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Even Though "Limited," 'The Night Of' Should Return
August 29, 2016  | By David Hinckley  | 4 comments
 

[Editor's Note: Details of Sunday's finale of The Night Of are revealed below.]

HBO did one of two things Sunday with The Night Of: It either played us for suckers or set us up for another spin on a great thrill ride.

Me, I’m going for the great thrill ride option. That view, I’m quite sure, is not unanimous.

The Night Of was billed as a “limited series,” meaning among other things that viewers could expect a resolution to the storylines.

That sort-of happened Sunday in the eighth and last episode. Former college student Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmad, right) was set free after being tried for the brutal murder of troubled young Andrea Cornish (Sofia D’Elia Black).

Khan’s jury deadlocked, 6-6, and the prosecution said it would not seek a retrial.

The reason: Prosecutor Helen Weiss (Jeannie Berlin) and lead cop Dennis Box (Bill Camp) had found someone they suddenly thought was a better suspect: a money guy named Ray Halle (Paolo Costanzo), whose earlier appearances had been brief and unsuspicious.

So if someone wanted to do a second series, this engine is all gassed up and ready to roll.

HBO has not said whether it plans a second series. Based on viewership and critical acclaim, you’d think the network would be nuts not to.

If it does, it could follow the Fargo model and create another whole different case. Or, based on what we saw Sunday, it could feature at least some of the same players now trying to track down Halle, who’s a slippery weasel compared to Khan’s original scared bunny.

So here’s a question: Can you satisfyingly wrap up one complex story while setting up its sequel?

Theoretically, yes. In reality, it’s almost impossible.

We learned Sunday that Nas wasn’t convicted, which was nominally the central question in The Night Of. But in fact, the show became sufficiently rich and nuanced that it raised dozens of other questions in which viewers also become invested – and many of them were left dangling.

Nas may be free, but he’s lost. His lawyer, Chandra Kapoor (Amara Karan, right), seems to have thrown away her life and career. We have no idea whether Nas’s mother and father (Poorna Jagannathan and Peyman Moaadi) can put their businesses and lives back together.

Now all this may have been the specific intent of creators Steve Zaillian and Richard Price. They may have been making the point that when lives get shattered, sometimes they can’t be put back together in any orderly way, that people may just have to stumble along until they fall or regain their footing

A second series could make that same point. Or, like most dramas, it could provide a little more resolution.

If John Turturro (top) came back for a second season as low-rent lawyer John Stone – and if I had a vote, I’d say don’t film a single frame without him – he would probably not change. A lonely life, with its bizarre touchstones of a cat and eczema, seems to be his fate, even after Sunday’s finale showed us how much more he could be if he set his sights a little higher.

Turturro’s performance Sunday was one of the reasons I personally find it hard to get angry with The Night Of.

Yes, the show was playing a little dramatic three-card monte with us. Unveiling a pretty-much-new prime suspect at the end of a nine-hour show blindsides us, even if in real life it could happen.

The Night Of also could have given us more background on Kapoor, whose two critical terrible decisions – to kiss Nas and to put him on the witness stand – might have made more dramatic sense if we had seen more of her story and maybe a little less of the eczema support group.

That said, it was the kind of show that made you want to keep watching. The closing arguments, by Stone and Weiss, were brilliant drama. Stone, who found it so stressful he had to go to the hospital first, turned his wise-guy talk into eloquence. Weiss battled her growing moral misgivings even as her argument ignored them.

I’d be delighted to see some or all of these characters again. But I have to admit, if The Night Of returned for a second series that’s a continuation of the first, I might start to get irritated if it turned out Halle didn’t do it either, and the final second-season episode brought in another suspect who set us up for season three.

 
 
 
 
 
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4 Comments
 
 
Yag
I was blow away by John Turturro. His closing argument was one of the best performances I have ever seen. Absolutely WOW
Sep 3, 2016   |  Reply
 
 
Mike
The performances were fabulous, but some of the plotting wasn't so great, and the prison dialogue sounded like TV writers at work. The series could have been better. Turturro and Jeannie Berlin were great, and I especially loved watching Glenne Headly. I'd love to see her character again.
Aug 30, 2016   |  Reply
 
 
Zeke
Sorry--Criminal Justice... Ben Whishaw.. also one with Maxine Peake.
Aug 30, 2016   |  Reply
 
 
Zeke
Once again, the original was British.. but this time the remake was even better than the original (Criminal Intent, Ben Whishaw). Usually the remakes are perfectly awful--- there is a second CI, with a different story.
Aug 30, 2016   |  Reply
 
 
 
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