The Night Of Could Have Been Good But It Was True Detective Instead
It’s hard to remember a better pilot episode than the one we got for The Night Of. Breaking Bad? Homeland? Preacher? All great shows, but the pilot episodes were hardly the standout episodes of any of the listed programs. “The Beach” stands out as not only the best pilot episode in a long time, tensely directed by Steve Zaillian and written by Richard Price, but it also stands as the best episode in the run of The Night Of. You could feel the tension and the terror coursing through Naz, the sheepish protagonist, as he was wrongly arraigned for murder. Remember, this was before perhaps the worst tattooing decision since, well…I guess it actually hasn’t been that long.
It’s understandable that the pilot of The Night Of would end up being the best episode of the series. There’s only eight of them. Following the increasingly-adapted British model, we got a show that had a firm beginning and end that we knew about since before the pilot ever aired. With such a small sample size, having the introduction be the best hour of the series isn’t ludicrous.
However, it is pretty ludicrous to consider just how bad the show would stink from there on out. I wouldn’t say it happened immediately, as hours two through four were still, for the most part, good episodes. But somewhere around the midway point, The Night Of turned from a gripping drama that we haven’t seen the likes of on this side of the Atlantic in a long time to an offshoot of Law & Order that isn’t particularly as good as Criminal Intent (Real L&O Heads Stand Up).
That being said, the show was still fine. It was still better than either season of True Detective, HBO’s previous big-time run at a limited series that turned out to be not so limited after all. Really. Don’t try The Night Of like this HBO. Please! And then came The Kiss. Oh no. What a shit show that was. And what a way to ruin a character that we had spent time (not as much mind you as the time spent on John Stone’s feet) building up over the course of the last month to be a potential hero.
And thennnnnn came the finale
SPOILER WARNING FUCK YOU THE SHOW AIRED LAST NIGHT IDIOTS
BUT REALLY THO
Jumping the Shark: “Jumping the shark” is a pejorative idiom used to describe a moment of television in which there is a gimmick or unlikely occurrence that is seen as a desperate attempt to keep viewers’ interest (thanks Google). In other words, jumping the shark is something that should be entirely avoidable when you have a clear beginning and ending with a fixed period of time to get to each point. To tell us that the likely killer of Andrea was … her financial analyst? The same one we saw briefly working with the case to set up her step-dad? And who was actually Andrea’s boyfriend with a gambling debt who had stolen six figures from her and that had a penchant for getting shot in the balls on a Jewish high holiday because he beat up the wrong pimp’s stripper????
I mean just read that last sentence back one more time. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. I realize that the point of The Night Of isn’t entirely whether or not Naz did it but rather the effect that the criminal justice system has on those in high-security prisons regardless of guilt, and more importantly the effect it has on their loved ones and their community. Sure. Fine. But at the end of the day, the show was at least somewhat interested in who did it. If it wasn’t we wouldn’t have spent the last four episodes caught up in said step dad, or the hearse driver, or Duane Reade (c’mon) who our man John Stone seemingly just walked away from a few episodes back. And so we get Yellow King’d and have the true killer be some monster that arrives in the eleventh hour to bail out Naz despite being right in front of us for weeks now.
I don’t want to bash Richard Price. He’s a brilliant novelist and his work on Child 44 and The Wire speak for itself. But this choice is something that I believe even Nic Pizzolatto would discard after a few minutes to come down off of.
Naz will never be the same. That much is guaranteed after the ending of the show lingered on him copping heroin on the outside and getting high at the same place where he shot the shit with Andrea some amount of time ago. Before The Freddie Files began. Not to mention the tense scene with his mother in his bedroom (for real, give it up for Poorna Jagannathan). Unfortunately, because of this misstep, American television will likely remain the same. The Night Of was, arguably, the Show of Summer. It started off as a wholly new and fresh model in this country that embraced the norms of the medium across the ocean. It could have ushered in an era more friendly and akin to British television. Unfortunately, it was something we’ve seen before.