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The Night Of? More Like Law and Order: Eight-Hour Unit! - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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August 15th, 2017


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11:20 pm - The Night Of? More Like Law and Order: Eight-Hour Unit!
The Night Of begins with a pilot as exquisite as any independent film, absorbing and gripping despite never, as the AV Club reviewer put it, raising its voice. We follow Nasir Khan, a Pakistani Muslim college student in New York who "borrows" his father's taxi to go to a party and ends up picking up a Gothic Pixie Dream Girl who takes him on a little adventure. That leads back to her place. Where things happen. And then Nasir—Naz—wakes up to discover she's been murdered. Did he do it? It sure as hell looks like he did.

Through the rest of the miniseries, we follow several different characters. John Stone, the Saul Goodman-esque lawyer who takes Naz's case. Dennis Box, the soon-to-be-retired detective who investigates Naz's case. Naz's parents, who must search inside themselves as to what they believe about their son's guilt or innocence while weathering the racist shitstorm that results from a Muslim man being accused of murdering a pretty young white girl. Chandra Kapoor, another lawyer attached to Naz's case. And Naz himself, as he tries to survive in prison before and during the trial.

Here is the curious and masterful thing about this series: at (almost) no point does anyone with the exception of Naz, who repeatedly says he did not do it, declare whether they think he is guilty or innocent. The truth of the matter becomes irrelevant in a court of law; all that matters is what you can prove or fail to prove. The Night Of is at its best in the moments when it shows the justice system in its non-idealized form, laying the inherent injustice bare. All of these people serving law and order are there to do their jobs, and to do their jobs they must be right, they must win, and Naz is not the pawn but the fucking chessboard.

But you throw a chessboard into Riker's, and bad things happen.

The Night Of can be extraordinary at times, elevating the simple detective work or courtroom scenes we've seen in police procedurals time and time again. It can also be less than extraordinary, as with a distracting plotline about Stone's eczema that maybe is supposed to have metaphorical resonance but takes up more screentime than anything involving Naz's parents. I also found the prison plotline, pointed as it was, to be absurdly accelerated. To crib from the AV Club again, it was best when it felt least like a television show, and various moments rang false and untrue. While not entirely successful, The Night Of provokes more thought than your typical procedural and does it with visual panache and an assured sense of atmosphere.
Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Current Music: Conjure One - Make a Wish

(Describe me as "inscrutable")


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