On Sunday night, HBO aired the finale of the eight-part limited series The Night Of — and it was storytelling personified. The series was designed as a standalone piece and primarily filmed in Manhattan. The writing and plot were equaled by the phenomenal cast: John Turturro, Riz Ahmed, Amara Karan, Peyman Moaadi, Poorna Jagannathan, Michael K. Williams, Jeannie Berlin, Glenne Headly, Bill Camp, and Paul Sparks. HBO viewers may also notice a familiar name listed in the credits as an executive producer, James Gandolfini.
The Night Of is based on the BBC series Criminal Justice, and the U.S. version was a passion project of the late James Gandolfini (HBO’s The Sopranos). The cast and crew did Mr. Gandolfini proud as they told a perfect narrative from beginning to end.
The Night Of tells the story of college student Nasir, or Naz, Khan (Riz Ahmed). One New York evening, Naz is stood up by a friend to go to a party so he takes his dad’s cab, without permission, and makes his way to the city. On the way to the party he picks up a young woman, Andrea, and his plans for the evening take a detour. He heads back to the young woman’s apartment and indulges in a night of drinking, drugs, and sex.
It is clear that this night of partying is not the norm for Naz and the viewers can see his innocence, and innocence lost, as the evening unfolds. After passing out, Naz wakes up to see that Andrea has been brutally murdered and in a panic he leaves taking the murder weapon with him. He is soon picked up by the police and booked for the crime.
— Riz Ahmed (@rizmc) August 29, 2016
Like many HBO series, The Night Of uses a major city, in this case New York, as a backdrop and tackles racial prejudices. Beyond the underlying theme of racial prejudices in post 9/11 New York, this HBO dramatic thriller gives audiences a true mystery — did Naz do it? Though his character is certainly found sympathetic to viewers, at no point is it clear if he is innocent or not. The conversion of Nasir from when HBO viewers first see him in his innocence to his transformation during his time in Rikers Island is stunning.
— John Turturro (@JohnMTurturro) August 28, 2016
John Turturro plays one of Naz’s attorneys, Jack Stone, who was originally supposed to be portrayed by Gandolfini, and Turturro is at his finest. The character of Jack Stone, and the relationship with his cat, is a symbol of the show itself. Through the series, Turturro struggles with eczema, primarily on his feet, and other conditions like asthma. The eczema is so bad that Stone can’t even wear shoes and is often stared at by society and his peers.
At one point it seems Jack may have found the cure for his condition and even starts wearing shoes—and then it all crashes down. At one point it looks crystal clear to viewers that Naz is innocent—and then it all crashes down. Just when it looked like he has to be innocent viewers asked once again, did Naz do it?
Jack Stone is more than just a man struggling with an affliction. He is an attorney searching for purpose. Stone is the type of lawyer where you see his ads in a subway, “No fee ’til you’re free.” Usually representing two-bit criminals and taking a plea, Stone is drawn to Naz’s case and believes he is innocent. The character development of Jack Stone is as rich as the character of Nasir. No doubt nominations for Emmy Awards will be flooding HBO’s The Night Of, and Turturro definitely earned one.
This is John Turturro’s greatest role.
— Michael K Williams (@BKBMG) August 29, 2016
Amara Karan plays Naz’s primary attorney, Chandra Kapoor. Kapoor also believes her client is innocent, although it seems there are times when she questions it. Jeannie Berlin plays the prosecuting attorney Helen Weiss and she is brilliant. The timing of her speech pattern is brilliant and she draws a compelling case against Nasir, once again compelling the audience to ask themselves, did Naz do it?
— Amara Karan (@amarakaran) August 29, 2016
From the stellar performances of the entire cast to a topnotch script, this is one of the best miniseries in modern television history. Rotten Tomatoes scores the show at a stunning 95 percent, and the site gives the critic consensus of the HBO series The Night Of.
“The Night Of is a richly crafted, exquisitely performed mystery that will keep viewers enthralled and leave them devastated.”
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HBO has provided audiences with award winning shows like The Sopranos, True Detective, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Boardwalk Empire, and many others. And now The Night Of can be added to the top of that list. So, did Naz do it? Viewers will have to watch the HBO finale of The Night Of to find out.
[Image via HBO]