With the mega-hit series “Game of Thrones” soon coming to an end, you might be worried that HBO will never have a hit show again.
This past Sunday, we got a glimpse of HBO’s potential future with the pilot episode of “The Night Of.” And that future looked good.
“The Night Of” is only a miniseries, but it is a must-see.
The show centres around Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed), a Pakistani-American college student who lives in Queens. While he mostly lives a risk-free life, he decides to take his dad’s cab out for a joy ride on evening and by the end of the night, he’s a suspect for murder.
Meanwhile, the sandal-wearing lawyer Jack Stone (John Turturro) comes to his defence, looking to win a nearly impossible case.
It has one of the strongest pilot episodes in recent memory.
All of the events above take place in just one episode. It’s 79 minutes long, the equivalent of a very short movie or a very long episode of television, again showing how HBO is constantly blurring the line between the two formats.
The episode itself is a masterclass in suspense.
Unlike most crime dramas, it seems clear from the beginning that Nasir will be accused of committing a murder. It’s not a shocking twist saved for the final minutes. The question of when it will happen hangs over your head throughout, creating almost unbearable tension until the final shot, which strangely feels like a punchline. It would feel out of place if it didn’t feel like a brief sigh of comic relief.
At first, you might not know if you’re ready to watch a whole season of this. By the end, you’re ready to watch it all at once.
It’s subversive, like HBO’s past hits.
“The Night Of” could have been simply a fictionalized version of “Serial” or “Making a Murderer,” but after just one episode, it already feels like so much more.
HBO’s other game-changing dramas have also defied their genres. “The Sopranos” turned gangsters on their head by setting the show in a modern New Jersey suburb. “Game of Thrones,” meanwhile, changed fantasy in more ways than one.
But “The Night Of” is not exactly the future of HBO. Instead, the eight-episode miniseries shows that HBO has a future. Sure, it looked dire when the network put all of its hopes in “True Detective” only to watch the show squander all its potential in its disastrous second season. However, things also didn’t look great for HBO after “The Sopranos” ended in 2006, as the company had no other big dramas on the horizon. People were nervous then, and they are nervous now.
HBO’s magic is that it can deliver shows you didn’t realise you wanted, when you don’t expect them. Dropping something as explosive as “The Night Of” in the middle of summer is a gift.
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