlike other crime shows, “The Night Of”’s storylines aren’t wrapped up in a pretty bow, they’re thrown at you—and creators Zaillian and Price don’t care if you catch them. Not every piece of the puzzle is of critical importance in “The Night Of,” yet Zaillian and Price make you feel like everything is.
Like in the real world, this show doesn’t wait up for your emotions, or care if you realize what’s going on. In this way, “The Night Of” takes on a fitting New York City personality: fast, uncaring and rich with people of different cultures.
Riker’s Island, where Khan—the suspected murderer—is held awaiting his trial, acts as our time machine. Mentally and physically, Khan adapts to his environment, as we all do. It just so happens that his environment includes crack pipes, drug smuggling, and murder. In “The Night Of,” seeking protection never seemed more dangerous.
If the human condition has the centerfold in this series, the American penal and justice systems have pull-out pages of their own in “The Night Of” magazine.
In eight episodes, Khan goes from college kid to hardened criminal, a product of the American penal system; presumed innocent yet behind bars.
“The Night Of” shows that the word “innocent” is a misnomer in a court of law. To stand where guilty men have stood may doom you just by association. Nothing has to make perfect sense in “The Night Of”—in reality, it hardly ever does.
“The Night Of” (95 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) concluded on August 28 and is streaming in its entirety on HBO Go. Do yourself a favor: Binge it.