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Series / The Night Of

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"The truth doesn't help you"

"Even if you can't remember anything, you'd know it, you'd feel it. I'm not a murderer."
Naz
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The Night Of is a 2016 miniseries produced by HBO and BBC Worldwide, based on the 2008 BBC series Criminal Justice.

The series stars Riz Ahmed as Nasir Khan, a sheltered Pakistani-American college kid who is accused of brutally murdering a young woman he had a one-night stand with. John Turturro co-stars as John Stone, an Ambulance Chaser who jumps at the chance to be his lawyer.

Tropes:

  • Accidental Kiss: Chandra kisses Naz without really thinking about it during one of their meetings. She backs away shortly after coming to her senses and realizing what a terrible, terrible idea it is.
  • Agony of the Feet: A great deal of focus is given to the eczema on Stone's feet, which is extreme enough that he cannot wear normal shoes or socks.
  • Alone with the Psycho: Chandra goes to interview a witness, but once she discovers he's intensely misogynistic and believes women like Andrea deserve whatever happens to them, she becomes uncomfortably aware of being alone in a dark room with him, and immediately backs off asking questions that suggest he's a suspect.
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  • As the Good Book Says...: The mortician references Judges 16 in regard to Andrea. Chandra looks it up, and it's the story of Samson and Delilah (also referenced in the episode title).
  • Ambiguously Brown: People have a hard time with Nasir's race, mistaking him for Egyptian, Arab and others. He's Pakistani-American.
  • Ambulance Chaser: John Stone spends his time trawling police precincts to recruit hookers and pushers as clients. One policeman makes a crack that Stone should run out and chase an ambulance siren he just heard.
  • Amoral Attorney:
    • Stone is willing to use illegal means, such as lying to witnesses and paying off a patient to photograph medical files.
    • Crowe isn't shown to use illegal methods, but her morality is suspect. She recruits an Indian associate to act as a "prop" to gain the Khans' trust and then dumps Nasir's case the second things don't go her way.
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  • Asian Rudeness: The shopkeeper of the traditional Chinese medicine store is blunt and rude to Stone.
  • Attention Whore: Alison Crowe, a high-profile attorney who takes on cases with gratuitous media coverage for publicity purposes.
  • Beneath Suspicion: It's heavily implied that Andrea's financial adviser is the killer. He was interviewed in an earlier episode as part of Stone's investigation of Andrea's father.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing:
    • Box plays nice with Nasir to try and convince him to confess while Nasir is in police custody. He drops the act after Nasir refuses to do so and is brutally mean to almost everyone else for most of the rest of the series.
    • Alison Crowe is this to the Khan family, though it's clear to the viewer that she's not a great person right from the start.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Nasir has been released, but he's alienated himself from his friends, family and community, acquired a drug addiction, and still mourns Andrea. Stone has decided not to care about what other people think of him, earning him some peace, but little apparent happiness, though he has adopted Andrea's cat. Box has been beaten down by his job so much that he quits and gets a menial job as a security guard, but teams with the DA to chase down the real killer. Chandra has lost her job and her career is possibly ruined.
  • Byronic Hero: As the series progresses, this is John Stone: he's a grumpy, seemingly-bottom feeding lawyer who is divorced, lives alone, isn't terribly happy with himself and worried about how others think of him, and is afflicted with a pronounced case of eczema that basically isolates him from most people. He's also willing to take a flier on Naz's innocence, goes WAY beyond his job responsibilities to gather evidence, and delivers an absolutely killer closing argument that probably saved Naz's freedom. Also, he adopts Andrea's abandoned cat, despite being allergic.
  • Dies Wide Open: Andrea's eyes are wide open after death.
  • Dr. Jerk: In line with the show's themes, the doctors that Stone sees are generally rude to him. Extra points to the Chinese alternative medicine practitioner, who indulges in Asian Rudeness.
