'The Night Of' Episode Titles Provide Clues

On Sunday night, HBO will premiere a new miniseries, The Night Of. Through its eight episodes, The Night Of will tell the story of Nasir Khan, who finds himself being the number one suspect in the murder of a young woman named Andrea in New York City. While at the police station, Naz (as Nasir prefers to go by) finds unexpected aid through defense attorney John Stone. Starring John Turturro and Riz Ahmed, this miniseries will be a detailed and fascinating look at the criminal justice system as it highlights the police investigation and Naz's court trial.

While The Night Of only has eight episodes, the premiere runs 79 minutes long, so this will be the type of meaty miniseries that you've come to expect from HBO. The American show is based off of the British miniseries Criminal Justice so you could seek out Season 1 of the 2008 show since it has a very similar premise, though you would then run the risk of being spoiled. I recommend that you instead theorize about The Night Of by looking at the names of its eight episodes. Loaded with literary and religious references, it seems The Night Of has something else in common with fellow HBO series True Detective than just crime-solving — the episode titles unveil clues about the series.

I'll be the first to admit that some of the below interpretations of the episode titles are stretches, but others seem to fit into the tone of the first episode, which has been available to stream on HBO GO, HBO NOW, and HBO On Demand since June 24. So before you embark on HBO's latest miniseries when it hits TV this Sunday night, see how deep it might go with these allusions from its episode titles.

Episode 1, "The Beach"

In the premiere episode, Andrea gets into Naz's taxi and asks him to take her to the beach. As they are in New York City, they do visit the river, but where she ends up after the ill-fated night is perhaps the exact opposite of the beach. Does the title have a meaning beyond the destination that Andrea had initially requested going to? It's not certain after the first episode, but Naz does end up in Rikers Island, so water could be a theme.

Episode 2, "Subtle Beast"

The title of the second episode of The Night Of is an allusion to the serpent in the Garden of Eden that brought down the fall of man from the Bible and the Torah in Genesis, chapter three. In the 21st Century King James version of the Bible, the quote is, "Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made." (Many other versions have a similar phrasing, although there are variations.) Naz, whose mother is noted as being Pakistani Punjabi, is Muslim, so it's interesting to note that the fall of man is not the same in the Quran as it is in the Bible, according to the Pakistani English-language newspaper Dawn. Still, regardless of Naz's religious beliefs, "subtle beast" is a religious reference to Satan bringing down man and presumably not a good omen for the naive Naz.

Episode 3, "A Dark Crate"

When you search the phrase "dark crate," you'll end up with a lot of hits from Crate and Barrel. Call me crazy, but for some reason I just don't think the upscale retail store has anything to do with story The Night Of is telling. There is a "dark wood crate" in the multiplayer online role-playing game Wizard101 , but yet again, extremely not relevant. Perhaps it's just a reference to Naz being in jail, but this title will remain a mystery at least until the episode airs.

Episode 4, "The Art of War"

The Art of War is credited as being written by the ancient Chinese military general Sun Tzu and it acts as a guide of leadership, warfare, and strategy. Although it's over 2,000 years old, The Art of War has maintained its relevance with Huffington Post noting how many business leaders use the text for advice to this day. With lawyer John Stone by his side, Raz is going to have to become well-versed in the art of war if he wants to prove his innocence.

Episode 5, "The Season of the Witch"

If you're a fan of early psychedelic rock or good music in general, then you will be familiar with Donovan's "The Season of the Witch" off of his 1966 album Sunshine Superman. I thought perhaps the musician had taken this phrase from somewhere else, but it looks like he was the first to use that phrase with it unfortunately being used in films like Nicolas Cage's Season of the Witch from 2011. While I have no evidence to back this theory up, I'm hoping this episode will deal with Andrea's background. Obviously I'm not saying that she's a witch or anything, but I have a feeling she was involved in some shady business.

Episode 6, "Samson and Delilah"

Another religious allusion is used for the title of the sixth episode "Samson and Delilah." I'm familiar with Regina Spektor's version of the story of Samson and Delilah through her song "Samson," but while Spektor makes it sound like Delilah actually loved Samson, the version in Judges, chapter 16 of the Bible is much less romantic with Delilah pretending to love Samson and then tricking him while he sleeps. She takes away his power by having his head shaved, which leads to his death. Right about now is when I'm concerned that this is the second time The Night Of has a religious episode title referencing the downfall of a man by the seductiveness of a woman, as that spells serious trouble for Naz.

Episode 7, "Ordinary Death"

New York state has something called the "ordinary death benefit" for its employees, which is unique to the state that The Night Of takes place in. This benefit is described by the state as, "If you die while in active service and your death is not the result of an on-the-job accident, your beneficiary may be entitled to an ordinary death benefit." While this is probably a too-literal interpretation of the title, with many state employees in The Night Of, could this be a hint that someone other than Andrea will die over the course of the miniseries? Something tells me that if that does happen, the death most certainly won't be "ordinary."

Episode 8, "The Call of the Wild"

The Call of the Wild is famously the title of a 1903 novel by Jack London about a dog named Buck who becomes feral in order to survive and thrive in the wild. This second literary allusion in the episode titles is almost in direct contrast with the first of The Art of War since the theme in The Call of the Wild is that you must go back to your primitive instincts in order to survive — there's no art or strategy about it. What this means for Naz or his lawyer John won't be completely clear until the season finale premieres, but The Night Of is certainly a tale of survival as the title of the final episode proves.

Although these episode titles might help to give some insight into what to expect when watching The Night Of, this story will be best served if you watch it unfold for yourself when it premieres at 9 p.m. on Sunday, July 10. Just keep in mind while watching that everything may be deeper than it seems.

Images: Barry Wetcher (2), Craig Blankenhorn (7)/HBO