Just like Life, Art can be incredibly enigmatic. It is in our nature to seek answers, find meaning, and gain a sense of closure – or understanding, at the very least.
Inspired by true events, I Am the Night tells the gripping story of Fauna Hodel (India Eisley), a teenage girl who is given away at birth, and grows up outside of Reno, Nevada. Fauna lives more-or-less comfortably with the mysteries of her origin, until one day she makes a discovery that leads her to question everything. As Fauna begins to investigate the secrets of her past, she meets a ruined reporter (Chris Pine), haunted by the case that undid him. Together they follow a sinister trail that swirls ever closer to an infamous Los Angeles gynecologist, Dr. George Hodel (Jefferson Mays), a man involved in some of Hollywood’s darkest debauchery, and possibly, its most infamous unsolved crime.
TNT‘s limited series I Am The Night is inspired by inconclusive historical events and keeps viewers guessing throughout the entire series–and it was the way it weaved the theme I described above that had me spellbound by this chilling series, mesmerized by the ensemble cast’s brilliant performances. Viewers will be swept up in the intrigue as they follow Fauna Hodel (India Eisley) on this gripping, shocking, and truly unsettling journey of painful self-discovery.
Patty Jenkins, Chris Pine, and Sam Sheridan have crafted a complex and stylized think-piece, full of symbolism, subtext, and suspense. Although Fauna is the primary subject of this series, George Hodel’s (Jefferson Mays) presence permeates the mind-bending narrative–even when he is off-screen, his presence still serves as an unspoken “co-star” in every scene. After 70 years, the disturbed and eccentric genius/madman remains a mystery, even to his own family. We may never know if he was truly responsible for the heinous crimes he’s accused of – but it’s clear that he left many shattered lives in his wake.
Fauna’s life is upended when she discovers her birth certificate and learns her real family last name is Hodel and that for 16 years, Jimmy Lee (Golden Brooks) protected her little Pat from the truth. Fauna’s “special” circumstance (viewers will uncover what it is during the premiere) gives her a unique perspective of the world – especially in the 1960’s.
Despite Lee’s warnings to leave the past in the past, Fauna can’t let it go. She needs to know her whole backstory: where she comes from, who her father is/was, and why her parents gave her up. She calls Hodel and he invites her to visit him in Los Angeles–not realizing the Pandora’s Box she opened with that phone call.
Meanwhile in Los Angeles, Jay Singletary (Pine) is an ex-marine and disgraced journalist whose fledgling career has been reduced to playing paparazzi and sneaking into morgues to photograph corpses for tabloid fodder. As the series unfolds, we learn about the heavy personal baggage Jay carries with him from fighting in the Korean War. He battles his fair share of demons–but seeking justice gives him a sense of purpose. He has a hunch about George and just like Fauna, he can’t let that hunch go until he gets some answers.
After screening I Am The Night, it’s difficult to not want to discuss everything about it – the crazy twists, the nuggets of truth shrouded in tantalizing fiction, the heights–and depths–to Hodel’s psychosis, Fauna’s jaw-dropping grit, and more. The entire series is like a quality six-course “meal,” with each episode needing to be slowly digested and processed over the course of a week. Actually, it’s an appropriate analogy considering the series starts off with some “appetizers” before offering up the “feast.”
The slow-burning narrative gradually unravels mysteries – providing insights and raising new questions. It can be frustrating at times because there is so much uncertainty, as the lines between reality and fictional storylines are blurred. Hodel’s dark desires and overall creepiness is reflected through mythic symbolism and surrealist art, as if Hodel and his surroundings were one-in-the-same.
The writing, directing and acting are all top notch. Stunning cinematography, sharp dialogue, and enchanting performances. Pine knows exactly how and when to bring some verbal levity or hilarious physical comedy to an otherwise serious setting. Eisley’s young Fauna exudes maturity, grace, and conviction; while Mays gives me the heebie-jeebies even when he’s off-screen. The fact that just the thought of his character makes me feel that way speaks volumes about the caliber of May’s portrayal of Hodel.
I Am The Night deals with some very heavy and disturbing subject matters. It is an uneasy viewing experience, yet you can’t turn away. Once this story sinks its teeth in, you need to see how it all ends. And while this mystery/thriller does transport viewers back to another time, its themes and issues are as current now as ever before.
So before you begin your journey along this twisted tale, some questions to keep in the back of your minds:
Is closure an essential thing we need in our lives–even if it’s manufactured?
Do we really want answers that have been evaded for decades?
Just some of the issues that will come into play as you travel along with Fauna as her story unfold, a disturbing journey that will stay with you long after the credit roll.
TNT’s I Am The Night premieres Monday, January 28, at 9 p.m. ET.