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'I Am the Night' is an Engrossing Mystery
January 27, 2019  | By David Hinckley  | 1 comment

TNT’s shadowy crime drama I Am the Night approaches a familiar piece of film turf – the infamous 1947 Black Dahlia murder case in Los Angeles – from a different direction.

That freshens everything up, primarily thanks to superb performances from its two main characters.

I Am the Night, a six-part series, starts in 1965 with Fauna Hodel (India Eisley), a Nevada teenager who discovers that the woman she calls Mama ain’t her Mama.

That is, she’s not the biological daughter of Jimmie Lee (Golden Brooks), a maid who raised her almost from birth with care and concern albeit few material goods.

No adoptee forgets the moment they learn that seismic piece of news, and part of the setup for I Am The Night has Fauna, who in Nevada has been called Pat, immediately hopping a Greyhound bus for L.A. to meet her biological maternal grandfather, George Hodel (Jefferson Mays).

Fauna, part of whose challenge is that she’s of mixed race, sees the L.A. trip as a quick, easy way to “find out who I really am.” Upon arrival in L.A., she finds out it’s too quick and too easy. Bad news for Fauna, good news for our television drama.

Meanwhile, in another part of L.A., a defrocked newspaper reporter named Jay Singletary (Chris Pine) is slowly ripping his life apart.

Once a rising star at the Times, an important paper, he’s now a photo stringer for the lower-rent Examiner, getting paid when he can sneak a paparazzi shot that will embarrass a celebrity or a gruesome shot of a murder victim.

It’s dirty stuff, and he hates himself for it. So naturally, since he has enough sense to do that, he has a backstory. He served in Korea at the lethal Chosin Reservoir, and it messed him up the way Vietnam was already messing up the next generation.

So Jay snarls at the world and privately retreats into booze and cocaine.

Turns out, though, that back when he was an actual aspiring journalist, he wrote stories about George Hodel, who seems to harbor mysterious secrets.

Jay, meet Fauna. Fauna, meet Jay. Early bets are that the question is less “will they / won’t they” than “who will get out alive.”

As has become traditional in the impressive and relatively new format of short-form television crime miniseries, I Am the Night spends its first episode setting up what seems to be a complicated premise, then expertly sorting it out so we understand both the central drama and its ancillary tentacles.

Also in keeping with contemporary crime-story tradition, our protagonists carry around some serious baggage, packed with flaws.

In spite of this and occasionally a little bit because of it, we want them to succeed, or at least live to struggle another day.

Eisley and Pine make this an easy call. They bring their characters to vivid life, weaving their troubled personal stories into a classic noir tale. That they hail from different worlds of emotion and neurosis makes the story different in several good ways.

I Am the Night is worth following into the darkness.

'I Am the Night' premieres with a sneak peek on Sunday at 10 p.m. ET following the 'Screen Actors Guild Awards' before moving to its permanent spot on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET. 

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So what was the "sneak peek"? Just episode 1 as shown 1/28? I had little interest in the SAG awards,so sneaking and peeking paled vs. TCM's double feature of L.A. Noir,which more than satisfied my hunger for dirty deeds done dirt cheap.
Jan 29, 2019   |  Reply
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