  • Epic Fail: Chandra's decision to put Naz on the stand is supposed to engender jury sympathy, despite Stone's pleading not to do it. He's proven right: the prosecutor coldly and efficiently cross-examines Naz, painting him as unreliable, manipulative and self-centered, and even gets him to doubt his own innocence ("Did you kill her?" "I don't know"). It goes so badly that Chandra is shown trying not to tear up in court, and Stone is furious at the easily avoidable error the whole exercise was.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • Nasir gets a montage where he does fairly banal and innocent things, such as attend college, cheer the school team at practice and debate his brother on sports during a family dinner, establishing him as a regular, wholesome young man. This impression is called into question throughout the series, with revelations that Nasir uses Adderall and was expelled from one high school for pushing a classmate down a flight of stairs.
    • While crime scene investigators arrive at Andrea's house to thumping hip-hop music, Detective Dennis Box is playing classical music.
    • Alison Crowe is introduced smoothly delivering a victory speech to a media scrum and even trying to point out the hypocrisy of a journalist asking her a question, establishing her as a capable and intelligent yet attention-mongering attorney.
    • The first we see of Freddy is his Luxury Prison Suite, featuring clippings of his boxing past and his collection of contraband cell phones.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Freddy is introduced as a wise, charming guy who has Naz's safety as a priority. However, as the series progresses, it's clear he cares only about himself and has very little respect for the lives of others.
  • Femme Fatale: Andrea is described as such in deeply misogynistic fashion by the mortician from the gas station, who compares her to Delilah. He claims to have "dealt with women like [that] all [his] life", and even suggests Chandra might be one just because she dares to confront him.
  • Foreshadowing: Chandra gets drunk and vents about just breaking up with her boyfriend, apparently still emotional about it. This sets up her impulsively kissing Nasir later.
  • Friendly Enemy: Stone is on friendly terms with judges and even a top DA. A judge congratulates him on getting a high-profile case, and the DA gives sympathy to Stone after Crowe mocks him in court.
  • "Friends" Rent Control:
    • Stone has a large and nice apartment in New York City despite the fact that he's said to have reported only $60,000 in earnings last year, half of that yet to be collected. One of his contacts notes that he's riddled with debt.
    • Justified and Discussed regarding Andrea; the huge brownstone she lives in despite never having a steady job is an inheritance from her very wealthy mother. Box finds this out early on, but does nothing with the information, as he's focused on Naz. It's only when Stone asks the same questions that he finds information arousing suspicion about her Gold Digger stepfather.
  • Gold Digger: Andrea's financial adviser accuses her step-father of being one due to his long history of shacking up with rich, older women.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Stone critically describes how Detective Box stays just inside the limits of the law to do better at his job. He says this just a scene or two after insisting that Nasir not tell him what actually happened so that he isn't limited to arguing the truth in court.
    • Stone's pitch to the Khans includes criticizing lawyers who churn through clients by copping quick pleas to maximize their profits. As we've seen, Stone is just this sort of attorney: trawling for low-effort cases and copping pleas.
    • Crowe claims that Stone doesn't care about the case and will extort the Khans of money just to get Naz a plea deal, whereas she will fight for Naz free of charge. After getting the charges reduced, she tries to intimidate Naz into taking the plea deal without doing very much work on the case at all. After Naz refuses, she throws the case into an associate's lap and tells the Khans she's going to start charging them.
    • Additionally, Crowe's criticism of Stone as an ambulance chaser. Replace "ambulance" with "news van" and she's pretty much the same thing.
  • Important Haircut: Nasir buzzes off his hair to present a tougher image in jail. Stone isn't happy to see his "good boy" client start looking like a thug. In the next episode a character compares Andrea to Delilah, making Naz Samson.
  • Innocent Innuendo: When a man in Stone's support group says he's "holding his own" in his dating life, Stone notes that it's an unfortunate choice of words.
  • It's Personal: When Naz asks Chandra if she's just defending him for the money, she denies it, then shyly kisses him.
  • Kick the Dog: Crowe mocks Stone in court and snaps angrily at Nasir's father before quitting Nasir's case and telling his parents that her firm will start charging them.
