I was at a party my senior year of college when a freshman girl paused after taking a long sip from her PBR tall boy to tell me I reminded her of Miranda. A noticeable chill fell over those involved in the conversation; it was clear to the group that I had been insulted. When I recounted the story to friends over breakfast the next day, the reaction was more of the same.
It was universally understood that the only “good” results when taking a “Which Sex And The City Character are You?” Quiz on Buzzfeed were Carrie and Charlotte – Samantha barely acceptable, if you reported your results with tongue firmly in cheek. But God help you if you got Miranda. Most likely you’d refresh the quiz and start over, settling for Magda or Stanford, and never speak of it again. But we live in a post-“Lemonade” world now – the idea of feminism and the unruly woman go hand in hand. I couldn’t help but wonder…is Miranda actually the most modern gal of the bunch?
In college, I was on the Mock Trial team. It shares similarities with a debate team, except in the format of a trial. Each year, you’re given a fictional case, with fictional witnesses. You perform cross examinations and closing arguments before judges and get scored on everything from the logic of your argument, to your auditory skills, to whether you wore the correct tie (seriously). I bring this up because it colors how I view The Night Of. I am, by no means, a lawyer – at best, Mock Trial gave me a base understanding of the law and trial processes – but after a few years of pretending to be lawyer, I’ve realized I view this show in a pragmatic way.
I haven’t been as invested in the emotional beats of the show as much as the legal ones. To be clear, the emotional beats are there. The show has hit hardest when following the destruction of the Khan family. Poorna Jagannathan’s blank stare at the throng of reporters outside her home was devastating in its simplicity. Peyman Moaddi’s bewilderment when he learns his son must withdraw from school because of the violent actions of others. Their lives have been turned upside down because of something Naz is accused of doing. But in The Night Of, just like the real world, there is no presumption of innocence, and as a result, Naz’s family has suffered as much as he has.
It took only three episodes for The Night Of to move on from the grisly murder of the premier and focus on the repercussions of the homicide. In an earlier draft, I wanted to write that night set forth “a wild sequence of events.” Then I deleted it immediately. Because they’re not wild, or unique. The Night Of revels in the understated, both in its story and the color of its cinematic palette.
The Night Of is a story of binaries. It’s the tale of a naïve boy’s first encounter with the legal system and characters that are jaded after years under the crushing weight of the oppressive structure. It’s a story told in the subtly of Jack Stone’s smirk as he begins the biggest case of his career and the blunt reality that comes from the fist of a prison inmate. It’s both the story of the truth and tales lawyers will concoct before a jury of Naz’s peers.
This last binary is what begins the second episode. As Naz tries to explain the circumstances that led him to his prison sell, Stone interrupts him by saying, “I don’t want to be stuck with the truth.” The truth isn’t important, not for the court and not for the viewer. We already know the truth. Well, most of it. The first episode gave the audience an objective telling of the night in question. We saw Naz travel the streets of New York in his father’s cab. We saw him pick up the girl, swallow the pill, have sex. The only part we didn’t see was the graphic homicide. That’s the only truth we are interested in. But as Stone said, that truth does not matter.
What is Mr. Robot about? Is it simply about a group of hackers cosplaying Fight Club attempting to overthrow the world economic order? That description would be a clean and timely elevator pitch, but the hacking is only a jumping-off point. Sam Esmail, Mr. Robot’s creator and show runner, has asserted that the show was inspired by the Arab Spring. It’s possible that Esmail is trying to use Mr. Robot to make a statement about revolutions in general.
Yet, the show is set within the United States, and the action primarily takes place within New York City. Despite a recent streak of loud and angry political movements, there is no revolution in America, yet; just plenty of discontent about technological dependence, income inequality and a widening generation gap. Mr. Robot undeniably taps into all of the above.
“Hey, have you seen The Wire? No? It’s the best show ever.”
If you’ve ever debated the best shows on television, you’ve probably had some iteration of this conversation. And you know what, that person was right: The Wire was the best show on television. While titles like Breaking Bad and The Sopranos may be popping into your head, the fervent devotees are quick to note the series that depicts an unflinching portrait of Baltimore is undeniably the best. I’d argue its construction is the closest anyone has come to putting a novel on television.
Now, unpopular opinion alert: Orange is the New Black just stood atop a cafeteria table and silently declared itself the best show currently on “television.” It did so by following the blueprint laid out by The Wire.
“The night is dark and full of terrors.”
That is a refrain from HBO’s hit fantasy series Game of Thrones, but it applies just as well, literally and figuratively, to the premiere episode of the network’s latest eight-part miniseries The Night Of.
The episode takes place over a single night in New York City, following Naz (Riz Ahmed), the soft-spoken son of a Pakistani cab driver. Naz’s night begins like so many stories about millennials coming-of-age over the course of an evening out in the Big Apple. He breaks the rules, taking his father’s taxi without permission, meets a mysterious seductress (Sofia Black D’Elia) and even swallows some pills (probably Molly). The night culminates with Naz having sex with the hot girl.
But the night is never “fun.” There is no soundtrack of plucky indie music that swells at just the right moment. Instead, Naz awakes to find the girl dead, stabbed to death in a grizzly scene out of a Saw movie.