The Night Of recently held its finale on HBO. It’s an eight episode miniseries about Nasir (Naz) Khan who is arrested and tried for the murder of a girl that he met one night after he stole his dad’s cab to drive to a party in Manhattan. Naz is in his early twenties, attends college, and happens to be Pakistani-American and a Muslim.
There is one thing of significance to this series right from the start:
Naz wasn’t arrested for anything to do with terrorism! That’s right, Muslims can be tried for the regular murder stuff too! *High Five* We’re moving on up!
Seriously though, it’s such a big deal to not have a Muslim being portrayed as someone who prays on TV and then blows something up, as if the two go hand in hand. I was so surprised when The X-Files went with this obvious terrorist storytelling trope when they aired a few episodes recently. They couldn’t have made the dude an alien? It’s like they had to cash in on this with a “see what we did there? We came back after years off the air with this! We’re so hip we made the Muslim guy a terrorist!” as if no one had ever thought of that ever.
Pitch: A Movie/ TV ep that starts w a Muslim guy praying & then it turns out he's a normal guy & the story has nothing to do with terrorism.
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) February 17, 2016
Back to The Night Of –
I loved the first episode. I thought everything about it, the pacing of the episode especially, was brilliant. Overall as a series, I’m in the minority as I thought it was just okay. I kept on waiting for the episodes to match the potential that the first episode projected and for me, that never manifested.
I wasn’t a fan of the courtroom scenes in particular. In the era where real life courtroom drama – from what we heard on the podcast Serial to the courtroom scenes we saw in Making a Murderer on Netflix – can be a lot more arresting than fiction is a bit disappointing. Also, I get that Naz’s lawyer, Chandra Kapoor, was new but I can’t believe what she did and didn’t do as Naz’s lawyer. I say this without ever having seen a brand new lawyer in action, not one like Kapoor who was dropped into a situation she didn’t plan for in the first place, having had a case dumped on her from her superior.*
I did enjoy the acting all around though. It’s always, always awesome to see Michael Kenneth Williams in anything. I just need to stop thinking of as him Omar as he so is much more beyond his character in The Wire but I can’t help it. Riz Ahmed was riveting as Naz, no question, and it’s always nice to see him on screen. Looking forward to seeing him next in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. If the Star Wars universe can have someone from a squid-like race being an Admiral on a star ship, well then it’s about time someone with a Pakistani background made their way into the universe.
The Night Of is over but can probably be watched through HBO Now or HBO On Demand if you have that. It’s currently trending at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes so like I said, I am in the minority with my “just okay” reaction to it.
One minor gripe: At one point, Williams’ character mentioned that a lot of people in prison say they are innocent the way Naz maintained his innocence. However, from what I have heard people in the prison system, including a former prison chaplain, say is that most prisoners don’t actually say that. Someone maintaining their innocence after they have been convicted if they actually did do the crime is meant to be pretty rare.
*I have seen Suits and about 5 seasons of The Good Wife though. That’s gotta count for something…