The summer tends to be a slow time for television obsessives. The sixth season of Game of Thrones just wrapped up, and most fans probably finished all 13 hours of Orange is the New Black’s fourth season within a few days of it’s release last month. For those of us who love serialized drama, dark plots, and grizzly details, there’s a big hole that needs filling. Luckily, it looks like HBO’s eight-part miniseries, The Night Of, officially debuting on July 10, could meet all those needs and more.
The premium cable giant has had much success in recent years with crime series, whether of the ‘true’ variety (The Jinx fueled a nationwide discussion and at least partially helped land Robert Durst in jail) or of the Detective variety (True Detective Season 1, of course, was one of the network’s biggest non-Thrones hits of the decade; we’ll be nice and just pretend Season 2 didn’t happen). With The Night Of, HBO jumps right back into the crime/mystery game, and boy, it’s a doozy. So far, at least.
The stunning premiere, available to stream now on HBOGo and HBONow ahead of its official airdate, is a masterclass of suspense. Not to get too heavy into plot, the show follows a young man—played by Riz Ahmed, known best for his role alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, but starring in upcoming sure-to-be-hits Jason Bourne and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story— who after “borrowing” his father’s New York City taxi cab and unwittingly picking up a female companion (played with a soft and mysterious aura by Sofia Black-D’Elia), finds himself making wrong decision after wrong decision, eventually winding up in a bit of a sticky legal situation. Late in the 80-minute pilot, the story introduces Jack Stone, a lawyer played by the the ever charismatic John Turturro.
Turturro, who’s been playing weird and erratic characters on big and small screens for the last 30 years, takes command of a role here that has a long back story. The late James Gandolfini—credited here as an Executive Producer—was originally set to play the part when HBO picked up the series. That plan had to be scrapped after the three-time Emmy winner’s death in 2013. With the project in flux, the producers eventually landed Robert De Niro to step into Gandolfini’s shoes, but scheduling conflicts kept him from keeping his commitment. Turturro was the next man up.
The only episode that HBO’s made available thus far is the premiere, which is a kind gesture clearly intended to build buzz. And by all means, it should. The only downside of watching early is having to wait until July 17 for the second episode—the story is that addicting. It’s the kind of mystery that seems sure to inspire close analysis—not unlike the original True Detective did two years ago. Like the anthology series, The Night Of presents clues and hints, essentially daring those who loyally tune in each Sunday night to pick up the pieces and assemble the puzzle on his or her own. The week-to-week format—a contrast from all episodes being dumped at once, a la Netflix or Amazon—surely is a better fit for a show based on mystery and suspense.
Written by Richard Price, a television veteran (The Wire), Oscar-nominee (The Color of Money) and acclaimed novelist (last year’s The Whites), The Night Of certainly has the pedigree needed to trust that there’s more to come past its exceptional first chapter. So, television obsessives, mystery fans, and tension-seekers: there’s no need to fear. You may be leaving Thrones in the rearview mirror for the better part of the next year, but between the return of last year’s best new series, Mr. Robot, and now The Night Of, there will be plenty there to satisfy your every dark and depraved television need.