I can’t remember the last time I was this tense while watching a pilot episode.
The achievement here is that The Night Of managed to keep me on the edge of my seat right from the first episode. Usually such pulse-pounding hours happen later on in a show’s run after you’re emotionally invested in the proceedings, but this exemplary pilot is mesmerizing from the very first second.
Without spoiling much (I’ll leave that to the bits section below), The Night Of is an eight-episode mini-series that chronicles a murder case in New York City. It might sound generic, but nothing about this show is: the script is tight, the cinematography is worthy of that of a high-budget film production, and the acting is stellar across the board. Our protagonist, Pakistani-American college student, is played to perfection by Riz Ahmed. The actor has that rare star quality, and you root for him no matter what.
Much like HBO’s other criminal foray (True Detective), The Night Of has a vibe that’s relentlessly sinister; you genuinely feel like something horrifying could happen at any given instant. Every story beat is perfectly calculated, and the camera always lingers on during the most nerve-wracking moments. It helps that the show frequently cuts to security camera footage and different perspectives of the night in question, creating a sprawling labyrinth of mystery and menace. If the show can maintain this foreboding and unsettling tone for the entirety of its 8-episode run, then it’s truly something special.
Bits of the Night
– Just like two other high-profile HBO series (Westworld and True Detective), the show’s credit sequence is both haunting and gorgeous. Did anyone spot Andrea’s smiley pills?
– Andrea is enormously twisted; I really hated that Naz gave in to her seductions and dabbled in all those drugs.
– My heartbeat reached its peak as Andrea convinced Naz to try and stab between her fingers. The fact that he actually does miss and ends up stabbing her (although she never even cries out in pain), is oh so disturbing.
– Immensely stressful: Naz running out of the crime scene, then noticing he’s forgotten his keys and having to go BACK!
– So what’s up with the motorcycle dude who eyes Naz at 4 am at the traffic light? What about the funeral limo driver? Super creepy.
– Awesome detail: every car that arrives at the crime scene has different music. You can hear rap when the EMTS arrive, and classical music when Detective Box pulls up.
– A terrific touch: the female cop constantly complaining that she’s several hours past her shift.
– I wonder if Trevor is going to stick with the show. The man is such a racist (Arab? Puerto Rican?) that it’s tremendously entertaining.
– The editing with Naz getting searched as Detective Box discusses the case nearby only for the cop to stumble on to the knife is downright phenomenal. Love everything about how this sequence was framed and cut.
– Naz trying to run and getting tackled by all the cops pretty much broke my heart.
– Heartwarming moment with Detective Box giving Naz some clothes to put on after he’s strip-searched and degraded.
– The penile swab moment made me severely uncomfortable.
– How perfect is John Turturro as John Stone, the lawyer who takes over Naz’s case? I love these two already. Oh, and his eczema feet are a nice touch.
– Perfect and slightly humorous ending with Naz’s dad running out on the street and not finding his cab. Ouch!
Cops & Quotes
Cop: (to a puking office) For fuck’s sake, you gonna do that, you can do it in the trunk of your car. This is a nice neighborhood.
Box: Describe him.
Trevor: You know, an Arab dude.
Box: No, I don’t.
Trevor: Look like he work at a deli or some shit.
Box: Try harder.
Trevor: Uh, like, little, short, skinny, Puerto Rican-looking motherfucker with beanie eyes.
Box: So, don’t like, run off to Europe without telling me.
Man: Do I look like someone running off to Europe anytime soon?
Trevor: What time am I getting out of here?
Box: Never, if you keep answering questions with questions.
A tense and impeccably made mystery that grabs hold of you from the start. Brilliant!