I Am The Night
“Queen’s Gambit, Accepted” (Episode 106)
March 4, 2019
Last week on I Am The Night, Jay and Fauna made it to Hawaii and found Fauna’s mother, Tamar. Annnnd Tamar is just as cray cray as she’s been portrayed all along but in fairness, how normal can you be when your Dad slept with you and you had his kid? It’s all very Jerry Springer … or maybe Maury should be involved? Consequently, Fauna is devastated by the news and feels betrayed by Jay because he knew the truth about her father all along. Jay is betrayed by Peter. And WTF is up with George? He traveled to Nevada to stab Jimmie Lee in a terrifying scene showing all his homicidal predilections. At the end of last week, we don’t know if Jimmie Lee is alive or dead.
Catch up on all of last week’s action-packed penultimate episode and deep dive recap here. Continue reading below for all the sordid details as we recap *sniff* the the final I Am The Night. BEWARE OF SPOILERS!!
1917. We’re shooting in black and white so you know it’s old. In an opulent house, heavy, and somewhat dark, classical music is being played by a young boy (Nicholas Brown) on a piano with a man standing over him. The man is listening to the music but is expressionless. Cut to the boy’s mother (Lauren Flans) talking to the piano instructor, Rachmaninoff (Kristof Konrad). She is frantically imploring him to keep teaching George, touting his high IQ and his previous instructor’s accolades. Rachmaninoff is over Lil’ George.
“Your son is talented, but he plays without emotion, the hardest thing to have. It cannot be taught. At least I cannot teach him that. He’s a mimic, a precise machine. Put him into medicine or science … He is not an artist.”
Lil’ George is sitting at the top of the stairs, hearing all this. Over his shoulder, he sees his familiar bull snuffing and stomping.
Historical backstory: Sergey Rachmaninoff was a Russian-born classical composer. Born in 1873, he was considered a virtuoso and a prominent composer in the period of Russian Romanticism. Following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Rachmaninoff fled Russia to live out his days split between Switzerland and California.
County Lock-Up. Jay is back in a holding cell (he’s spent a decent amount of this show in police custody). Billis nonchalantly eats his lo mein as his henchman, Detective Cuddy (Theo Marshall), beats the ever loving shit out of our boy. As Billis and Cuddy start to leave, Jay spits that George Hodel killed Janis Brewster. Billis, still cranky that his fall guy for the Brewster murder, Brody Styles, was able to walk after Jay’s paper exonerated him, warns Jay to keep George Hodel off his lips.
Jay screams at Billis (Cuddy is still there too), asking what Hodel has on everyone that is he so protected by the cops?!? Jay calls out that he has proof Hodel is a murderer and it was on the table at Lu Dong’s, where they arrested him.
“For once in your goddamn life be a cop, be a cop, instead of being a bagman for the mob. Is that why you joined the force? Was that your dream as a boy?”
Billis can’t let Jay’s accusations go without response and he struggles to fond the key to get into Jay’s cell. Jay isn’t done though and lays out the entire case for Hodel as murderer, and how he is now planning on raping and killing his granddaughter.
Billis has Jay backed into a corner of the cell and has him by the scruff of his neck, screaming and spitting in his face that Jay doesn’t know anything about Billis or why he became a cop or what he sees on a day-to-day basis.
“I do. You’re a cop and you do me a solid and look at Hodel. And you look him in the eyes.”
This finally seems to get through to Billis because Jay gets out of this encounter without any further injury. Whew, thank goodness ‘cuz his face can’t take much more.
Auntie Big Momma’s House. We see the Watts Riots are in full effect now (we saw the beginning of that last week) and entire sections of LA are on fire. Fauna picks up the ringing telephone, it’s the hospital in Sparks calling to let Auntie Big Momma know that Jimmie Lee was admitted to the ICU and had lost a lot of blood. Fauna looks dazed as she sets the phone down.
Cut to Corinna, she picks up her phone and it’s Fauna asking her for help but we don’t hear what that help is.
Back at Auntie Big Momma’s House, Terrence rolls up and Fauna is all “where is everyone?!?” He explains they’re all out looking for Xander and that shit’s getting real out in LA. Cops have killed 15 people already and black people are pulling white people out of cars and beating them. Fauna isn’t hearing any of this and asks him to drive her to Sparks because her mother is hurt. Terrence is all nopers, car won’t make it and anyway, a black guy CANNOT be seen with a light skinned girl in his car right now. He suggests she go back to Hawaii with her “white guy.” Fauna doesn’t have time for his petty jealousies and begs him to at least take her to Pasadena where she could catch a bus back home. Her mother’s hurt and that’s all she care about. When he refuses, she storms off saying she’ll walk then. “Wait,” Terrence calls.
We like Terrence because he provides some small semblance of teenage, flirty, normal in this depraved world. Honestly, he’s the only un-corrupted character in this series.