  • Knuckle Tattoos: Nasir gets three-fingered tattoos on each hand while in prison as he slowly transforms into a thug under the influence of Freddy.
  • Law Procedural: The first episode is "the night of" the crime, and the rest of the series is the legal consequences.
  • Left Hanging: While the show ends at the conclusion of the trial, a lot of the characters' futures are still up in the air. Does Nasir reconcile with his family and community? Does he straighten out or spiral out of control? Does his father get his taxi back? Does Box ever catch the real killer? Does Chandra manage to save her career? Only Stone's future seems pretty set.
  • Light Is Good: Invoked. Stone is alarmed when Nasir comes in for the first day of his trial in a blue shirt. He insists that Nasir always wear white shirts to appear innocent, going as far as to give Nasir his own light-colored shirt while the jury files in.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Subverted. Trevor says that the name of his companion was "Duane Reade" while sitting across the street from a Duane Reade pharmacy. Stone calls him on it, but later discovers that it is the man's name.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Stone suffers erectile dysfunction due to taking steroids for his eczema. He buys some black market Viagra to compensate.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: While other prisoners sleep on cots in the communal room, Freddy has a private cell featuring a television and quite a bit of furniture.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Subverted. Andrea behaves a lot like one, taking Nasir out of his shell and on a midnight adventure, but she's a damaged person and ends up getting murdered. It's also revealed in the finale that on the night she jumped into Naz's cab, she was in fear for her life — she latched onto him as a way to protect herself, and possibly in part to escape from her own worries.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The tall brute in Nasir's first holding cell is named Hightower.
    • In spite of being a rather sleazy lawyer, John Stone has the strong, all-American name of a pulp hero. He turns out to be much more supportive to Nasir than his high-power attorney.
    • Alison Crowe seems to be on the up-and-up, but turns out to be a scavenger who is only interested in using Nasir. She also loves "crowing" to the media to aggrandize herself.
  • Motif: Eyes and seeing.
    • Nasir's large, brown, innocent eyes are frequently focused on and sometimes commented on.
    • The stuffed horse head's glass eye is given several insert shots, including one in the opening credits.
    • CCTV camera footage factors heavily into the story.
    • Andrea Dies Wide Open, as seen in many coroner photographs.
    • Characters are frequently shown fixedly staring at things, particularly on "the night of," with plot significance:
      • Duane Reade stares at Andrea and Nasir going into Andrea's house, leading characters to wonder if he was planning to rob them.
      • The coroner stares at Andrea for a while, leading characters to wonder if he'd developed a spontaneous grudge against her.
      • In the final episode, Box watches CCTV footage of Andrea glancing at something off-screen, giving him a lead. He freeze-frames on her looking into the camera.
      • Nasir receives many a Death Glare from people in prison and his own community.
  • An Offer You Can't Refuse: Freddy offers his protection to Nasir after painstakingly explaining that without it, he'll be murdered.
  • Off on a Technicality: Sort of. The final verdict in Naz's trial is a deadlocked jury. Six-six split. The only reason that Naz avoids another trial is because the DA decides not to re-file charges. It is heavily implied that, if she had, Naz would have been found guilty. However, it turns out he was innocent.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Nasir delivers one to the guy who burned him, with the help of Freddy.
  • Pet the Dog: Stone takes in Andrea's cat, even though he's allergic. He buys it toys, plays with it through a door, and even dons a face mask and dishwashing gloves to pet it. In the finale episode Stone dumps the cat back at the pound, but the final shot reveals that he eventually takes it back.
  • Phrase-Catcher: Wherever anyone else would get a "How you doing?", Stone gets "How's the feet?"
  • Porn Stash: Nasir's mother searches his room and discovers a stack of Maxim magazines hidden in his closet. He's so innocent that he doesn't even have real porn in his porn stash.
