REVIEW: I Am The Night (S1 E5/6)

I’m finding this series very strange.

Initially drawn to it because it promised to tell the shocking story of Fauna Hodel and her grandfather George Hodel, a prime suspect in the infamous Black Dahlia murder case of the 1940s, it has been a cumbersome, rudderless journey so far.

So imagine my surprise when I became absolutely entranced by this penultimate episode, which was head and shoulders above the rest that has preceded it.

Why? There was real emotion here, real pathos and unexpected depths to the characters revealed throughout, something that has been sorely lacking.

Initially, this episode was all about Fauna and Jay’s trip to Hawaii. Jay had managed to get a commission from Peter (a great performance from Leland Orser) so they were on their way to find Fauna’s mother Tamar. For Fauna it would provide the missing piece to her family puzzle and an opportunity to ask who her real father was; for Jay it was a crack at redemption – interview Tamar, find out what really happened to her and then finish the piece on George Hodel he was derided for all those years ago.

What actually happened in Hawaii didn’t quite go to plan for either of them. Now resembling an episode of Long Lost Family rather than a taut crime drama, it was nonetheless fascinating and captivating to watch two previously mismatched and under-developed characters travel around the island looking for one woman. They got into scrapes, they made each other laugh, they began to trust each other and a touching friendship was beginning to form. They both had their reasons for being there, and both of these broken people were about to get shattered again.

Jay had nightmares about his time in Korea and killing a man, Fauna was finding hard coming to terms with everything – especially when they tracked Tamar down and she told Fauna the terrible truth: that Tamar was raped by her father, George Hodel, and that Fauna was the result.

It was a terrible truth and the most shocking – well more or less – element of the Fauna Hodel story.

Jay, meanwhile, had a choice to make. Peter wanted him to interview and bring in Tamar back from her Hawaiian paradise to nail George Hodel once and for all. Jay, so eager to redeem himself and get his career back on track, sensed a scoop; but as soon as he saw how the truth affected Fauna he wanted to protect her and even thought about ditching the story altogether.

But something Tamar showed him convinced him that he should continue – some portraits George Hodel had painted of Elizabeth Short, Janice Brewster and several other murdered women. This was the smoking gun that he was looking for.

Could George Hodel, all-powerful paediatrician to the stars, illegal terminator of babies and sadomasochist, finally be brought down.

Not in this episode.

Waiting for Jay in a diner was Peter, who double-crossed him and tipped him off to the cops, no doubt on Hodel’s side.

Hodel, too, was in action at the end of the episode, when he paid a visit to Fauna’s mother Jimmy Lee and stabbed her, attempting to kill her.

It was tense, there was a ramping up of the pace, the procedural elements gave it some oomph, and we got some unexpectedly intimate moments between the two main characters. And yet, and yet, and yet.

Jay Singletary is a made-up character. I can see why the creators of this drama – and other dramas actually – make up characters and bolt them into real-life adaptations. They can add new dimensions, they can aid the pace and they can act as cyphers for exposition. And in Jay Singletary – played very well by Chris Pine – they seem to have written a well-rounded new character with real depth. It’s just that he, and his strand, are ultimately hard to go with if you know he didn’t exist.

As for George Hodel, his stabbing and appearance in Nevada was also made-up; and instead of giving him more fear-factor, it made him into a bit of a pastiche villain. He’s slightly camp, slightly posh and slightly stereotypical.

See what I mean about being an odd series?