There’s a sense of dread when watching HBO’s new drama mini-series, The Night Of. Not because it’s bad, far from it. It’s an excellent piece of TV and exactly what we’d expect from HBO.
What makes it tough to watch is the very nature of the story: a young Pakistani-American college student, a young woman’s murder and the notoriously complex New York justice system.
Nasir “Nas” Khan (Riz Ahmed, Night Crawler) is the conflicted son of a traditional and hard working Punjabi family.
On the one hand, he is the dutiful son. On the other, he’s a young man, who yearns to be ‘one of the guys’. He’s excited to be invited to a party by a member of the basketball team, whom he’s tutoring.
So determined is he to hang with the boys and party, he steals his father’s cab in the dead of night and makes his way into the city.
And this is where his troubles begin.
Through a set of circumstances, Nas is arrested for the murder of Andrea Cornish; a woman who jumped into his cab, thinking he’s a ‘legit’ driver. She takes him home. They drink and take drugs. They have sex and he wakes to find her brutally murdered in her bed. In his panic, he flees the scene, leaving behind a trail of evidence.
Whether he’s guilty is beside the point. His traditional upbringing has produced a respect for authority and a naivety that may be his undoing.
He freely talks to a seemingly understanding and compassionate Homicide Detective. He allows himself to be questioned, undergo forensic testing without legal counsel present.
In his naivety, Nas thinks they’ll believe his protestations of ‘I didn’t do it/this is a mistake’ and simply let him go.
It’s only with the arrival of lawyer Jack Stone (John Turturro, O Brother Where Art Thou?, The Big Lebowski) that Nas realises that he may have been playing everything wrong.
Written by Richard Price (The Wire) and Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Gangs of New York), The Night Of is excruciatingly tense, but well executed story telling. It takes an unflinching look at ‘justice’ New York style, where guilt or innocence isn’t as simple as ‘black or white’.
Nas’ story is told over eight episodes and The Night Of proves there are many shades of grey in between.
The Night Of premieres on Foxtel’s Showcase channel Sunday, July 17th at 8.30pm
Nikole Gunn has been a watcher of TV since the 70s. A writer of words since the 80s. A reader of the news since the 90s; mostly on Triple M, Nova and Gold.
Twitter - @NikoleGunn