With a cerebral blend of drama, thriller, mystery, and crime, HBO’s The Night Of (2016) is the best mini-series I’ve ever seen. This isn’t to say that the competition is weak. HBO alone boasts many top contenders, from Band of Brothers (2001) to Chernobyl (2019). However, with just eight episodes, The Night Of is on its own level. It racked up Emmy wins for everything from acting to cinematography to editing. But what makes it so brilliant and unique isn’t any of these aspects. The standout feature is, quite simply, how the story is told. The show follows Naz, a student in New York who’s just trying to find friends and enjoy life outside class. He is picked on for being a Muslim. But one night, he is invited to a party by his basketball team. He sneaks out, using his father’s taxi to get to the party. A mysterious girl gets in at a stop, thinking that he’s an on-duty driver. She requests to go to “the beach,” dropping flirty hints. Sensing a chance with a beautiful girl, Naz obliges.
They drive up to a scenic view of the George Washington Bridge, where they get out. She offers him drugs. They take them. Soon they end up at her apartment in the Upper West side. They drink, they hook up, they go to her room, and Naz blacks out. He wakes up in the kitchen at 5 am. He has no idea what happened. He goes to her room to get his stuff. She is dead. Blood is everywhere. Her body is mutilated. Naz panics. He knows he would never do that. And yet it looks like he did it. He runs outside, only to break back in after realizing he left his keys. A neighbor calls 9-1-1 after hearing the break-in. With a now-bleeding hand, Naz grabs the knife ostensibly used to kill her and speeds away. He is pulled over for driving drunk. They find the knife. He is charged with murder.
The rest of the series follows the investigation, trial, media coverage, public reaction, and more. Viewers are given the infinite fractals of insight and conjecture as attempts to recollect the night materialize. Meanwhile, Naz discovers a new world. He builds a life in jail; he has to toughen up and build connections to survive—while maintaining his innocent persona in an uphill legal battle. The show is filled with twists. The depth with which it conveys the judicial process and prison life is groundbreaking. The quality of everything from the acting to the music is incredible. The plot perpetually expands as testimonies and more info are introduced, while the focus on characters gets closer to each one’s core. The trailer doesn’t give much away, but it is a nice teaser for this masterpiece. Don’t miss it.