5 Reasons to Watch HBO's Gripping New Crime Drama 'The Night Of'

Looking for your next TV obsession? HBO's riveting criminal justice drama The Night Of is it

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

After our collective curiosity was piqued by the real-life crime stories featured in HBO’s The Jinx, Serial and Netflix’s Making a Murderer, fans of the crime story genre, whether fact or fiction-based, need a new fix.

Enter HBO’s new limited series The Night Of. Based on the BAFTA-winning BBC series Criminal Justice, which was created by Peter Moffat, The Night Of revolves around a fictitious murder in New York City. It is an eight-part examination of the criminal justice system, which follows the police investigation, legal proceedings and the complex, harrowing existence on Rikers Island where the accused murderer Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed) awaits trial.

The storytelling is suspenseful and cinematic; the characters complex and layered, with plot twists and turns that will keep viewers guessing throughout each of the eight episodes. Here are five reasons to watch this compelling series.

1. You’re an armchair detective in need of a new crime to ponder

For anyone who enjoys trying to figure out “whodunit” while watching crime dramas play out, The Night Of keeps viewers guessing throughout the entirety of the series. The first episode lays out the entire crime via Nasir’s perspective, giving audiences plenty of “evidence” to side with Nasir. As the series progresses, we learn that many things are not as they seem, including the efficacy of the criminal justice system.

2. John Turturro

Turturro plays a quirky ambulance chaser-type attorney named Jack Stone who lucks into defending Nasir. Turturro’s performance makes Stone almost instantly sympathetic, no matter the lawyer’s lack of legal skill and reputation. The role was originally a passion project for James Gandolfini, who was slated to star in and produce the series until his death in 2013. The late Sopranos star, who was a longtime friend of Turturro’s, is still credited as an executive producer.

3. Minimal time commitment

This limited series is just that – limited. There are only eight episodes. It is the perfect show for those looking for a seasonal viewing commitment with no multiple season-extending strings.

4. Newcomer Riz Ahmed

Known mainly for his scene-stealing turn opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in 2014’s unsettling drama Nightcrawler, Ahmed’s star is well on the rise. With a role in the next Star Wars film Rogue One, as well as Jason Bourne, Hollywood has already taken notice of the English actor’s talents (he’s also excellent in the 2010 dark comedy Four Lions). TV audiences will not be far behind after watching him in The Night Of. Nasir’s evolution – as well as Ahmed’s performance – is innocent, heartbreaking and eye-opening.

5. A different perspective on the prison culture narrative

Nasir’s time at Rikers on The Night Of reminds us, lest we forget, that jail is scary. Life-hardening. Traumatic. Orange is the New Black this is not. This series’ hard knocks, real-world dramatic take on the prison culture narrative is welcome, if at times hard to watch. It is further enhanced by another terrific turn by Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire.

The Night Of airs Sundays (9 p.m. ET) on HBO.

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