Riz Ahmed is an actor I was aware of before this show, but now I will always be on the lookout for him. He is such a natural and compelling actor. Which brings me to this show: it is a really great show. It may have several flaws that ultimately bring the quality of the show down, but it nevertheless remains one of the best new shows in recent years.
Is she dead?
Most people will tell you that the strongest aspect of The Night Of is the acting. It is hard to argue that point. I have already briefly touched on Riz Ahmed, but I have to mention again just how great he is. There are entire episodes where Naz (Riz Ahmed) barely utters a word, yet Ahmed’s expressions guide the viewers and push the narrative forward. Riz undergoes some of the greatest changes, but what Ahmed does so well is slowly evolve the character instead of succumbing to the changes all at once. At the end of the day the transformation of Naz’s character works so well because of Riz Ahmed’s surefire performance.
Another standout is John Turturro. Turturro is an actor I absolutely respect, but never had a role to associate him with. That is, until I finished watching this show. What a spectacular performance. The highlight of his performance in this show has to be in the finale. He gives a speech to the jury and it is one of those speeches that I believe will be remembered for a very long time. Turturro’s character is someone who does not mess around, yet he is heartfelt. He seeks to do the right thing and the show demonstrates just how far he is willing to go in order to help Naz. He believes in Naz’s innocence and cannot allow him to be wrongfully thrown in jail for something he claims he did not do. The show decided to include a subplot involving Stone’s (Turturro) eczema condition. While many people seemed to dislike this addition to the show, I enjoyed it because it shows what his character is willing to sacrifice in order to prove Naz’s innocence. The subplot did not completely work for me mainly because of the scene where his eczema miraculously disappears. Sure, it was a funny scene. However, it did not work with the tone that the show had already established. The eczema makes a return with a vengeance in the last episode and this is where I realized that his eczema is triggered by stress. He was incredibly stressed out by his closing argument towards the jury and so the eczema came back. As I mentioned earlier, this shows how far Stone is willing to go to help Naz. He is willing to sacrifice his well-being for Naz’s freedom.
Everyone’s got a cross to bear
The show has some great supporting characters as well. I really enjoyed Detective Box, even though I wanted a bit more from him. The problem I have is that it seemed like he barely investigated the murder, even though he clearly had doubts of Naz’s conviction. In the finale episode Box uncovers some new information about the murder, but he does not share that information with Stone. Perhaps this is because he realizes that it is too late, but it was never clearly explained why he does not consult with Stone. Box is a very interesting character, but not enough time has been spent with him. The show also focuses quite a bit on Naz’s parents and his brother. This was particularly great because it shows how Naz’s conviction does not just effect his life, rather the lives of his family as well. There were some heartbreaking moments involving his family, but again I would have liked a little bit more. The weakest character has to be Chandra, who becomes Naz’s lawyer. She is not necessarily a bad character, but she frequently makes stupid mistakes. These mistakes stem from her inexperience with being a lawyer, but it was absolutely frustrating watching her make these mistakes. Finally, I need to touch on Freddie (played by the always great Michael Kenneth Williams).
Freddy is a character that could have easily been poorly used in the show. He is a convict who takes an interest in Naz. While he outright tells Naz why he is so interested in him, I never quite bought it. I thought Freddy had a hand in the murder of the young woman, but as it turns out Freddy was exactly who he said he was. He latched onto Naz because he wanted to maintain some of his humanity. When Naz was being escorted out of Rikers, I could not help but feel sad for Freddy who had lost his connection with a more civilized world.
I have made it clear that this is not a perfect show. It has several flaws that prevent it from reaching its full potential. However, this show is well written, impeccably shot, superbly acted, and tremendously scored. Even with its flaws (which are minor) this show has become a piece of compelling television. Once again, huge shoutout to the entire cast. Everyone did a fantastic job and I will be keeping an eye on their future projects. If you have not checked this one out yet, please do yourself and indulge.