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Jeannie Berlin as the prosecutor in ‘Night Of’ is the performance of the summer

Jeannie Berlin in HBO’s “Night Of.”
Jeannie Berlin in HBO’s “Night Of.”HBO

The Night Of HBO

I was satisfied — with one or two small reservations — by the finale of “The Night Of,” and I’m going to point out the very best part of it in this column, so beware: Here there be spoilers.

Jeannie Berlin.

I just can’t praise her enough for her turn as alpha prosecutor Helen Weiss, the steely but weary veteran district attorney who tried to prove Naz guilty of murder. Berlin ruled every scene she was in during the run of the season, and she practically shattered the finale with her tense energy. Watching her talk Naz into a corner while he was on the stand was mesmerizing, as she used her rhetorical skills like she used her pumps — for effect. She worked to gently nudge him — and by extension the jury — into her damning point of view.


I couldn’t keep my eyes off Berlin as she moved around the courtroom in those last minutes, deploying all of her weapons — cynicism, disgust, obsequiousness, big sighs, feigned ignorance, glaring — brilliantly. Oh, and silence. Each pause Berlin took was an exercise in boldly measured acting, as she held the courtroom and the TV audience in her hand for each long moment that she held her tongue.

When Detective Box presented her with evidence suggesting Naz was not guilty, she essentially shamed and bullied him into silence with a few withering looks.

Berlin’s face is so much harder than back in 1972, when she costarred in “The Heartbreak Kid,” a movie directed by her mother, Elaine May. In “The Night Of,” she used it magnificently, terrifyingly, Emmy-winningly.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.