Little moments are what sell you on HBO’s new mini-series, The Night Of. Written by Richard Price and Steven Zaillian, the show equally relies on smart dialogue, flawless acting and lingering images. As an audience, we’ve heard witty banter and we’ve watched actors come on screen and earn their Emmy nominations but The Night Of includes something more. There is an intentional decision to include visual cues to the audience that linger just a little bit longer than your traditional show.
It’s the little things, the things that seem arbitrary at first, that make The Night Of compelling.
Here are a few of the little things that I’ve noticed that I believe will be useful in solving the mystery of The Night Of.
* Spoilers ahead *
John Stone’s Eczema
John Turtorro’s portrayal of John Stone is the most endearing character on the show. The first time his character pulls at your heartstrings is when he pulls out what I thought was a wand. In reality, it is just a stick to help him scratch his skin-afflicted feet. The show is relentless in pointing out Stone’s frustrations with eczema. It’s possible that there won’t be any payoff with the constant reminder of his disease. The problem is there to show us that Stone can be trusted. He’s just a good guy with a minor flaw. The audience is reminded of this when he saves the cat, jokes with his kid, takes care of his other client and buys a Riker’s-island-care-package for Naz.
The Taxidermied Deer
If your high school English teacher was worth their salt, when you read The Great Gatsby, the eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg are etched in your memory. His faceless eyes watch over the violence. In The Night Of, the taxidermied deer similarly presides over the gory mess. He knows what’s up. Often, the camera will linger on his eyes. What worries me is that those eyes remind me of someone. It took awhile, but that doe-eyed stare reminds me of Naz’s empty stare. The deer saw what happened. Does Naz know as well?
The Mother’s Dinner
The moment I knew I would finish all eight episodes of the show was the last scene of the first episode. I do want to know the result of the trial, but I was emotionally invested when I saw Naz’s shoeless father searching for his car in the middle of the street. Each episode has saved a moment to show the parent’s perspective on Naz’s journey through the system. The moment when his mother brought a dish of leftovers to the jail was particularly heart wrenching. The foil-covered plate is another example of the little moments, the little things that give the show heart.
The Harvard Shirt
Detective Box is perfectly described with this quote, “like all good cops, he does you over inside the rules. He’s a talented oppressor. A subtle beast.” He is also perfectly described with one little moment. When Naz is about to be transported to another cell, Detective Box picks a shirt out of the lost and found for him to wear. Box picks out a weathered Harvard shirt. Giving Naz a shirt is a perfectly decent thing to do, but the subtle beast in him picks out something that will be a signal to the other inmates. A Harvard shirt makes Naz look like an easy target. As a talented oppressor, Box knows this and acts within the rules accordingly.
In The Night Of objects tell more about the story than the character’s words and expressions. Like a crime scene, there are scattered clues. I look forward to putting together the pieces with Naz, Detective Box and John Stones eczema ridden feet.