This I Am the Night review contains spoilers.
I Am the Night Episode 3
I Am the Night episode 3, “Dark Flower,” opens in 1945, two years before the January 15, 1947 murder of 22-year-old actress Elizabeth Short. The Black Dahlia is a conspiracy theorist’s wet dream. Still unsolved, the suspects in the case all had fascinatingly perverse backgrounds. George Hodel, who came to the attention of the officers covering the gruesome death after an underage, incest-rape trial, had one of the most perverse.
Well-known to the police and well treated by them, Hodel was renowned for his Hollywood parties. They were lavish affairs held at his mansion, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, which was modeled after a Mayan temple. The place had its own ill repute. “Dark Flower” opens at one of the parties, in this case modeled after Stanley Kubrick’s Illuminati allegorical film Eyes Wide Shut. The women wear masks. We see it through the eyes of a very nervous young Tamar Hodel, along with an undertone of growls, haunting piano chords and the flashed image of a man in a horned mask. It all feels very satanic.
The diabolical feel inches up as we see Hodel seated at a table topped with food befitting a bacchanalian feast. And it looks like he has a telepathic connection to his “sweet angel” Tamar. The sequence continues to devolve into a series of images of Tamar having sex with her father, while being told it’s all a dream. These are interspersed with the party. The man pair off with the masked entertainment, and George becomes more and more devilish. Someone puts a black hood over one of the young women at the party and we are given the impression she has sex with a demonic George Hodel while the men watch and applaud.
Compared with the opening sequence, Fauna Hodel (India Eisley) and Jay Singletary’s (Chris Pine) 1965 storyline is a bit of a letdown. It opens with enough suspense, some of it a residual from the party scene, but the main dish isn’t as good as the appetizer. Fauna has her first conscious run-in with Sepp (Dylan Smith) on a dark street. He accosts her just as a squad car is making the rounds, and she is relegated from one nightmare to another. The cop offers his help getting out of the neighborhood, but when he finds out she calls this ghetto her home, he sees her as a cockroach.
Jay has his second, and most harrowing, encounter with LAPD Sergeant Billis (Yul Vazquez). The cop busts in on a drug-induced dream Jay is having about his tour in Korea, finds his works and lets a patrolman label the mortuary photos he took as porn and takes him away for questioning. Jay has been showing up in too many of the wrong places, and Billis is beyond giving warnings. The interrogation sequence becomes one of tortured, as Billis decides the best thing to do for someone who’s seen to too much is to take out an eye. The scene builds to an excruciatingly painful level before LAPD detective Ohls (Jay Paulson) takes it down a notch. But only a notch. This isn’t something that’s going to go away. Billis is connected and Ohls endangers his future on the force by going to bat for his comrade in arms.
Ohls owes his life to Jay because they were two of 16 survivors of Dog Company, a 200-man squad which was cut down in the war. He personally saw Jay kill six or seven soldiers with his entrenching tool, a shovel. We now know who is behind the dreams which don’t quite turn into nightmares while Jay is sleeping off his anesthetic of choice. We see Jay also test the limits the “Sun-Examiner” night shift managing editor Peter Sullivan (Leland Orser) will go for a formerly ace reporter. Jay is triggered into a flashback at a bar and beats the patron who caused it just by being clumsy.
It is an episode of firsts. Fauna and Jay also finally come together. Jay spies the young girl slipping out of a window in the Hodel residence and, after first scaring her off by asking if she’s related to Tamara Hodel, winds up saving her from being whisked off in the “ugly white man” Sepp’s car. It’s a good thing too, because we’ve already had a glimpse into what Sepp does in his spare time. We don’t quite know what it means, but he’s been playing with dolls, life-sized ones whose faces are made of the same black and white mask the women were wearing at the 1945 party.
Fauna and Jay’s first actual sitdown happens at a chili joint, where she gives the reporter a slip after eating all the apples out the middle of a pie. The scene is a little uncomfortable, each of them trying to get information without giving any, and both of them hiding something the other one wants. It drives Jay to a recruiting office to re-up, and then finally to buy the latest issue of “Crime Chasers News,” which features an in-depth look at the Black Dahlia murder. He’s got a lot to catch up on.
Fauna returns home after the encounters to learn the teenager who’s been calling her, Nero, was murdered. She leaves the house with her new friend Terrence Shye (Justin Cornwell), who puts her up on his couch, lets her call her mom Jimmy Lee (Golden Brooks), and warns her if she goes looking for trouble, she’ll find it.
George Hodel, meanwhile, may find his trouble by looking under the crack in a door of his own home. We hear the growling, and the doctor stalks a sound to a room where he sees the bottoms of cloven hooves prowling. It is a good bookmark from the beginning as it hints things are about to get out of control.
I am the Night episode 3, “Dark Flower,” pulls the characters and the plot together, all the while keeping the grey areas intact.
I Am the Night airs Mondays on TNT.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.