The Night Of premiered last Sunday on HBO to a very promising start. The pilot follows a young man who goes by the nickname “Naz”, as he spends a fateful night in New York City. Driving his father’s cab without permission, he picks up a mysterious young woman named Andrea on his way to a party. When Andrea is discovered murdered in her apartment, Naz becomes the prime suspect.
While it’s still too early to tell if the latest HBO drama will manage to capture the cultural zeitgeist in the way that something like the first season of True Detective did, it certainly piqued our interest here at Screen Rant. If you haven’t yet watched the premiere episode, The Beach, you’ll want to do that immediately, so as to get in on the ground floor of what looks to be a very promising series. You won’t want to be left out of the conversation as everyone gets swept up in the mysteries surrounding the perplexing death of Andrea. Those mysteries are exactly what we’ll be exploring in this list.
Needless to say, we’ll be investigating the nitty gritty of this pilot episode, so if you haven’t seen it yet, here be your spoiler warning. If you have seen it, join us as we pore over the minimal clues we’re given in The Beach. Here are 15 Questions We Hope Are Answered in The Night Of.
15. Who Killed Andrea?
The most obvious question, and presumably the driving force behind this series, is the matter of who killed Andrea. We don’t learn much about her in the first episode. In fact, we don’t even learn her name until the police find her ID at the crime scene. She’s deliberately cagey with Naz, giving him little information and cryptic answers. We learn that she doesn’t want to be alone tonight, and that she wants to go to the beach. We also learn that she’s taking drugs and alcohol, and she’s a little too into knives.
That’s it. Before we know it, Andrea is found dead in her bed, stabbed several times in the back. And, as far as we know, Naz was the only one in her apartment when it happened. This sets up an intriguing locked box plot for the audience to chew on. Due to a time cut, we only ever see Naz in the apartment with Andrea, and based on his reaction and later testimony, he doesn’t remember anything after the sex. So who killed Andrea? Could it have been Naz? Or was it a minor character we were introduced to? Someone we’ve yet to meet? So far, there’s an extremely limited suspect list, and it’s certainly not looking good for our protagonist. Andrea’s death raises a whole host of other questions, such as…
14. Why Did Andrea Want to Go to the Beach?
When Andrea hopped in Naz’s car, she was intent on one thing: going to the beach. Naz, stunned to be in the presence of such a woman, numbly complies with her request. They head North, and enjoy a view of the river and the night sky together.
So why the beach? What significance could this have for Andrea? Things clearly don’t seem to be going well for Andrea when we first meet her. She seems preoccupied and troubled. She dodges Naz’s questions and keeps him at a distance, at least at first. The distinct possibility hangs in the air that she may have been looking for a place to commit suicide, but her plans were changed when Naz took such an interest in her. Naz shows a genuine compassion for Andrea, and she seems to visibly soften towards him as their evening progresses. Was Andrea looking to kill herself? Or was she running from someone or something? She gives Naz another clue as to her motivations as they drive to her destination.
13. Why Didn’t She Want to be Alone?
Along with insisting that Naz take her to the beach, Andrea confides in her new friend that she doesn’t want to be alone tonight. More than that, she can’t be alone tonight. What might drive her to say something like that?
There are two major possibilities. If we’re working under the idea that Andrea was considering suicide, she may have not wanted to be alone so as to protect her from herself. She knew that if she was around someone, she couldn’t do herself any harm.
The other possibility is that Andrea was running from someone. She knew that someone wanted to hurt her, and she needed a person there to protect her. This possibility is intriguing, because it means that Andrea must have known her killer, and that the murder was, on some level, premeditated.
Of course, we can’t throw out the possibility that it was Naz who committed the murder. Most likely, he wasn’t conscious of it (otherwise his shock would have been a performance put on for no one but the viewing audience at home) but maybe something awful snapped in him through the thick fog of drugs and hormones.
12. What was the Significance of the Cat?
A moment comes midway through the pilot that very well may prove crucial later on. After entering Andrea’s apartment, Naz is forced to admit, embarrassedly, that he’s allergic to her cat. As he sucks on an inhaler, Andrea puts the cat outside. Viewers paying close attention will notice that the gate does not fully close behind her when she goes back in.
This open gate provides the most likely opportunity for someone else to have gotten in the apartment. Remember, the front door locks automatically behind Naz later on in the episode, and he is forced to break the window to re-enter. We’re shown no evidence of another break-in, meaning the killer was able to get in smoothly (or that the killer was already in the apartment).
Additionally, in the very final shot of the episode, we see a cat crossing the street behind Naz’s father. Of course, because of the distance in locations, there’s virtually no way this is the same cat. But we’re sure its inclusion wasn’t a coincidence. The filmmakers wanted to remind us of that particular moment with the cat right before we cut to credits. That open gate could mean the difference between Naz being the culprit, or an entirely different suspect. Speaking of which, let’s talk about some of them…
11. Who Was Trevor’s Friend?
Before entering Andrea’s apartment, Naz has a disconcerting encounter with two men on the street. One man, who we’ll find out later is named Trevor, mutters an Islamophobic remark as they pass. When Naz confronts him, there is a tense moment between the two before Andrea pulls Naz away. Trevor’s companion, who never speaks, gazes icily at the two as they enter the apartment.
