TV Recap: I Am The Night – Gnothi Seauton …

I Am The Night
“Dark Flower” (Episode 103)
February 11, 2019

Last week’s episode introduced us to more characters playing into Fauna’s evolving definition of self. She has to grapple with the fact that she’s not black despite being raised as mixed race her whole life. We met her step-grandmother, Corinna Huntington, kinda like a breathy, arty, odder Mrs. Roper from Three’s Company. Fauna learns more about her new-found family from Corinna and even has a creepy encounter with the man stalking her for years and the man who we know as Dr. Hodel in an art gallery. Jay is spiraling back into the depths of the Hodel case again and getting himself deeper into the mire.

Photo by: CLAY ENOS

Catch up on all the action from last week’s episode with our deep dive recap and review here! Now, on to tonight’s episode of I Am The Night BEWARE OF SPOILERS! 

1945. At the Hodel Manse, there’s a gentleman’s party with scantily clad women in black and white masks and briefly, the sound of animal growling in the background. A young Tamar takes in the scene as her father simultaneously plays peek-a-boo with her AND starts to screw one of the women. The men at the party choose their women. As the hedonistic scene gets freakier and freakier, George is heard narrating the poem A Dream Within A Dream by Edgar Allan Poe. Cut back to George and he’s now wearing a horned mask overseeing the party like a bullish voyeur. It’s a very Eyes Wide Shut or the play Sleep No More kind of scene. Tamar … had a different childhood than most of us.

Photo by: EDDY CHEN

Opening credits.

Present day.  After her odd experiences with the Hodels all day, Fauna is walking back to Auntie Big Momma’s that night. Mr. Black Car grabs her arm from behind and tells her he can, “explain some things.” She struggles free and he lets her go. A passing cop asks if she needs any help in this kind of neighborhood but she explains that this is her home.

“You and them roaches.”

Real nice guy. [Ed. Note: The police are portrayed in a very specific way in this show, huh?]

The next morning. Jay is not doing well. At all. He’s dreaming of a Korean soldier loading a rifle and attaching a bayonet. His disturbing dream is interrupted when Detective Billis busts down his door and his squad hauls Jay off.  We last saw Billis in episode one busting open Jay’s head after the morgue.

Across town, Fauna is struggling to come to terms with her ethnicity; she plays around with her look as she hears Corinna’s words echo in her head that she’s not black. She gives herself a very typical mid-60s flip with a headband. It makes her look so different.  At the breakfast table, Auntie Big Momma and her fam want to know about Fauna’s experience with her white kin but she just wants to know if they’ve noticed Mr. Black Car hanging around. There may be a discussion about whether or not Mick Jagger has any “brother” in him.

LAPD Lock-Up.  Jay is in the interrogation room and Billis comes in. This guy just screams DICK.  They’re hurling insults at each other but it escalates quickly and violently. Jay confesses to whatever Billis thinks he did, you get the impression he just wants to be alone to work off his hangover.  Billis informs Jay that the ‘ex-wife’ spotted Jay following her and gave his plate to the LAPD.  Jay is all, “?!?”

Billis threatens to take an eye or a finger to teach Jay a lesson because his earlier warning to stay out of the way (remember the pistol whip and destroying Jay’s camera from Episode 1?) didn’t drive home the point.  Jay is handcuffed to his chair and kicks himself to the floor as Billis attempts to stab him in the eye with a pencil.

Luckily for Jay’s eyeball, a pounding on the door by Eddie and the precinct captain stops Billis in his tracks.. As a side note, Billis has a gnarly facial scar. In the hallway, the precinct captain informs Billis that Jay is to be remanded to Ohls’s custody seeing as Billis doesn’t have a charge to hold Jay. Billis wonders why Eddie is willing to stake his career on the “flaky shit bird”?!?

Backstory Time! Eddie tells Billis (and us) about Jay’s heroics during the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War (we’ve already heard a little about this before as a formative moment in Jay’s life). Eddie tells Billis about “Dog Company” and their experience at Hill 1240. Some 200 Marines went up the hill and only 16 came back. Eddie had been shot in both legs, but survived because the bullet holes froze, preventing him from bleeding out. Jay was resourceful in his fighting tactics, John Rambo level shit, and helped Eddie survive.

