TNT’s I Am the Night
Episode 3: “Dark Flower”
Directed by Patty Jenkins
Written by Sam Sheridan
* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Phenomenon of Interference” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Matador” – click here
Let’s go back to 1945 at the Hodel mansion, where George (Jefferson Mays) was entertaining guests. Women in strange black-and-white masks paraded around the room for men. Tamar watched nearby as her father and other men undressed the women. She was told by father she was only “dreaming again.” He recited parts of the poem “A Dream Within a Dream” by Edgar Allan Poe for her. We witness George and the men put a sack over a woman’s head, pulling her off somewhere. We see George wearing a terrifying bull’s head mask with a vagina-like opening at the face— brings to mind the bull on the plaque at the art gallery.
Skip ahead to 1965. Fauna Hodel (India Eisley) is struggling with the supposed revelation she isn’t black, which she heard from the less than trustworthy Corinna (Connie Nielsen). She’s being followed on the street by the mystery man in the car. He scares her, so she rushes off in a panic. The next morning, she asks Tina (Shoniqua Shondai) if she’s ever seen a creepy white dude lurking.
Poor Jay Singletary (Chris Pine) has the Korean War stuck in his psyche. He’s just waking up to one of his old memories when Sgt. Billis (Yul Vazquez) and his brutish men bust in to knock him around, accuse him of being a pervert for having crime scene pictures in his apartment, then take him away.
“What do you know about hate, cupcake?”
At the station, Billis interrogates Jay. Both men don’t like one another. Seems Corinna called the cops after seeing Jay tail her, so this woman’s got experience with being shady. The sarge wants to “send a message” to the war hero. He’s about to take Jay’s eye before he gets interrupted by Dt. Ohls (Jay Paulson)— Ohls and Singletary were involved with Dog Company and the situation at the outpost Hill 1240 during the Korean War, where the former saw the now reporter become a killing machine, saving him and others.
The mystery man – fascinated by mannequins – keeps an eye and an ear on Fauna. He listens in on a call when Nero phones the girl, then continues following the young man. Meanwhile, Fauna’s sure that Corinna’s hiding things, including maybe her real mother, Tamar. She sneaks back to the mansion in the hills, watching until Corinne leaves the house. Then she tries to find a way inside.
After Jay’s sprung from arrest, he goes to see Peter Sullivan (Leland Orser) about the Hodel case at his local watering hole. The veteran reporter’s sure Billis is on his ass because of a personal vendetta. We witness the “shell shock” (a.k.a PTSD) Jay lives with and the mocking of men around him who don’t understand the psychological damage of soldiers. This sends the former Marine into a rage, getting himself tossed into the street.
Fauna gets into the mansion, calling out for Tamar and searching through every room. She comes upon a letter apparently addressed from Tamar in the trash. She sees pictures of her grandfather, fully piecing together his identity. That’s when the mystery man comes looking for her. She hides until Corinna gets home. The mystery man’s found by Corinna, though Fauna gets away, and as it happens Jay’s arrived to scope the place out, witnessing the girl’s escape.
Jay tries to follow Fauna, asking if she’s Tamar’s daughter, which sends the girl fleeing. She gets caught between the mystery man and Mr. Singletary. She has to choose the one she’s less scared of, going with the reporter. This gives way to conversation about Tamar. The two go to a diner, where Jay smoothly references The Alley Cats (the song “Puddin’ N’ Tain” was released as a single for Epic Records in ’65— great period writing!) and tries to make Fauna feel comfortable. He tells her about the story he reported concerning Tamar. She wants answers about why he’s “on her side.” Neither of them have answers, though together they might be able to find them. Except the girl takes off on him, leaving Jay with nothing but his questions.
The reporter decides he’s a failure as a journalist, so he tries reenlisting in the military. He’s lost. Problem is there’s an “age requirement” and Mr. Singletary is past his prime. Tragic irony how the young here are preventing the old from fighting, while it’s the old white men in power sending the young off to die overseas. Jay comes to his senses, and when he leaves he notices a crime magazine with an article in it about the Black Dahlia. Jay’s strung out. That doesn’t stop him from beginning to connect the Bloody Romeo killing to Elizabeth Short’s murder in 1947.
Elsewhere, the mystery man shows George his latest creation: a mannequin with its body transformed into a cello. He’s desperate to be part of the “secret work” Dr. Hodel does. George believes himself a god-like artist, whereas he sees his friend as not yet at his height. He encourages the man to keep an eye on Fauna like he’s been ordered.
At home, Fauna hears of Nero’s murder: his tongue was cut out and “tied into a knot.” Another hideous piece of artwork created by a murderer in Los Angeles. The mystery man’s out there trying to turn himself into a great artist, just like Dr. Hodel. Can we assume George is likely the Black Dahlia’s killer? Right now, Fauna worries she may be bringing tragedy on those around her, and it doesn’t help her adopted mother plans to come find her in the city.
“Gnōthi seauton— know thyself.”
A solid noir series. Sam Sheridan gives us the feel of old detective films while also treading new ground, too. Each episode is more intriguing than the last, which is always the mark of a stellar series.
“Matador” is next.