Cut to Fauna in the trunk of Terrence’s car. As we see only her eye through the trunk’s key hole, we hear the car radio narrating the riots and we hear Terrence interacting with rioters that are throwing things at his car. It’s a great way to deliver the seriousness of this time in America, Fauna’s fear is our fear. It’s palpable.
Terrence lets Fauna out in Corinna’s affluent white neighborhood. She kisses him goodbye and tells him to be careful. Terrence tries to chase after her but doesn’t follow her onto Corinna’s property. Fauna knocks on Corinna’s door. The music is pretty tense. Corinna with her perfectly curled hair, flowing dress and blazing red lips, is crazed as she watches the news coverage of the riots.
Fauna asks Corinna for money for the bus home. Corinna regains her composure and does not forget her pleasantries, offering Fauna a drink. Fauna tells Corinna she went to see Tamar. Corinna inquires if Tamar still lives in her dream world and Fauna confirms that she still believes it all. Corinna is concerned that Tamar still hates her, she doesn’t feel that she deserve that.
There’s no music here, just the sound of the TV news in the background, which is eerie in itself because the soundtrack is its own presence in this show in all scenes.
Fauna tells her that Tamar forgives her. Fauna continues to drink her lemonade but we notice that Corinna hasn’t touched her glass. Cue the eerie music, very dissonant and heavy on the strings; it sounds like a heartbeat. Corinna puts her drink down conspicuously, looking very guilty. Fauna looks at her step-grandmother and realizes that she’s been betrayed … again. Fauna starts to get up but she’s unsteady and she collapses. As Fauna loses consciousness, Corinna gives her a little warning for the road ahead.
“Don’t eat anything in his house.”
County Lock-Up. About 20 black men are stuffed into a cell next to Jay. The cops are talking to each other as they’re loading in the arrestees, saying it’s so bad out there that firefighters are getting shot at. That Jay, the white guy, as a cell all to himself isn’t lost on one of the black men. Jay asks him what’s happening out on the streets and the man tells him that they’re fighting back against the cops and their abuse. “Folks just tired,” he says.
“If we don’t put ourselves on the line, then who will?”
You can tell from the intense look in Jay’s eyes that something just clicked; he’s got a plan.
The Hodel Manse. Fauna wakes up in a bedroom in the Hodel Manse. We see Sepp’s chess board next to the bed. She’s wearing a sexy little silk nightgown and George Hodel is standing over her. He asks how she is feeling and tells her to join him in the sitting room. Alone, she takes in her surroundings a bit and notices her clothes (bra included) are neatly folded on a dresser. Fauna’s (and our) “creeped out” factor jumps to 11.
In the sitting room, George is shining his shoes when Fauna enters (redressed in her own clothes). She asks how she got there George tells her that Corinna called him after Fauna fainted in Corinna’s kitchen. She questions the “I fainted” part. George walks over to her to ask how she’s feeling as he checks her temperature and pulse. “Healthy as a horse,” he’s pleased to report. Through a giant picture window, which frames the room, we see a huge plume of smoke from LA burning. Fauna isn’t going to waste this opportunity to talk her her grandfather.
“George Hodel, I’ve been trying so hard to get into contact with you. You invited me here, do you remember?”
He drawls on that he’s very busy with work. Fauna tells him that she met Tamar and Jay Singletary but George is ready for that. He mocks them as a poor introduction to him to be sure. With respect to Jay, George calls him a “yellow journalist” and badly damaged, perhaps from his wartime experiences. He notes that he successfully sued Jay for libel. As to Tamar, he diminishes her as being a tragic figure.
“I wouldn’t even say Tamar is liar, precisely because she believes her mistruths so deeply. Tragic. Shakespearean or at least Eugene O’Neill.”
Sick Burn, George!
Fauna tells Grandpa George that she’s not feeling well and is to lie down some more. Piano Chords of Evil start up so you know it’s going to be bad now.
Instead of going to her room, she waits for George to leave his sitting room and she begins to semi-frantically look for a way out. She makes her way down a staircase that leads to an outer gate, but the outer gate is locked We cut to commercials as she is shaking the gate now fully frantically.
We come back to Fauna, still looking for a way out, running into George. “Feeling better,” he asks? His eyes are so unnerving. They never move and stare dead ahead with the intensity of a shark.
He asks her to come admire an art piece he’s acquired. He’s on the fense about it because he thinks abstract art is “faddish.” This piece in particular, he likens to looking through a window and draws a connection from it to her. George tells Fauna that her experience growing up must have been akin to being an outsider looking in on simpler people. Shifting gears, he tells Fauna that she “looks good in this house” and that it suits her. She should stay, he suggests. Fauna responds that its a kind gesture and he agrees, he is very kind.
Insert *eye roll* here.
George asks about “pretty Jimmie” and Fauna responds that she’s fine, adding she hasn’t spoken to her in a few weeks. “Uh huh” is George’s non-responsive response.
