In a perfect world, we would like the judicial system to work with the aim of protecting the innocent, but in this cynical age we know that this doesn’t always happen. The Night Of takes us through a trip through this system, showing just how dark and heartless it can be.
When Nasir (Riz Ahmed) borrows his father’s taxi without permission to go to a party, he finds himself with a beautiful woman in the back asking for a ride. When things lead to him partying with her at her home, a combination of drugs and alcohol lead to him passing out, only to wake up to find her dead. The only suspect in the murder, he soon finds himself in a fight for not only his freedom but also his survival of the judicial system.
The first episode of The Night Of is almost clinical in how it maps out Nasir’s downfall. Every piece of evidence that will damn, and save him are pinpointed to the audience and it is easy to take in and save to memory. We also see the very innocent looking and naïve Nasir as the noose of the judicial system slowly coils its way around his neck ready to condemn him.
Also, introduced in this episode is perhaps the most important character, and that is John Stone (John Turturro) a chancer lawyer who helps the arrested get the best deal, whether it be jail time or a chance to get off. He doesn’t do cases like Nasir’s, but something makes him take it. It may seem strange that I say Stone is the most important character, as Nasir should be. The fact is though John Turturro steals the series and refuses to let go.
John Turturro is the kind of actor that always seems to take secondary roles, but always gives it his all. The Night Of will make you realise just how good a character actor is. We know that John Stone is a loser in life, but he is one of the few people in the show with a good heart. When we want him to show just how much of a saviour he is, he always delivers.
Another character that will steal your heart, and actually prove why Stone is a good man, is his cat friend. Left to fend for itself after the death of the victim in Nasir’s case, it is taken under the wing of Stone. It is important to note that Stone is allergic to the cat, and he puts himself through hell to look after it. In many ways, the relationship between the cat and Stone is symbolic of the lawyer’s relationship with Nasir, and the defendant’s chances.
What The Night Of wants to tell us is how bad the judicial system can be. Nasir is a complicated character, and makes the audience question if our faith in him is unwarranted. The real evil of The Night Of though is the mighty dollar. If money can be made from making sure Nasir goes down for the crime he may, or may not be guilty of, so be it. That is the evil of the system, and it is a system that has a few shining glimmers of hope based on the people who fight for what it should stand for.
In The Night Of we should feel the tragedy of what we see with Nasir, the fact that spending time in prison takes him to the very depths of his character, and doesn’t let him regain who he previously was. Characters like Freddy Knight (played brilliantly by The Wire’s Michael Kenneth Williams) may seem a glimmer of hope, but when they are already surviving hell, they drag Nasir down with them.
While I won’t say that The Night Of is as good as a show like The Wire, it still has elements that touch on that same quality. This is a dark tale of how soul-destroying fighting for your innocence can be, and how the fight drags others down too. You’ll finish watching the show totally charmed by John Turturro’s performance, and hoping that if there is a second season to the show we see the return of his character (and his cat) fighting for justice once more.
The Night Of is available in the UK on VOD, DVD and Blu-Ray now.