Missed ‘The Night Of’? You Can Now Watch it on DVD
Mini-series have been making a comeback in recent years—most notably in the form of anthology series such as True Detective and American Horror Story—and 2016 most definitively belongs to HBO’s The Night Of.
The eight-part series, now available on Blu-ray and Digital, gives the opportunity to the swaths of audiences who don’t have HBO subscriptions to experience what many, myself included, did over the summer: a well-acted, compelling and sometimes frustrating drama-thriller that features great performances, a riveting story and a sobering look at the criminal justice system.
Riz Ahmed, who will next appear in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, delivers a career-defining performance as Naz, an allegedly innocent Pakistani-American who is arrested for murdering a young woman he met that same night. Naz is a frustrating character in many ways—he makes a lot of dumb, naïve decisions and, as the series continues, becomes less and less likeable—but credit to Ahmed for portraying the young man’s complexities in a way that make you care for him no matter what.
Even more impressive is John Turturro, who plays the charmingly rough-around-the-edges lawyer who comes to Naz’s defense. Turturro steals every scene he’s in (except for the ones with the cat—in which case, according to my wife, the cat steals the scene).
Beyond the performances, The Night Of thrives on its detailed and upsetting depiction of how justice is served in America. The show is, ultimately, less about the guilt or innocence of Naz but about how the justice system can destroy many lives—not just that of the accused. And when the show is fixated on demonstrating this, it thrives, offering up an immersive, nuanced, and original exploration of the seedier side of the legal system, one that typically isn’t shown in your typical courtroom or police procedural show.
Where The Night Of falters, if only a little, is when it caters to what audiences expect: courtroom proceedings that end with grand closing arguments and a clear verdict. As much as it tries to be different, The Night Of ultimately becomes yet another legal thriller—a very well made one, but something that isn’t starkly different than others that have come before it. Its biggest weakness is the character played by Amara Karan; Karan is great, but her character, and her extremely questionable decisions, end up being nothing more than a plot device. The way her character is written is so glaringly out of place with the rest of the show that, when her ultimate purpose is revealed, you can only be left disappointed.
The Night Of isn’t perfect, but it’s a powerful, memorable attempt to tell a legal drama in a different way. It doesn’t always succeed, but when it does, it is worth all of the accolades it received.
Buy The Night Of on Amazon now.