The Night Of, starring Riz Ahmed as college student, Nasir Khan, a young wide-eyed boy of Pakistani descent, who steals his father’s taxi to drive himself to a party in New York leading to a series of tumultuous events, is one of the most binge worthy and gritty serial dramas I have seen in a long time. The show exposes the predatory nature of the justice system in America, in particular the experiences of people of colour. Nasir, although innocent, is dragged into the violent, abusive, and monstrous world of a male prison, transforming him from a clean cut intelligent college student into a cocaine addict, hateful, hurt and eventually leaving prison with a mountain of mental health issues. I have to admit bias as Ahmed is one of my favourite actors, after watching Four Lions, and his stint on GIRLS, his natural on screen presence, talent as actor, and London accent makes me fan girl a little too much. It was also so great to see an actor of South Asian descent take the lead in an American HBO series as a protagonist deferring away from stereotypical portrayals of South Asian characters in Western television shows.
The plot is simple which maintains the grey realism throughout, and allows for great intricacy later on. As Nasir drives his father’s taxi, a young woman hops into the back of the car thinking Nasir to be an on duty driver. He seems taken by the opportunity to spend the night with a beautiful woman and drives her around New York. They spend the evening drinking against the backdrop of New York’s streets, and take various drugs. Nasir drives her back to her place. They play a game of manoeuvring a knife between their fingers whilst placed on the table, and eventually have sex. Nasir then awakens in the middle of the night to finds a bloody scene, gruesome and inescapable. The woman dead, and has been stabbed 22 times. Blood covers the whole bed and her entire body. Nasir does not remember killing her. The purpose of The Night Of isn’t to figure out who did it, who killed the victim, but instead it is to showcase the struggle of Nasir, a young Muslim boy of South Asian descent, as he goes into criminal justice system innocent and slowly transforms into a hardened criminal as a mechanism to survive in prison. His lawyer, Jack Stone (John Turturro), is as useless as his eczema ridden itchy feet. He’s divorced, and regularly sleeps with prostitutes. He never wins cases and is a lawyer who seems to toil only for a fee but one look at Nasir’s pure and scared face seems to push him to see his Ahmed’s innocence.
The grey pallet of the show is perfect of what The Night Of aim to speak for, which is how poorly Muslims are treated within the American prison system, which is fundamentally flawed. Prejudice on all spectrums, when present in ignorance can invade every action of our of lives, whether it be in our mannerisms towards one another, or in the place of work, our education system, which in turn shapes the lives and self images we project into future generations. Ultimately unintended consequences of those prejudices can ruin lives. The Night Of is an amazing show, you will not regret giving Nasir your time.