In the mini-series “The Night Of,” currently on HBO, the opening scene showcases a mysterious and beautiful young woman who dies and someone goes to trial. Will justice prevail?
“The Night Of” combines elements of the popular podcast “Serial”’ and the TV series“Oz”. “The Night Of” depicts the horrific conditions endured by Naz Khan on Ryker’s Island, reminding the viewer of “Oz”. And half-truths and damning evidence suggest the Serial podcast about a young Pakistani American teenager, Adnan Syed. Did he or didn’t he—that is the question in both. Both the real-life Adnan and the fictional Naz maintain their innocence, even as more distressing details of the crime surface.
Naz Khan (played by Riz Ahmed from “Nightcrawler”) is a young Pakistani American student charged with the murder of the mysterious young woman from the opening scene. Detective Sergeant Box (the superb Bill Camp, Tony winner for the Broadway revival of “The Crucible”) charges Naz. A bottom-feeding, grizzled lawyer named Jack Stone (the astonishing John Turturro) is Naz’s legal counsel.
Turturro plays a smarter-than-he-looks lawyer: part-Columbo, part-Monk detective. He’s quirky and wry, his physical awkwardness, and his long trench coat make him as memorable as the more well-known Columbo and Monk. As Jack Stone, he picks at the eczema on his feet with a chopstick as he interviews witnesses and waits to appear in court. Layers of financial and psychological costs are embedded in a justice and penal system Naz and his parents do not know how to navigate. Naz pays the price of not knowing.
We see Naz transform. At first a virginal, studious young man who is naïve and eager, we see his vulnerability preyed upon. We witness Naz feeling cornered, bewildered, and terrified.
“The Night of” features spellbindingly subtle acting with pitch-perfect poignancy and desperation on the part of Riz Ahmed, and steely determination and grit from both John Turturro and Bill Camp, equally matched as dueling seekers of justice.
The connective tissue holding together the evidence both for and against Naz constantly shifts the viewer’s assessment of his guilt or innocence. This dark tale is addictive, deeply moving, compulsive television!
Note: The late James Gandolfini (of “Sopranos” fame) produced “The Night Of” and was intended to be the character Jack Stone.