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Series / I Am the Night

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"I'm gonna find out everything, and I don't care what it breaks."

I Am the Night is a limited mystery series in six episodes directed by Patty Jenkins, Victoria Mahoney and Carl Franklin. It first aired on TNT in 2019.

The story follows 15-years old Fauna Hodel (India Eisley), who was given away by her teenage birth mother to a black restroom attendant in a Nevada casino in 1949. As she begins to investigate the secrets to her past, she follows a sinister trail that swirls closer to an infamous Hollywood gynecologist, Dr. George Hill Hodel, who was involved in the murder of Elizabeth Short in Los Angeles in 1947, also known as the "Black Dahlia" case.

The cast also includes Chris Pine as Jay Singletary, Jefferson Mays as George Hodel, Leland Orser as Peter Sullivan and Connie Nielsen as Corinna Hodel.

I Am the Night provides examples of:

  • The '60s: The decade the series is set in. Smack dab in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Affably Evil: George Hodel is capable of being charming and friendly, right up until he pistol-whips Fauna's face.
  • The Alcoholic: Fauna's adopted mother, Jimmie Lee, drinks heavily. Corinna Hodel does the same.
  • Autopsy Snack Time: Jay Singletary is almost caught trying to steal a photograph of a body in the pilot episode, but a morgue worker passing through is too wrapped up in a conversation about his mama's sweet potato pie to see him in a conspicuous place.
  • Based on a True Story: The trailer states it's "inspired by true events". Every episode ends with photos of the real-life people featured in the drama (Fauna, Jimmie Lee, George Hodel, etc.), and also of the Black Dahlia murder, the "John Sowden House", and works by famous artists (Dali, Man Ray, Max Ernst) who the real George knew socially.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Jay is now on the run for a crime he didn't commit, and George is a Karma Houdini, which was sadly the case in Real Life. But Fauna reconciles with Jimmie Lee and goes on to live a happy life, George is now a broken man hiding out in The Philippines, and Jay is implied to have finally made peace with himself.
  • Broken Pedestal: Fauna's reunion with Tamar goes very badly, as she quickly realizes that Tamar's just as loopy and self-absorbed as everyone else in her family.
  • But Not Too White: Mixed-race Fauna is derided by a fully black girl who thinks she's not black enough. Her adoptive mother says she was accused of kidnapping her as a baby by white people, which forced her to pretend she was her nanny in public. Given the setting, this may as well be Surprisingly Realistic Outcome. It later turns out that Fauna isn't black at all; her mother told the doctors that the father was a "Negro" in order to hide that Fauna was the product of incest.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The 60's values regarding race aren't exaggerated, but they are definitely on display, especially with how Fauna is treated by both white and black characters.
  • Disappeared Dad: Neither Fauna's biological father nor her adopted father are in her life.
  • Foil: While Fauna will never have any of the Hodels' wealth, privilege, and social status, she alone from that family will have a meaningful life completely free from George.
  • Foregone Conclusion: History dictates that George Hodel at the very least would not be charged with any murders or crimes involving him on the show.
  • Genre Throwback: The series is a homage to classic noir as well as the LA-based neo-noir classics Chinatown and L.A. Confidential.
  • Historical Domain Character: George Hill Hodel, a famous suspect in both the "Black Dahlia" and "Zodiac" cases. Also important in the drama is the historical Sowden House, and works of Surrealist and avant-garde art.
  • Hope Spot: After having her expectations of the Hodels crushed, Fauna tearfully calls Jimmie Lee to apologize and asks to return home. Jimmie Lee also tearfully apologizes and wants her back, only to switch gears back to verbally abusing Fauna before hanging up. But immediately subverted, as she's pretending because George enters her house at that moment.
  • I Am the Noun: The series' title itself, "I am the night".
  • Irony: Not in-story, but from reality. The series makes George Hodel out as being just like Chinatown's Noah Cross, played by John Huston. Huston had actually known the real Hodel socially, and Huston's ex-wife married Hodel.
  • Karma Houdini: In the end and the years after, no one is called to account for the wrongs and crimes here. The only ray of hope is that Fauna will survive and gain a positive future.
  • Mysterious Past: Fauna investigates her own mysterious past, which is linked to a very dark criminal case.
  • No Historical Figures Were Harmed: Corinna Hodel (formerly Corinna Huntington) is an Expy of George Hodel's third wife Dorothy Harvey, whose previous married-name was Dorothy Huston.
  • Obscene OB-GYN: George Hodel is a gynecologist who raped his own daughter and is portrayed as Elizabeth Short's likely killer, though he doesn't face prison.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Fauna delivers one to George after crippling him, telling him that he's not an artist, just a pervert.
  • Rule of Three: Each episode concludes with displaying three historical photos connected to either Fauna, or George, or the Black Dahlia murder. The final episode only shows one photo, but it's a photo of three people: Fauna with her two daughters.
  • The Runaway: As soon as Fauna finds out she's been abandoned and adopted, she runs away from her adoptive family to find where she comes from.
  • Shellshocked Veteran: Jay served in the Korean War and ended up with a bad case of PTSD, complete with vivid hallucinations.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Specifically to Chinatown, but subverted significantly from the classic film.
      • Tamar and Fauna Hodel's story in the series closely matches that of the film's Evelyn and Katherine Mulwray, but the two Hodels survive to potentially hopeful ends.
      • Jay's narrowly successful escape from the police car brings to mind the Mulwrays' failed escape attempt in the film's climax.
      • George Hodel in the series is made out as being similar to the film's Noah Cross. Unlike Cross, George does not go completely unscathed.
    • Corinna does a club performance that's an apeing of Yoko Ono's Cut Piece.
  • Sunshine Noir: It's a series about dark crimes that takes place in bright, sunny locales like Los Angeles and Hawaii.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Corinna is happy to tell Fauna about her mother, but much of the information that she imparts is false.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The finale ends with a 2015 picture of the real-life Fauna Hodel and her daughters. (Not noted is that Fauna died in 2017.)