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The Night Of, Sky Atlantic | reviews, news & interviews

The Night Of, Sky Atlantic

The Night Of, Sky Atlantic

A dark voyage through the heart of American law and order

Wrong side of the law: Riz Ahmed as Naz Khan

On the face of it a murder mystery, The Night Of develops steadily into a panoramic survey of the American justice and prison system and attitudes to race and class. Produced by BBC Drama and HBO, it's based on the BBC's 2008 series Criminal Justice (which starred Ben Whishaw). The good news is you can watch all eight episodes right away on Now TV.

The story so far is that Naz Khan (Riz Ahmed), a shy and unworldly Pakistani-American college student from Queens, New York, has been acccused of murdering 22-year-old Andrea Cornish after he unwisely borrowed his father's taxi for a night out in Manhattan. She climbed into the cab because he didn't know how to switch on the Off Duty lights, they ended up having a brief night of passion fuelled by coke and tequila, then when Naz woke up he found Andrea dead from a savage knife attack.

Dazed, drunk and horrified, Naz fled into the night, turning himself into a treasure-trove of damning evidence as he did so. This was a night on which anything that could go wrong took a sadistic delight in doing so. Hence, Naz was stopped by a patrol car after he made an illegal left turn. Before he could be breathalysed, the cops were called to attend the murder scene from which he'd just escaped and took him with them, though it wasn't until they were about to let him go back at the station that they discovered he was carrying the bloodstained murder weapon. Then an eyewitness happened to remember seeing him with Andrea. Naz and the taxi were teeming with incriminating DNA, and he had Andrea's blood on his hands.

Hardly surprising, then, that sly, opera-loving veteran detective Dennis Box (Bill Camp, pictured above) thinks this is the easiest murder case that ever landed in his lap. Naz's only stroke of good fortune arrived when he was spotted slumped miserably in his cell by hustling defence lawyer John Stone (John Turturro, pictured below, in scene-stealing form), who gave the kid a brisk streetwise crash course in how not to incriminate yourself (essentially you just say "I don't know, ask my lawyer"). As Stone pointed out, indicating the unsentimental machinery of law and order grinding away around them, "you're at a massive disadvantage here".

Much of The Night Of's impact stems from its unhurried observational method and fine detail. Where British drama often tends to guide your responses with signposts and spotlights, this invites you to soak up the grimy, threatening air of police stations, prison buses and cellblocks. Prison warders radiate an air of dead-eyed, latent violence, and police conversations are spattered with casual racist epithets. The DA wants to fast-track Naz's case to the Grand Jury because it's a tabloid editor's Greatest Hits – sex, drugs, rock'n'roll, and the perp is a Muslim.

A shellshocked Naz has now been dispatched to Rikers Island to await trial, but it looks like Stone is off the case. Naz's grief-stricken parents can't afford his budget-price fee of $50,000 and have succumbed to the blandishments of media-grabbing star lawyer Alison Crowe (Glenne Headly), who's promising to defend Naz for free. It's turning into Bonfire of the Vanities II.

For now, surviving Rikers is Naz's top priority. As he was being processed in, the admissions officer asked him: "Are you a civilian? No gang affiliations? In that case good luck to you." Looks like he's going to have to acccept the overtures from ex-boxer Freddy (Michael K Williams), who plays the prison system like a pro and won't take no for an answer.

Read more TV reviews on theartsdesk 

This was a night on which anything that could go wrong took a sadistic delight in doing so


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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