REVIEW – I Am The Night – Episode 1 – “Pilot”

Whether it be on the big or small screen, there are few mysteries that have had their story told more than the infamous Black Dahlia murders of 1947.  Bringing something new and fresh to the table is no easy task, but it was one that Patty Jenkins and Sam Sheridan were willing to undertake.  I Am The Night begins a 6-part miniseries tonight (January 28th) on TNT, and we got an early look.  Let's focus on the beginning of the story, which is told in the first episode.

There will be no spoilers in this review, but I will have to set the stage for you just a bit.  The story is loosely based on the true story of Fauna Hodel (you may know of the story told in the book about her early life, One Day She'll Darken.)  Fauna is one part of this story, a teenage girl if mixed race growing up in the home of an African American family.  Fauna is played by India Eisley, while her mother is is played by Golden Brooks.  The story takes place in 1965, so you can imagine that Fauna has quite a hard time living in a world still dealing with segregation and race riots.  Her mother has bigger dreams for her, but Fauna seems to be longing for the simple life.  She ends up finding something out about her past that sets her on a course to find out who she really is.  That leads her to Los Angeles, and her grandfather George Hodel (Jefferson Mays).

The other side of this story is down on his luck reporter/photographer Jay Singletary (Chris Pine.)  We see Singletary taking whatever job that he can just to make ends meet.  Once a young, star reporter he took a story that upset some very powerful people and led to his current situation.  When he is finally given a chance at a job, it doesn't go so well and he appears at the end of his rope.  As fate would have it, he gets a phone call that leads him back to the very thing that got him fired in the first place.  This is where we find out how the two stories will eventually converge and give us a different take on the Black Dahlia mystery.

If you are a sucker for a good noir story, especially L.A. noir, this is the mini-series that you are looking for.  From the wardrobe to the scenery, you really get immersed in the atmosphere.  It's also hard to ignore the obvious cultural and social issues of the time, but the show fails to really break any new ground on this front.  Just based on this first episode alone, there is certainly enough intrigue here to make me want to see more.  So much of this episode was spent on character building for both Fauna Hodel and Jay Singletary.  Chris Pine is top notch from the start, playing a desperate, flawed man but also manages to bring out the fun loving personality that we have come to know from some of his other roles.  The real scene stealer of the show is Golden Brooks, who really drives almost every scene that she is in.  Her performance is what drives Fauna's character forward and will make viewers invested in her story.  She also plays more of a part than that, but that is something that I won't spoil for you.  India Eisley brings an innocence to the role of Fauna that really makes you want things to work out for her in the end.  In many ways she is the typical teenager that thinks she knows what she wants and knows what is best.  It's up to the viewer to decide if she's right about that or not based on the decision that she makes.  We don't get to see much of George Hodel, but what we do see is quite creepy and clearly not the kind of person that you want to find out that you're related to.

While this first episode does drag a bit, it will be interesting to see just how much that picks up in the next couple of episodes.  I have looked ahead to future episodes, but since this is the only episode that you will get to see tonight, I didn't think it was fair of me to spoil anything past this for you.  The expectations are set high after the success that Patty Jenkins had with Wonder Woman, especially with Chris Pine on board.  The first episode isn't perfect, and can be a bit cliché at times, but gets solid performances when they are needed the most.  My hope is that, when the stories inevitably converge, that we see these characters evolve a bit and widen the range of the mystery as a whole.  TNT has found success with these mini-series in the past, even recently with the powerful and creepy The Alienist.  On that reputation alone, I have to believe that I Am The Night will be a solid addition.

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