We already know, due to the fact that this debut episode became available early, that critics have raved THE NIGHT OF’s launch. For example, Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 96% and Variety states it “is compulsively watchable and extraordinarily rewarding, a brilliant and addictive mystery that inspires the viewer to go back and watch the same scenes again, looking for subtler character beats and hidden clues.” Quite a few watched it to favorable results, as far as HBO is concerned. With its early debut online the premiere episode saw 1.5 million viewers and its channel debut on 07.10 tallied another 1.3 million across three back-to-back airings. HBO dropped the following Critic’s Spot:
Here now are our thoughts.
Part I: The Beach
Nasir ‘Naz’ Khan is a Pakistani-American college student living in Queens, NY. Using his father’s cab one night, Naz meets a young woman. But what starts out as a fantasy ends up a nightmare, as he’s arrested for murder shortly after leaving. Following an interrogation by detective Dennis Box, Naz asks for a lawyer–and finds one in world-weary defense attorney John Stone.
It only makes sense to get into Naz’s life at the beginning. We need to be drawn into his story because it is through him that we follow the process of the crime mystery unfolding. We could have been introduced to all this through the victim or through the lawyer, but the ride through to its conclusion works best from Naz’s perspective from beginning to end. What did he do, or what didn’t he do, say or hear will all factor in as this crime story plays out.
It all starts out by taking his father’s taxicab because he needs to get to a big party, but because he fails to get the “On Duty” light off a girl gets into the cab, who we later learn is Andrea, and it all spirals from there. Since we already know this is a crime story your mind starts to search for clues as the plot unfolds. All the video evidence of his cab ride is made clear to us, his brief encounters with police and random passers-by, the drug use, the unlocked gate, the sharp knife and blood spatters are all pointed out as they will all be pieced together later on. Only one key moment is amiss. What happened between the time he bedded her and when he woke up a while later?
Ah, man! What happened? Did Nasir, under the influence of a combination of drugs, alcohol and his inhaler medication, trip out enough to kill her? Or did someone else, like the black man who glared him down outside, enter the unlocked gate (she let the cat out, remember?) and commit the crime? For the sake of this story you know it doesn’t matter. We already know that the crime is pinned on Naz. We also know, via all the publicity for THE NIGHT OF, that this isn’t about the crime itself, but the criminal justice process and how it does or doesn’t work. He has bumbled through the night of October 24 unknowingly and set himself up. His prints will be lifted from blood stains, a witness will say he broke the window of the victim’s front door to get in, he will get pulled over by police due to a traffic violation and everything will turn to shit real fast.
In a sad, yet quirky chain of events Naz eventually arrives at the police station for DUI. Some viewers might get a bit impatient at the slow scene played out there as Naz is left to squirm at length. It all proved purposeful as we squirmed as well. And it really pays off dramatically when it all wraps up with his arrest. How that all plays out was cinematically superb. What follows in the process is booking and interrogation. Not to worry though, Dennis Box is on duty and he knows his job very well. He is calm and through with Naz; sly at his game. He is a great character actualized by Bill Camp.
Equally as good, with a lot more performance in him, is John Turturro as John Stone. This character makes it in in the last few minutes of the episode and quickly becomes quite an interesting element. He has one tough case on his hands in Naz. Riz Ahmed also holds his own as Naz. He has an emotional arc that seems to carry out his dilemma well. This first installment gets us into the story & main characters fast and deep. Now we have the fun of solving the crime.
TWO CLUES– Andrea’s gate was left unlatched after she let her cat out. Plus, a cat that looked like hers crossed the street behind Nasir’s father at the end. Is that a clue walking past us? The other clue is that when questioned by Box as a witness to seeing the accused & the victim together Trevor said he was alone when he was not.
Clues as to what happens in Part II are easy to find. Seek out the clip below.
Also in the coming weeks more review from HBOWatch.