The Night Of: a masterful HBO drama that’s almost too painful to watch

The-Night-Of-a-masterful-HBO-drama-thats-almost-too-painful-to-watch

Television, I find, has some very wise lessons contained within it. A useful one is this: if ever you pinch your dad’s taxicab to attend a college party, and a beautiful but troubled woman gets in and demands in insouciant tones to be taken to the beach – in New York of all places – forget it. Open the door and kick her pert little derriere out, because no good will come of it. Since watching HBO’s newest police procedural, barely a moment has gone by without the deep longing that I could pass this sage advice to Naz (Riz Ahmed) in The Night Of (Thursday, 9pm, Sky Atlantic), who does exactly that.

This woman, Andrea, will go on to 1) convince her sham cabbie to do pills with her in her fancy brownstone, 2) gyrate in front of him while mumbling something sexy about knives, and 3) end up stabbed to death in her bedroom. I could see this coming a mile off but, for some reason, when confronted with erotically pirouetting strangers, healthy young men like Naz rarely do the sensible thing.

Long before Andrea’s death, though, the wheels of disaster are set in motion, illustrated by shots that linger on the faces of witnesses for uncomfortably long periods of time, and deftly pan over evidence Naz unwittingly leaves at the crime scene. The problem is that no one, not us, not Naz, and not his family, knows what went down, because this segment of the evening is missing from his drug-clouded memory. Did he murder Andrea, or was he sleeping off his comedown while she was killed in another room? Little in The Night Of is clear.

What is clear is that the odds are stacked against him. Edging Naz towards the clink is Detective Box, a subtle beast who’s been calmly putting away crooks for decades. Box is nearing retirement, and before he settles down to civilian life, he just wants to send one last crook down. Surely he wouldn’t use the racist mistrust of Muslims to complete his Top Trumps collection of convictions at trial, would he?

At times, it’s too much to watch. How, for instance, is Naz’s family supposed to pay for two-bit, eczema-encrusted lawyer John Stone (John Turturro) when their main source of income – his father Salim’s cab – is sitting in a police compound as evidence? The unfairness of the system is clear as day, whatever the outcome of Naz’s trial and before we even get to what happens during his long wait for it at Riker’s Island prison (which the rest of the series masterfully depicts).

The Night Of was adapted from BBC drama Criminal Justice and similarities to Making A Murderer and Serial can also be drawn. It’s a good job shows like these have primed our detective skills, because new possibilities creep in with every pointed and claustrophobic scene. It’s time to start theorising: a slowly unfolding crime drama is just the ticket as the nights start to draw in.

One thing to consider before the deerstalker comes out is that Riz Ahmed has such likability that his casting could be a red herring. This is the man who in Chris Morris’s Four Lions made cinema audiences root for a suicide bomber in a honey monster suit. Naz doesn’t seem the sex-murder type, it has to be said. But, then again, waking up from a drug binge to a lover’s perforated corpse can make you question a person’s character. Was it him? Or, as I’m beginning to suspect, was it all set up by John Stone in an itchy attempt to procure extra cash for his Sudocrem supplies? I don’t have the answers, only the series record button has those, and it’s never looked so inviting.

News Source TheGuardianNews

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