There has to be some significance to Trevor’s intimidating friend. Later, when he is being interrogated by the police, Trevor chooses to lie about his friend, pretending that he was alone when he encountered Naz and Andrea. Why would Trevor lie about that? Who was his friend? Andrea didn’t appear to know the man. But there was some significance in that gaze. Where we currently stand, Trevor’s friend is by far the most suspicious of any of the character’s introduced. Besides Naz, of course. If the killer wasn’t Naz, the real killer stumbled into a bit of extremely good fortune. He or she found the perfect fall guy with Naz. Naz couldn’t possibly look more guilty, under the circumstances. Maybe Trevor and his friend saw an opportunity to set up someone they hated based on race for a terrible crime? Implausible, maybe, but mark our words. There’s something to that man.
10. What About the Hearse Driver?
Another peculiar moment transpires during a quick stop to the gas station. Naz goes inside to buy drinks (and rack up another eyewitness with the clerk, as well as security cam footage) and Andrea stays out by the car, smoking a cigarette. She flicks the cigarette onto the concrete, attracting the ire of a hearse driver who’s filling his tank. He angrily raps on her window, then moves on, but not before seeing Naz.
Obviously most of these encounters are there to provide eyewitnesses later on who can finger Naz. Each interaction Naz and Andrea have on their way to her apartment winds up being particularly memorable for the other party, usually because either Naz or Andrea rubs them the wrong way. That’s not good if they’re going to be testifying later on.
But there could be even more to these witness characters. So much time is devoted to the witnesses during this episode, it seems a bit narrow minded to assume they’re only purpose is to fill out the trial later on in the season. Some of these may be bigger players than we’re being lead to believe here. If the hearse driver factors into Andrea’s murder in some way, the writers would have a nice, morbid theme going there, considering his profession.
9. What’s the Deal with the Scary Motorcycle Driver?
Again, we meet another potential future witness in the moment with the scary motorcycle driver. After fleeing the crime scene (and leaving about a million clues in his wake), Naz is speeding home in his dad’s taxi, bloody knife lying on the dashboard. He stops at a light, and a motorcycle driver pulls up right next to him. Naz slides the knife into his jacket. The helmeted driver holds a prolonged stare at Naz. We can’t see the driver’s face, so we don’t know what machinations in his head are whirring. When the light turns green, the driver roars off into the night.
This is a particularly tense moment in the episode, and particularly unsettling. The motorcycle driver is so close to Naz he could lean in and touch him through the open cab window. The motorcycle driver is one of the only people to see Naz after Andrea’s been killed. This makes his perspective particularly crucial. We’ll have to wait and see if his only role is as a witness, or if there’s more to this spooky driver.
8. Was That Even Andrea’s Apartment?
Did Andrea’s apartment strike anyone else as odd? Granted, she seemed like kind of an odd duck herself, but the apartment felt almost foreign to her. The camera fixated on the stuffed deer head in her foyer for long periods of time. Andrea seemed to have a flair for quirkiness, but the deer seemed a bit “out there”, even for someone as strange as her. Also, she seemed to really have to search in the cabinets to find glasses and liquor for the two of them. Finally, she registered an odd expression when Naz complained about the cat. Almost like she didn’t know the cat was there?
We may be grasping at straws here, but is there a chance that this wasn’t Andrea’s apartment at all? We have no idea how deep the rabbit hole of this mystery goes. Maybe Andrea was more unhinged than she let on. Maybe there’s more of a conspiracy to the whole thing than the seemingly random nature of events would indicate. In any case, Andrea’s behavior in the apartment struck us as slightly off.
7. Could Naz Have Killed Her?
We touched on this earlier, but it’s important to not disregard Naz entirely. Remember, one of the only time jumps in the entire episode is the moment Andrea is actually killed. This doesn’t seem to be a cut-and-dry, “he’s been framed” type of story. This is a murder mystery whodunnit, and everyone is a suspect. Most of all, the guy who we know was in the apartment with her, who handled the knife, and who stabbed her in the hand at one point.
It’s too early to know how The Night Of will handle exposition. Will we see flashbacks to this night throughout the series? Maybe check in on other character’s perspectives during important events? Or was The Beach the only chance we’ll have to see what happened on this fateful night? If so, we’re missing some key information that could either condemn or exonerate Naz. We’re sure they’ll string us along for as long as the show can sustain it, but never forget Occam’s Razor when watching a show like this. The simplest explanation is usually the right one. Sorry, Naz.