“That flaky shit bird in there, I seen him with my own eyes, Billis. I seen him run dry and kill God knows how many of them. Seven or eight of them with his entrenching tool. A shovel. Just a little shitty shovel. So he walks while I’m alive.”

Historical Side Note: Hill 1240 was one of several hills that Americans fought on, and around, during the Frozen Chosin. D Company of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines (Dog/2/7), better known as Dog Company, was indeed tasked with defending Hill 1240.

Mr. Black Car is threading string (or piano wire?) through a mannequin’s face, the ends attached to screws. We presume this is his attempt at surrealism art, given the coaching he got from George at the art gallery in the previous episode. We know for sure that it’s Creepy AF.

Commercials.

Back at Auntie Big Momma’s House, Fauna is with her cousin and friends, shooting the shit about life, lying step-grandmothers, and rich white people. Fauna thinks that Corinna was lying about Tamar and that her birth mother was probably there, in the Hodel Mansion, the whole time. There’s some sweet moments exchanged between Fauna and Terrence. Fauna is pulled away by a phone call from an already drunk Nero. He wants to ask her out (or more). As they talk, we see a reel to reel tape recorder click on.  Mr. Black Car is in his car, listening and taping the phone call, but Fauna hangs up on Nero pretty quick.

As they leave the precinct together, Jay tells Ohls that they’re square now but Eddie replies that they’ll never be square.  [Ed. Note: I like this friendship a lot and the loyalty these two men share.] Eddie thinks he’s onto something because the LAPD dropped the hammer on him. Eddie is wary of continuing to cross Billis; he’s very powerful and well connected and Eddie is now on the outs with the police.

“I’m out of favors and you’re out of friends. If they get you again, you’re staying got.”

The Hodel Manse. Fauna sneaks on to the Hodel property and, after watching Corinna leave, tries to break into the house. Well first, she knocks on the door, calling Tamar’s name. Honey, that could not possibly ever work.  Fauna snoops some more and finds a way in through the (super creepy basement). She heads up the stairs to the main house as we go to commercials.

Related, but off on a tangent: the soundtrack is like its own supporting character in this series.

Commercials.

Jay finds Peter in a bar holding an editor’s meeting, which Jay busts up.  Jay is excited; he feels there are cracks in the Hodel story because he got roughed up “for staking out the ex-wife, for the love of Mike.” Peter tells Jay he looks like “hammered shit.” Peter, friend, that is a great line, but Jay’s not alone. When you hold all of your work meetings in a bar, maybe you should take a look in the mirror, buddy.

Jay thinks he’s onto something because of the illegal abortion clinic Hodel ran under the protection of the LAPD and that Hodel must have info on some big people. Otherwise, why would the LAPD bring the hammer down on him? When Peter continues to talk him down from the Hodel ledge, Jay accuses him of being on the LAPD’s side which Peter is offended by. Their argument is interrupted by a drunk patron tipping backwards on his chair and Jay diving under the table at the sound of the crack. His PTSD is real, y’all.

Photo: TNT

In his head, Jay hears gunfire as “fire in the hole” is echoed. The drunks mock Jay, calling him “shell shock.” In true Jay fashion, he goes to town on the guy who fell over. Watching this again, I am not sure Jay evenm knew what he was doing right then. I think he was back in Korea at that moment.  Peter, very clamly (he’s seen this before I imagine), tries to get Jay to relent. Jay’s tossed out of the bar in great fashion but he’s relentless.

“The ex-wife is the key, Peter.”

The Hodel Manse. Fauna is searching the Hodel place for signs of Tamar. She finds an envelope in the trash with a partial view of Tamar’s name in the return address line; it’s postmarked last week. She continues to snoop and finds the freak-a-deak horned animal mask from the beginning of the episode hanging on a wall in a study. It’s on a sort of  wall of fame (wall of adoration?), dedicated to Dr. George Hodel. There’s photos of just George and newspaper clippings about him and his work, including an article about a new hysterectomy technique of his.

This is her ex-husband, people. What. The. Fuck. I don’t know about you, dear readers, but if I had an ex-spouse accused of pretty horrific things, I have a sneaking suspicion I wouldn’t dedicate a wall in my home to commemorate his bizarre hobbies and accomplishments, but that’s me. [Ed. Note: I think this was the Hodel home and I’m not convinced that he and Corinna don’t spend some time together.] 

