To say a criminal investigation sometimes goes after useless leads or trips into dead ends, is to state the obvious. Sometimes cases fail altogether. The hope of course is that the detective or lawyer or crime lab tech can reverse course, retrace their steps, and continue down the correct path towards a just conclusion. To tune into the first couple of episodes of HBO’s The Night Of was to feel secure in the hands of a pair of veteran investigators, two guys who knew exactly how to get us from the inciting incident to the proper verdict. But now, at the end, we wonder: did it get stranded in a narrative cul-de-sac somewhere along the way?
HBO’s latest mini-series The Night Of does something rather rare in the annals of TV drama, and particularly in police procedurals. It makes time for all of it, all of the little cogs in the wheel that get a person from one place (a crime scene) to another (the courtroom) to yet another (jail). There is drama here; a gruesomely murdered woman and a mystery at the core of things. But the effectiveness of the story is not in theatrics, but in the minutia, the little details.