Wednesday, August 31, 2016

HBO TV Review: The Night Of (2016)

The Night Of Poster
The Night Of - Created by Richard Price, Steven Zaillian; Starring Riz Ahmed, John Turturro, Amara Karan, Michael K. Williams, Peyman Moaadi, Poorna Jagannathan, Jeanne Berlin, Paul Sparks, Bill Camp.

By Kenny Howell

There has been a bit of talk lately whether HBO is falling behind. TV content providers (can't really say networks anymore) like Netflix and FX have been churning out a lot of great material, and HBO is basically left with Game of Thrones (which is ending), Veep and Silicon Valley.

So how unfortunate (possibly) that they drop a great new show that is really just a miniseries. The Night Of is excellent HBO TV, like the heyday when the channel was making The Sopranos and The Wire. Not saying it is on the same level as they shows, but it definitely could have starred along side those back in the day. Ironically, a bit at least, is that this was originally written for the late great James Gandolfini (Enough Said).

The story is of a troubled young woman, and the young man accused of her murder. That man is Naz, played by Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler). He takes his dad's taxi out one night heading for a party in Manhattan. He is unable to find it, and people keep getting in the cab because he doesn't know how to control the lights. He kicks one group of people out, but when Andrea gets in, he doesn't ask her to leave because, well, she is pretty and men are simple creatures. She gives him some drugs, and they go back to her place, where they take more drugs and drink, play that game where you move the knife in between your fingers real fast, and then they take it to the bedroom.

The next morning, Naz wakes up in the kitchen and goes upstairs to say bye. He finds Andrea stabbed numerous times, and he panics. He grabs the knife they played the game with and runs out. Forgetting his keys, he has to break back into the building to get them. He is picked up a little later on a traffic violation, and the police start putting the pieces together. He is arrested and taken to jail, where lawyer Jack Stone (John Turturro) tells him he is going to be his lawyer because he sees something in his face that makes him like he doesn't belong there.

From there, the eight episode series delves into not only the mystery, but the characters around it, specifically Naz and John. John suffers from a horrible skin condition that leaves sores all over his body, but mostly his feet. Naz goes into Rikers, where he is slowly turned into a criminal, and finds protection in a fellow inmate played by Michael K. Williams (12 Years a Slave) that sees something different about him.

There is also Naz's new lawyer who partners with John in Chandra (Amara Karan), a woman who was used as a prop by another attorney, utilizing her Indian heritage to connect with Naz's parents in attempt to take the case off of John's hands. That is just the tip of the iceberg, as suspects come into play, all with a possible motives and no alibis.

I think the key to the entire series is John because the writers really ground him as much as possible. His life, his battle with the skin disease, the drama of a shelter cat he is allergic to but wants anyway is so well done, partially because of Turturro's talent, obviously, but it gives you something outside of the main mystery to care about. Those things are tied together loosely, but are just as interesting independently.

The story leaves it open for a second season, or they could make it into an anthology series like True Detective. If they do continue this story, there are ways you can go, but I will leave that to avoid any spoilers if you haven't completed the first season. Hopefully it does go that way, cause it shows that HBO still has quality work out there, and maybe their next big project, Westworld, will keep it going.

You can watch the entire first season of The Night Of on HBO Go or HBO Now.

Rating: ***1/2

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