Fauna’s eyes go wide as she realizes that the man from the bus rest area and art gallery is her grandfather, George Hodel. She replays pieces of their prior conversations in her head. She’s dazed and super creeped out. But, she’s got bigger problems just now because someone has entered the house and that someone is whispering her name.  It’s the same goddamn spine-chilling whisper we heard in the gallery in the previous episode.

It’s Mr. Black Car and he’s carrying a black and white sex mask, like the women wore in the beginning of the episode at the Hodel orgy. He’s calling after her as Fauna plays a game of hide and seek. [Ed. Note: I swear to God, I didn’t breath this entire scene.]

Again I say, what the fuck? Why is he whispering her name? Has he grown attached to her watching her all these years?

Mr. Black Car is interrupted by Corinna’s arrival home. He heads back downstairs, allowing Fauna to run away.

Outside, Jay has arrived in his Hodel Snooping Spot just in time to witness both Mr. Black Car being thrown out the front door (and read the riot act by Corinna, though we can’t hear her words) AND Fauna sneaking out a side entrance and sliding down a drain pipe. Ya know, Billis accused him of being in the wrong place, but he’s got a definitely got a knack for spotting trouble.

Commercials.

Fauna walks away from her breaking and entering escapade. Jay pulls up alongside her asking if she is related to Tamar Hodel. Already wary of white dudes in cars, Fauna bolts at the mention of her mother. Jay’s determined to not lose her. He catches up to Fauna just as Mr. Black Car squeals into the intersection, approaching from the other side. After a momentary standoff, Fauna jumps into Jay’s car. Mr. Black Car demanding she get in the car weighed against Jay’s decidedly less creepy features probably sealed the deal.  The male testosterone in this episode is high tonight between Billis and Jay and with Jay and Mr. Black Car.

Photo: TNT

They drive away. Jay is trying to get her to trust him by saying he is a friend of Tamar’s, or at least he is on her side and guesses that she’s Tamar’s daughter. After paying her $5 to sit and talk, they share some coffee and pie. He tells her he’s a reporter who wrote about Tamar a long time ago and he’s looking for her. Fauna is guarded but curious. She wants to know what he knows about Tamar and why he wants to find her and Jay is only interested in asking about where Tamar might be. It’s a frustrating conversation for two people who don’t realize they’re probably on the same side. Neither is willing to give up any information. Fauna gets up to use the ladies room and she’s gone with his five bucks.

Photo by: CLAY ENOS

Commercials.

Jay is frustrated he’s lost Fauna. He beats himself up and takes a snort. Dammit, Jay, focus. He stops by an Armed Services Center saying he wants to re-enlist for Vietnam. The desperation in him we glimpsed in Episode 1 is back because the case is not opening up as he’d hoped. Luckily, he’s deterred by the maximum age requirement for enlistment. As Jay leaves, he spots a book store with string of ‘crime chaser’ magazines by the entrance. The cover is of The Black Dahlia murder. He buys one and thumbs through it. [Ed. Note: I’d like to think that “Crime Chasers News” was the forerunner to the modern true crime podcast; Serial in print form.]

OMG the music is raising my blood pressure.

Photo by: CLAY ENOS

Cut to the blueprints for the the crazy mannequin we saw earlier. Dr. Hodel is complimenting Mr. Black Car’s work and the progress he’s made. Also, Mr. Black Car finally gets a name! It’s Sepp.  Back to the “art piece,” the mannequin’s back is made to look like a cello formed into a human body with strings up the back. [Ed. Note: My view of the blue prints tells me this is meant to be used as an artistic bondage piece; on a mannequin now but I think placed on a human later.] Sepp, using this progress as proof, implores George to let him help him on more of his real work, his secret work. George dismisses him pejoratively, telling him, A. Sepp couldn’t handle the full view of what George does and B. keeping track of the girl is his important work.

“Gnothi seauton. Know thyself.”

Fauna returns home and learns from Tina and Auntie Big Momma that Nero was murdered. His tongue was cut out and tied in a knot. Ewww.

Outside, Fauna tells Terrence that something is up, it’s not safe. In light of what happened to Nero, Terrence is inclined to believe her.

Commercials.

Back form the break, Terrence takes Fauna to his apartment. She calls her Momma, Jimmie Lee, who is just as pleasant as ever. Jimmie Lee is coming to LA for her.  After she hangs up, Terrence tells her she’s crazy for not leaving town. She explains that she can’t let the Hodels go.