6. What Was the Significance of the Pill?
When discussing whether or not Naz could have committed the murder or not, there’s an important variable to consider: the pill that Andrea gave him. Based on the smiley face on it, we can reasonably assume the pill was ecstasy, or a similar drug. But no character ever says this explicitly, so we can’t know for certain that’s what it was. Additionally, the smiley faced pills appear in the opening credits sequence, indicating they may have significance beyond just being ecstasy.
Naz indicates he’s never taken drugs before. What if that drug caused him to hallucinate? Could that be the scenario that would have lead him to murder a woman he just met? We’ve got to say that narratively speaking, that discovery would be pretty unsatisfying. But it’s worth considering. We’re sure the cops will make their way to the pills sooner or later, and maybe then we can learn more.
5. What’s Box’s Story?
Speaking of the cops, we can’t discuss the law enforcement side of this story without talking about Bill Camp’s already wonderful Sgt. Box. From the moment Sgt. Box is introduced, it’s clear he will be one of our favorite characters in this show. Impressive, considering he’s directly antagonistic to our protagonist. But Camp brings such an engaging weariness to the sergeant, it’s hard not to sympathize with him. After all, the facts seem to be pretty cut and dry. We get the feeling Box wants to be fair, but he also wants to be efficient. If a guy looks to be this guilty, he’s probably guilty, Box reasonably discerns.
We can’t wait to learn more about Box’s backstory. He clearly has a reputation in the department. The other officers, and later Jack Stone, speak of him in hushed, impressed tones. He seems to be famous in that precinct, if not infamous. We’re excited to learn what makes him tick.
4. What’s Stone’s Story?
Though he is introduced very late in the episode, it appears the pulsing heart of this show may be the public defender, Jack Stone, played by John Turturro. Warm, confident, and exhausted, Stone comes out of the gate a fully fleshed out character. Originally intended as a role for the late James Gandolfini, Turturro brings a resigned Brooklyn goodness to the character that is immediately endearing.
Like with Box, we want to learn more about Stone. What exactly provoked him to pick up Naz’s case? We learn he focuses more on small scale stuff like theft and robbery. What about Naz made Stone agree to represent him? Stone admits he suffers from pretty severe eczema. Will that turn out to hold significance in the plot, or is it just a character quirk designed to make him more human and relatable? Turturro is able to communicate a lot by saying a little. We’re sure that as we spend more time with Stone, we’ll learn all we need to know about the world-weary public defender who’s just landed the case of a lifetime.
3. What Will the Time Frame Be?
This one could go a couple ways. The pilot takes place over just the course of one day and night. We assume we’ll see a large portion of the police investigation, and obviously the impending trial. But what about beyond that? Will the time frame of this show be a couple of weeks? Months? Maybe years?
It’s totally possible that this murder sets in motion a chain of events that we will see unfolding for years down the line. Maybe Naz won’t even be our primary protagonist for the duration of the show. HBO is known for subverting audience expectations and experimental storytelling. It’s very possible that this show could completely surprise us with the manner they choose to tell it in. Who knows where we’ll be when this story ends. It could be that they reveal Andrea’s murderer fairly early on, then choose to fixate on the flaws of the judicial system, a la Making a Murderer. It’s too early to know at this point what form the show will take, but we’re excited for the ride.
2. How Closely Will The Show Follow Criminal Justice?
Our only clue as to how The Night Of might play out is the source material, Criminal Justice. First shown in 2008, Criminal Justice was a British series that focused on different stories involving the justice system.
Criminal Justice worked as an anthology show, with each series focusing on an entirely new character and case. The first series, which The Night Of seems to most closely resemble, found Ben Whishaw in the “Naz” role, although clearly there have been many changes from the original British version to the current HBO show. Most obviously, the HBO version has adjusted all of the locations to take place in and around New York City, which appears to be very important to the story. These changes mean we can’t be sure how closely The Night Of will adhere to Criminal Justice’s narrative template. The British series could serve as just a loose inspiration for this new show, or it could be a fairly accurate retelling of the same story, but for American audiences. We’ll find out as the series progresses.
1. What Does The Night Of Mean for HBO?
From a purely creative standpoint, we’re eager to see what The Night Of does for HBO as a channel. It’s no secret that some of HBO’s biggest hits are beginning to run their course, and some of the new hopefuls have not panned out like the executives had been hoping for. Vinyl was un-renewed, Westworld was plagued with production troubles, two separate David Fincher projects failed to appear, and the second season of True Detective killed any hope that they might have had another workhorse in their stable. In fact, other than Game of Thrones, the only returning drama they have is the final season of The Leftovers. This means that the HBO drama well is fairly close to running dry.
All this means that they probably have fairly high hopes for The Night Of. If this series can catch on with audiences in the way that some of their other dramas have, they could be back in business. Having a stable, reliable drama like The Night Of on their roster could only help reverse their fading fortunes. Based on the first episode, they seem to be in a good place.
What did you think of the first episode of The Night Of? What questions and mysteries do you hope to see addressed? Feel free to discuss in the comments below!