Thursday, September 01, 2016

Late Night

I missed the first run of the HBO's The Night Of over the summer.  I'd heard good things about it, but I already watched too many shows on Sunday to keep up. But now that we're in a more fallow TV period, I figured I'd catch up. After all, there are only eight episodes.  I just watched two, and at one a day can just about finish the season over the holiday weekend.

The series, based on a BBC show, was created--and written and directed--by Richard Price and Steve Zaillian.  It was originally meant to star James Gandolfini, and he's still listed as a producer, but when he died John Turturro stepped into his role.

The concept is pretty straightforward (so far as I can tell).  The first episode shows us the night referred to in the title.  A young Pakistani-American, Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed), borrowing his father's cab, picks up an attractive young woman in Manhattan.  They go to her place, do some drugs, have sex, and when he wakes up later she's been stabbed to death.  He runs out in a panic but is soon arrested for murder.

We don't know exactly what happened, but feel for him. A lawyer, John Stone (John Turturro)--an idealists but also an ambulance chaser--happens to be in the precinct where he's held and becomes his lawyer. Meanwhile, the top detective in the precinct, Dennis Box (Bill Camp), investigates the homicide.  No doubt as the case goes to court, and Nasir deals with life at Riker's Island (he didn't get bail), more characters will be introduced.

While this is essentially crime drama--we wonder both what happened that night and how Nasir's case will turn out--the procedural aspect is important.  To see, for instance, the whole dehumanizing system that prisoners go through, or the inside dealings of lawyers and cops, is a large part of the show's fascination.

The creators of the show, especially Price, are known for their crime writing, and they deliver here.  The main trick will be avoiding spoilers before I get to the end.


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