HBO might be known for producing powerhouse serials, with the likes of The Sopranos, The Wire and Game Of Thrones now firmly entrenched in critics’ top 10 of all time lists, but don’t sleep on the mini-series they produce each year.
Those eight-or-so-episode runs can be, and often are, some of the most meticulously crafted pieces of storytelling across any media. Last year, we were treated to the superb Show Me A Hero, an Oscar Isaac-fronted political drama from David Simon, the man behind The Wire – it was full of anger, controversy, but ultimately heart as New York politician Nick Wasicsko juggled the many demands of the people of Yonkers.
Ignoring the underwhelming second season, True Detective is arguably the best piece of television ever made. Nic Pizzolatto’s almost other-worldly unraveling of the case of a Louisiana serial killer captured the minds of millions as Mondays were spent debating the meaning of The Yellow King while Matthew McConaughey gave the performance of a lifetime.
In a nutshell, a Pakistani New Yorker spends the night partying with a mysterious girl whom he meets by chance; shenanigans ensue. When he wakes up, he finds her stabbed to death.
It all sounds very run-of-the-mill, and that’s not particularly surprising considering creator Peter Moffat penned a run of Criminal Justice episodes and the bleak The Village.
But The Night Of is so beautifully shot, astonishingly well acted and paced to perfection, that the near 90-minute pilot leaves you hopelessly wanting for more.
Fans of 2014’s Nightcrawler will have fallen in love with Riz Ahmed’s innocent Rick and been begging to see him expand on that role. Luckily, we now get to see him as Naz, a rabbit-in-the-headlights college student who finds himself in the stickiest of situations.
The narrative’s paced to near perfection as we rise and fall with Naz. His elation is our elation. His fear is our fear. Every little glance away or twitch of an eye has clearly been debated over and over, yet it all feels so effortless – so real.
And it looks beautiful. Robert Elswit was the man behind the camera for films such as There Will Be Blood, Inherent Vice and the aforementioned Nightcrawler, and like those, The Night Of shows New York in an eerie and fantastical gloom, yet crucially feels lived in.
If there’s one common thread to The Night Of it’s that it feels real. And with that realism comes the trepidation, the consequence and the outright dread that comes with Naz’s situation.
We may be only an hour-and-a-half in, but The Night Of has all the hallmarks of becoming an instant TV classic – the definition of a must watch.