  • Punch-Clock Hero: A recurring theme is that people in the criminal justice system are all just doing their jobs. We see many of them behaving surly, bored, tired or generally just putting in their nine-to-five before clocking out, which stands in direct contrast to the people they interact with, who are going through the worst period in their lives. Stone and Box spend the series gradually moving away from the trope. In the series finale, the trope is discussed when a police officer suggests making a show about a cop who "doesn't give a shit." Overhearing him inspires the now-retired Box to put in some last-minute work to find the real killer.
    Cop in Bar: Hey, you want to do something original? How about a series with a cop who doesn't give a shit? Punches out, comes home, has dinner with his family, bangs the wife, and sleeps like a log. You write a show like that, and the job will throw you a parade.
  • Race Fetish: John Stone has a thing for black women. His ex-wife is black, and he's seen sleeping with a black prostitute. When he mentions "young urban women," Chandra notes how "well-spoken" he is with that term. In the series finale, after Stone has decided to not care what other people think about him, he sits across from a black woman in the subway and scratches his eczema without embarrassment.
  • Red Herring: Duane Reade, Don Taylor and the coroner are all alternative suspects presented by the defense. The real murderer is strongly implied to not be any of them or Nasir.
  • Running Gag:
    • Multiple people using the exact same wording to Stone when talking about Nasir's case:
      • People keep describing Stone as being in the "right place, right time" to pick up Nasir as a client.
      • People saying that Crowe landed a "sweetheart" of a deal for Nasir's plea.
    • People bringing up how one of the arresting officers puked at the crime scene, and him insisting that he only gagged.
    • Whenever Stone mentions that he has taken in the victim's cat, he then offers, "You want him?"
    • Stone's local pharmacist is a total jerk who likes making fun of his various health concerns.
  • Scary Black Man: Nasir meets a few, including two on "the night of" the murder as well as a number in jail. Chandra is deeply uncomfortable around the mortician from the gas station once he starts talking about certain women deserving to be put in their place.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: One of the young arresting officers writes her report like this, in an apparent attempt to sound official. Detective Box tells her to rewrite it in simple language so the jury can understand it.
  • Shout-Out: While listening to Chandra talk about breaking up with her boyfriend, he mentions Meatloaf's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," but Chandra doesn't get the reference.
  • Take That!: The show contains at least two cracks at the Nation of Islam:
    • Someone states that Nasir is a "real" Muslim, not just a member of the Nation of Islam.
    • Freddy states that members of the Nation of Islam at Riker's secretly resent Nasir because he was born a Muslim and didn't just convert for protection and better food like them.
  • Tattooed Crook: Nasir gets a number of tattoos to fit in with the jail population. Stone laments them, because they'll make him less sympathetic to the jury. He has to address it in his closing speech, saying that they're part of "surviving" jail.
  • That One Case: Something about Naz's case eats at Stone, and eventually at Box too, causing both of them to put time into it even when they're off the clock.
  • Tranquil Fury: Stone's reaction to Chandra's decision to put Naz on the stand. As they sit outside the courtroom, on benches that face each other, he barely talks above a whisper, and Chandra cannot meet his eye.
    Stone: You know, at the beginning, I thought we had a 10 percent shot. Now? Zero. You just convicted him.
  • Trouser Space: Chandra agrees to help smuggle things in and out of jail for Naz so he can get Freddie's protection inside. She puts them inside of her vagina for this.
  • The Un-Reveal: Stone lists a number of types of people that defense attorneys should never allow in a jury, several of which he explains. When Chandra asks "Why sailors?" the show cuts to the next scene.
  • This Is the Part Where...: When John's steroids cause The Loins Sleep Tonight, he says "This is where the guy stares at the ceiling and says, 'That's never happened to me before,' and the girl touches his arm and says, 'It's okay. It happens.'"
  • Vomiting Cop: One of Nasir's arresting officers runs from the crime scene and is seen dry heaving on the street. A Running Gag has him constantly denying that he actually threw up, but in episode three he finally admits that he did. The trope is then deliberately exploited by Box: when the cop asks to leave the detail out of his report, he's told to leave it in, because it humanizes him as a witness and thus helps the prosecution's case.
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