The Night Of, a new HBO miniseries, hooked people from the beginning – including defense attorneys. The show puts a new twist on the justice system and focuses much of its time on criminal defense. The show is partially a commentary on the justice system and delves into how high profile prisons can change a person. Without giving away too many spoilers, this blog will look at the overarching themes and what makes The Night Of different than other shows dealing with the criminal justice system.
To start, The Night Of is set right here in NYC. The protagonist Nasir “Naz” Khan finds himself as the prime suspect in a murder case after a drug and alcohol fueled night gone wrong. Scared and with no memory of what has happened, he flees the scene, only to end up in police custody. This is where the justice system aspect of the show kicks in. What is so compelling is how it all goes down. Most criminal shows depict perfect scenarios with the audience knowing exactly what is happening. The Night Of tells a different story.
Naz is picked up by police on suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence. Before taking him to the station, the police get a call about a break in, which leads police (and Naz) back to the murder scene. Naz ends up being taken to the station after a few minutes at the scene for booking on a DUI charge. After some tense moments, a weapon is found on him. The police have their murder suspect dropped right in their lap. This scene veers from the normal type of cops catching the bad guys at large and is the start of flipping the genre on its head.
The rest of the show spends a great deal of time with Naz’s criminal case and his defense. Naz has no memory of the night, but he knows he is not guilty. The show does a great job of highlighting just how unfair and perverse the system can be. Naz’s criminal defense attorney advises him to never speak to the police and never believe what they tell him — spot on advice for most, including those wrongfully accused. You don’t normally see this type of honesty in criminal justice shows and it’s quite refreshing.
The Night Of misses the mark a bit with Naz’s trial scenes. For the sake of the story, they turn the courtroom into a dramatic storytelling setting, rather than adhering to common practices. This is to be expected. Although the courtroom has a lot of action and emotion, it is also dry and a bit dull at times, especially to those not directly involved.
Finally, The Night Of shows how prison can change even the most moral people because they are forced to survive in a life-altering environment. It depicts how the innocent will partake in jail politics simply to stay safe. Most television series do not show Rikers Island in a light that comes close to the real-life Rikers Island.
Overall, The Night Of was a gripping show that pulled many in from the start. The real kicker is the show’s commitment to portraying the justice system in a more realistic light. This alone is what attracted lawyers and others within the justice system to check it out.