It’s all about point of view. Something that underwhelmed me about STRANGER THINGS was the lack of clear boundaries around point of view. It was omniscient and restrained, a combination that I find very frustrating as a viewer - it feels like you’re being withheld from the story rather than following along with it.
THE NIGHT OF manages perspective wonderfully. You’re along with Nas during the night of the murder and are exposed to what he’s exposed to. You don’t know if he killed her because he doesn’t know if he killed her. No one knows if he killed her - it’s brilliant. In this way the audience is taken on an intellectually honest journey through the minutia of the criminal justice system. The facts, evidence, and behavior of Nas all became crucial breadcrumbs for deciding for yourself - did he or you’d he have killed her?
He starts as a very innocent “good” kid and progresses into a harder, darker person. Is that the prison system or has the hardened interior been there all along? Was his fights in school indicators of things to come or simply post-911 defense?
These types of questions keep the show consistently compelling and engaging through it’s slow, but intense, pace.
The character development is brilliant with amazing acting and characters who each are trying to do their jobs righteously by the best efforts. There’s no good vs bad - just everyone trying to figure out what the truth is. It’s a refreshing presentation of what feels like a more realistic presentation of the criminal justice system.
Defense attorney’s aren’t scum, and the DA isn’t the knight - everyone has a conscious and is trying to do right by themselves and the accused.
There’s enough drama to keep it from getting dry as well - mostly related to the prison life - murders, suicides, drug smuggling, lawyers who overstep - that felt not entirely fresh but excited and visceral nonetheless.
John Stone is an amazing character - his constant battle with excema and allergies provides a light hearted but still tender subplot that adds depth to his persona and a nice escape from the severity of the prosecution. His sacrifice of his own comfort of the preservation of the cat is an touching way to end the series and underscores the theme of love vs suffering and sacrifice for the greater good - but perhaps most importantly that life is unfair, but fuck it move along - as John eloquently says to Naz in the bodega.
An excellent, beautiful exploration of the fallibility of humans despite their best intentions.
Cinematically I found myself quite often struck but the beauty of the compositions. Racking focus and shallow focus were used quite often as well - occasionally brilliantly and occasionally in a way I found distracting. The cool dark pallate combined with the composition and focus - as well as purely artistic framing from time to time - kept the show feeling dramatic, moody, and claustrophobic.
It’s the kind of show I wish didn’t have to end (it’s a limited series) but maybe it’s best that it does because the result is something very tightly structured and wound. The introduction of a more likely suspect in the final episode offers some potential for another series or a continuation - but the best part is is that it offered key motivation for the DA to pass on further prosecuting Naz.
There’s also some compelling and under-told views into the repercussions of having a family member convicted of murder or being a defense attorney for a high profile murder(er). It’s the sacrifices we make for the ones we love and for what we feel is right (back to the beautiful cat ending). I
Great great storytelling, photography, and editing - in particular the pacing.
I just finished and want to watch it again.