The finale of the latest season of The Game Of Thrones has left us all in a void, yet again. Just when I thought it’s impossible to put another show to the task of matching up, I got hooked on to HBO’s brand new eight part limited series,The Night Of.
This crime drama might look deceptively similar to the likes of Criminal Minds, Law & Order and True Detective, but it’s far more real. Based on the British series Criminal Justice, this miniseries is written by Richard Price, a prolific crime novel author and writer of The Wire, and the legendary Steven Zailllian, who gave us screenplays for American Gangster (2007) and Schindler’s List (2001) among many other iconic flicks.
Starring Riz Ahmed and John Turturro in the main leads, The Night Of makes that familiar sense of doom, more palpable than ever.
You’ll recognise Riz Ahmed (Nasir ‘Naz’ Khan) from Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The English rapper-actor plays a young American-Pakistani college student living in New York, who decides to head out for a party on the fateful night, despite his mother’s (played by Poorna Jagannathan of Delhi Belly fame) concern. He sneaks out in his father’s yellow cab as soon as the lights are out, and every turn he takes attempts to prepare you for the worst.
Just like the best of crime shows, this one too has undercurrents of race, class and gender. Interestingly, The Night Of starts off with a bang too. The very first episode has you deeply connected to Naz, an innocent face who lives by the book and is out and about for some harmless fun. He meets a girl with intensely sad eyes, who’s high already and spills out the words ‘I can’t be alone tonight’ without much of a struggle. Before you know it, they’re back at her place with a bottle of tequila, one lime and a knife.
Naz wakes up with a blurry hangover to find himself at a crime scene, with his partner stabbed repeatedly, lying in a pool of blood next to him. It hits you just like it hits him. He leaves but there’s an eyewitness. What happens next, you simply won’t believe.
Naz takes a wrong left turn and gets pulled over by cops. Just as they’re questioning him, the eyewitness from the crime scene alerts the NYPD. The cops put him in their vehicle and rush over to check out the tip off. He sits in the back of that police car like a caged mouse, as detectives and forensics take over the scene, slowly and steadily. No one has connected the two cases yet. But how could they? No one has seen the murder weapon hiding safely inside Naz’s leather jacket yet either.
It’s only a matter of time before his ‘drunk driving’ charge turns into ‘murder’ as the knife with the girl’s blood on it emerges. That’s also when John Turturro, the underdog genius lawyer, comes to his rescue. What makes it better is the fact that something inside you screams all along ‘it’s not as simple as it looks’.
The Night Of already sits proudly on top of IMDB’s list of ‘must-watch’ crime thrillers with a stellar 9.1 rating. The first episode premiered in the US on 10 June, but HBO made it available on its online and on-demand platforms only recently, where it drew 1.5 milllion streamers. The first episode just aired in India on 13 July and is expected to reinvent the genre of murder mysteries. Needless to say, it has nailed its timing, with The Game Of Thrones going off air until next year.
The Night Of, even though finely crafted, gives the viewer great detail and a very real sense of the story. So much so that like all great crime novels, it lets you deconstruct the plot and its characters in a way that allows you to solve the puzzle on your own.
The intelligence and depth of this murder mystery will make you forget the scheming flamboyance of The Game Of Thrones.
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