THE LIMITED SERIES:
Over its eight episodes, The Night Of consistently surprises with its twisty tale of murder and one man's walk through the judicial system. It would be a disservice to give away plot points, but The Night Of turns into much more than a murder mystery. HBO's Limited Series is based on a British show called Criminal Justice, and is written by Richard Price (The Wire) and Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List). John Turturro gives an excellent performance as John Stone, a New York City lawyer to degenerates and lowlifes. He takes the case of Nasir "Naz" Khan (Riz Ahmed), a young Pakistani-American college student accused of murdering a woman. The Night Of is beautifully acted, expertly shot and directed, and consistently involving, and is highly recommended viewing.
Naz borrows his father Salim's (Peyman Moaadi) cab and drives into the city from Queens to attend a party. The off-duty light on the cab does not work, so a woman, Andrea Cornish (Sofia Black D'Elia), hops in the back and asks for a ride. She teases Naz when he tries to decline, and invites him to come over and forget about the party. The seemingly quiet and kind Naz joins Andrea at her brownstone, where she offers him drugs. They have sex, and Naz wakes up sometime later in the kitchen. He walks back upstairs to say goodbye, and finds Andrea's bloodied and lifeless body on the bed. Naz panics, leaves the residence with a knife and gets stopped by two local cops on suspicion of driving while impaired. He is quickly booked for Andrea's murder when a witness who saw Naz and Andrea together earlier in the night IDs him and the police find the knife in his jacket. Attorney Stone happens to be at the police station when Naz is booked, and decides to represent him.
Over each episode, The Night Of shows Naz get processed through some aspect of the judicial system. Salim and wife Safar (Poorna Jagannathan) are shocked when Naz calls them from jail. Their fear, confusion and uncertainty remain constant throughout the series, and their relationship with Naz is genuine and affecting. Turturro gives a fine performance as Stone, a man with blistered feet, a lousy reputation around the courthouse, and business cards that read, "No Fee Until You're Free." He may not be respected by his high-dollar peers, but Stone genuinely cares about Naz and is troubled when a Gloria Allred-type (Glenne Headly) swoops in to offer her services pro bono. What she wants is TV attention, and she attempts to villainize a District Attorney's Office bent on post-9/11 retribution with overcharging Naz on little evidence because he is Pakistani. As the State builds its case, Naz goes to Rikers Island, where he is targeted because of his alleged crime and ethnic background. He finds protection in Michael Kenneth Williams' Freddy Knight, a dangerous and powerful prisoner at Rikers. We watch Naz harden and begin standing up to other inmates instead of cowering meekly in the shadows.
Much of the show is about ambiguity, and The Night Of wisely avoids passing judgment on any one party. The show observes the cogs of justice without forcing an opinion on viewers, and the intricate, moving parts allow for a complex, nimble observation. We hear from the district attorney (Jeannie Barlin), lead detective (Bill Camp) and presiding judge (Ned Eisenberg). Stone eventually joins another, younger attorney (Amara Karan) on the case. They investigate the victim's life and family, while Naz fights for his safety in Rikers. Those looking for a clean, easily digestible "whodunit" may be frustrated by The Night Of, which retains a deliberate pace and refuses to tie conflicts up in neat bows. What it offers instead is masterful acting and a thoughtful, realistic mystery that encourages contemplation and discussion.
Each episode receives a 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer. The cool, dark scenery of the nighttime cityscape is presented with excellent clarity. Fine-object detail excels, and the texture on buildings, indoor set dressings and facial features is excellent. There is minimal, likely intended black crush in some darker scenes. Skin tones appear accurate, colors are nicely saturated, and digital noise is minimal.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes are solid. There is plenty of traffic, jailhouse chatter and courtroom noise to surround the viewer. Dialogue is crisp and clean, and is balanced with this ambient noise appropriately. The score is substantial, and the subwoofer supports some driving musical selections and a few action-oriented effects. These are professional, theatrical-quality mixes. A Spanish 2.0 DTS dub is included, as are a number of subtitle options.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This three-disc set includes all eight episodes over three discs. The discs are packed in a hinged Blu-ray case, which slips inside a sturdy, attractive slipbox. An insert offers a code to redeem for UltraViolet HD digital copies of each episode. Despite the show's success, there are no bonus featues.
HBO's Limited Series The Night Of is a wonderfully thought-provoking examination of one young man's experience in the judicial system. John Turturro gives an excellent performance as the New York City attorney defending Riz Ahmed's Pakistani-American college student Nasir Khan, who is accused of murder. More complex than a typical police "whodunit," The Night Of boasts excellent performances and a fascinating extended narrative. Highly Recommended.