“If you go looking for trouble, you’ll find it.”

Jay is parked in his car at one of those famous LA overlooks you see in movies and TV. He’s with Lily, but she’s passed out again.

On the soundtrack, the music is that swelling, haunting dirge with the dissonant trombones, we’ve heard before. Pure tension.

Jay’s mind is turning. As he flips through the true crime mag and his pictures of the Janis Brewster morgue pics, he’s putting things together. “Elizabeth Short” and “Janis Brewster,” he says aloud.

Meanwhile, at the Dr. Hodel Manse, a growling sound disturbs George – decked out in his best smoking jacket. The growling sounds like a monster trying to break through a door. George drops to his hands and knees to peer under the door and we see a four legged hoofed animal. As the episode ends, we see the animal reflected in a closeup of George’s eye.

George, you got some crazy, mofo eyes.

Historical Background. The Black Dahlia murder remains one of the most infamous cold cases in US history. Elizabeth Short was an aspiring actress in Hollywood in 1947 when her life was cut short in a brutal murder. She was found in a vacant lot, her body cut in half and severely mutilated. Whole sections of skin were removed and “Joker-smile” style slits were made up her cheeks, extending from her mouth.

A hysterectomy had been performed and the body had been drained of blood. Her killing was dubbed, “the Black Dahlia” by the press. The name comes, supposedly, from her penchant for wearing black clothing and flowers in her hair; as well as a play on the name of a popular movie out at the time called The Blue Dahlia.

During the course of George Hodel’s trial in which his daughter accused him of incest (FYI, he was acquitted), George Hodel was implicated as a suspect in the the Black Dahlia murder case. The Black Dahlia’s wounds were believed to be consistent with someone with medical training. Hodel’s residence was later bugged by the authorities. Recorded conversations of Hodel were caught on tape where he stated that maybe he had killed the Black Dahlia, but it couldn’t be proven.  He was never arrested or charged with the murder. A corrupt LAPD was also heavily involved in the story.

Thoughts.

Jay and Fauna finally meet! These two together are the key to solving the mystery of who Fauna is and finding out who her father is. I’m enjoying their onscreen rapport. There’s a familial quality, like siblings, to their conversation … despite Fauna running out on him. There’s a funny exchange in the diner where Fauna asks him his name and he responds with “puddin’ ’n tain, ask me again and I’ll tell you the same.” It’s from a 1963 song by the Alley Cats and the line is said when someone can’t remember your name. It’s his attempt at disarming her distrust and it works. There’s a powerful foundation growing here that now has the momentum to unearth the ghosts. Jay is as determined as Fauna to uncover her truth and he’s genuinely on her side.  

And Mr. Black Car has a name! This should make him seem more human, but then again, Nero is dead and Sepp was the last one to see him alive as we were watching … so I guess not? Sepp’s got such a strange reverence for Fauna, although every time he says her name, I shudder. On Nero’s murder, eh, that guy sucked and was kind of gross. RIP Nero, you won’t be missed, well maybe by Terrence (who seems like the only normal person in this twisted cast of characters. Him and Auntie Big Momma. That’s about it).    

I have no idea what to make of George, other than he is a STRANGE duck, what with that mask and the sex party while his daughter watched and the possible hallucination of the hoofed animal growling in his home in the study. He’s so central to the story, but he’s so elusive. He invited Fauna to come to LA to meet him, dammit! The shroud of mystery surrounding him serves the story well, helping to ratchet up the tension, and leaving us confused and wanting more as weird as it gets.  

We’re getting closer to the Black Dahlia sphere of this tangled web so it’ll be interesting to watch what happens as Jay continues to piece information together. Things are still pretty nebulous, but a little more clear than where I felt we were at the end of episode 2, at least we know Tamar is alive and Corinna knows that. Fauna had her right the first time: a liar.

I’m a little frustrated that Fauna doesn’t get a lot of lines with depth; I want to know what’s going on in her head. Jay still steals the show every scene he’s in. Although he is an invented character in a show inspired by true events, he’s the realest of the bunch in terms of his emotions and his flaws. And, that shouldn’t be the case. This is Fauna’s story so we need to see the spotlight move to her in a meaningful and substantive way; right now, she’s more of a prop in her own narrative. 

Buckle up, friends! Three more episodes to go. Shit is going down from here on out! 

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