HBO’s new miniseries, The Night Of, officially premieres on July 10th, but the network made the first episode available on its streaming services (HBO GO and HBO Now) two weeks early. We’ll be covering the show with written reviews and a weekly podcast, so I jumped at the chance to check out the series – which I knew very little about – early.
Turns out, The Night Of is a cautionary tale of every warning your parents ever gave you about … well, damn near everything.
Nasir “Naz” Khan (Ahmed), a Pakistani-American college student from Queens, steals his father’s cab hoping to attend a party in Manhattan. He’s lost and unable to activate the taxi’s ‘off duty’ sign when Andrea (Sofia Black-D’Elia) gets into the backseat. She’s beautiful, mysterious, but clearly troubled – the perfect recipe for a night of drinking, drugs, casual sex, and murder.
Naz awakens in Andrea’s swanky apartment and finds her dead of multiple stab wounds, and so begins a series of questionable decisions and epically bad luck that will have you on the edge of your seat, cringing and unable to look away. Just how many things can go wrong in one night? The answer is, apparently, all of them.
The Night Of promises to be more than just a by-the-book whodunit. It is set to explore the New York City criminal justice system which includes police procedure, attorneys, judges, and the prison system (Rikers Island, specifically). Hopefully, it will also highlight the experience of Khan’s Pakistani-American family and how it shapes what happens to him. There’s a hint of this when Naz appears on a key witness’ radar simply because the man verbally harasses Naz and calls him a terrorist.
Ahmed’s portrayal of Naz presents him as smart, but naive and perhaps too trusting. Still, he’s extremely likable and you’ll find yourself rooting for him as he literally stumbles into making one poor decision after another. And all of this despite the fact that we’re not 100% sure he didn’t commit the crime.
Working against him is the lead detective on the case, Box (Camp), a grizzled veteran who sharply surveys the crime scene and sets into motion one of the most intense scenes in the entire premiere: Naz, not yet a suspect, in the police station with an unsuspecting witness and a few tired police officers. By the way, if you can watch the scene of everything falling into place in the police station and not hold your breath, you’re not human.
Jon Turturro stars as Stone, Naz’s attorney, who becomes involved in the case before he has a full understanding of what his doe-eyed client is suspected of doing. This role was originally supposed to be played by the late James Gandolfini, one of the series’ producers. I’m curious to see if the unaired pilot, from 2013, features Gandolfini in the role (he died in June of 2013). The role is completely Turturro’s, and he ups the already high New York City flavor that makes the city itself its own character.
The only negative to watching this early look at The Night Of is that we now have to wait three weeks until episode two, ‘Subtle Beast’ airs.
Leave your thoughts on the first episode below and we’ll read them on our special preview podcast.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this review stated that the first episode was available early On Demand, however it appears it’s only available early on HBO’s streaming services HBO Go and HBO Now.
The Night Of - Episode 1 = 9.8/10