The doorbell rings and it’s Billis. George dismisses Fauna. She asks to leave the house but George is all, “no no no, not safe outside.”
Billis’ eyes trail after Fauna, thinking of the words Jay said to him. Billis tells Hodel that the reporter has been taken care of. They discuss the deployment of the National Guard to quell the riots and Hodel asked the Lieutenant Governor to send a squad to the house to protect him. Another visitor, a Mr. Berman, interrupts this conversation and Hodel tells Billis to show himself out. Billis isn’t crazy with the way George is speaking to him.
Fauna finds Billis as he’s leaving, asking him to help get her out of the house. Of course, George is there. Billis looks conflicted, but tells Fauna “no, better not.” George escorts Fauna back to her room. Billis watches the two of them retreat down the hall, puffing hard on his cigarette. Jay’s words are clearly playing in his head.
County Lock-Up. Jay dreams Sepp is a jailer beating his nightstick on the bars of Jay’s cell. Jay is awoken by those same nightstick sounds but it’s actually morning time it’s a cop, that isn’t Sepp, saying Billis wants to talk. In the interrogation room, Billis says he looked at Jay’s evidence (namely, the photographs left at Lu Dong) and doesn’t think there is much there, so what else does Jay have? Jay pleads that if he lets Jay out, they can bury Hodel under a mountain of evidence and Billis can be the hero detective. Billis says Jay has a credibility problem so anything Billis would use would need to be “solid gold” and not with Jay.
Billis went to the house, he tells Jay, and admits to the girl being there. So what, Billis says? Jay is all amped up for Billis to do something but he’s not getting the reality of the situation. Hodel has too many by the big balls, including mob families, to be taken down. If Billis went after Hodel, he’d be dead in a week, he says. Jay has one trump card left to play.
Jay’s plan: Jay tells Billis to cut him loose for a few hours. With the riots, he can get lost in the shuffle. Jay will kills Hodel himself during that time. In exchange for letting Jay do this, Jay will sign a full confession admitting to killing Janis Brewster with Detective Cuddy’s switchblade (which Cuddy happens to have out right now because he’s a bigger psychopath than Billis). Billis counteroffers that maybe he takes the Brewster confession from Jay but doesn’t let Jay out for a bit to kill Hodel. Why not go that way? Jay asks Billis if he isn’t sick of kissing Hodel’s ass AND seeing Jay’s face?!?
“Two problems gone, all your problems gone; you’re a genius … You kill two birds with one stone. That’s elegant.”
Deal! Jay scoffs as he puts his fingerprints on Cuddy’s knife.
“I was supposed to be a journalist.”
“Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to work out.”
Jay is brought out by Billis and loaded into a patrol car but not before Billis slips him the key for the handcuffs. In a weird moment of (self-interested) compassion, Billis makes Jay promise he wont kill the patrolman, Jimmy, during his escape. Officer Jimmy (Robert Nagle) has a lot of connected family on the force. The puzzled look Jay gives Billis is priceless.
Two more cops pile into the car hitching a ride on the prisoner transfer. These two are young and fit and dressed in riot gear, the polar opposite of Officer Jimmy. Ugh, the complications for Jay are just going to add to the body count and the demons he carries around. Billis gives him a “what are you gonna do” look as Jimmy drives away.
Hodel Manse. Fauna is in her room in Hodel’s house. She puts back the chess piece she found on Sepp, making the chess set complete once again. George’s wife Yuna (Mariko Wordell) (Yuna being the voice we heard way back, when Fauna first called the Hodel Manse), opens the door announcing that dinner is served.
Fauna looks terrified as she sits down at the table opposite George. To the side, she spots some decorations similar to the pool balls from the last episode. We’ll call these, “Chekhov’s Cue Balls.”
When Fauna doesn’t make a move eat, George asks her if she isn’t hungry? She claims to not be feeling very well (wisely heeding Corinna’s advice to not eat anything in his house) and George finds this very amusing. He toasts her health. The look on his face as she brings the cup to her lips is searing and creepy; he’s urging her to drink with all the power of his shark eyes. When Fauna ultimately puts the glass down without sipping, he sighs in visible frustration.
George changes the subject abruptly telling her that he is a painter and he wants to paint her. “Whaaaaaaa,” is a paraphrase of Fauna’s response.
“If we’re not going to eat, we should work, create, chase our own divinity.”
He takes off his jacket revealing a gun, saying it’s for their safety on a night like tonight as he pats the gun. She gets up and follows him, palming one of Chekhov’s Cue Balls as she goes.
He leads her downstairs to a basement where he has a medical equipment set up, a hybrid half back alley medical clinic, half art studio. The meat hook hanging in the room is a disturbing touch, as is the
rust blood colored stains near a drain in the floor. The music has me absolutely not breathing. George hands her a nightie to put on, she’s to wear this, “just this.”
When Fauna refuses to change, George slaps her hard (the screen goes all white, hitting home the force of the blow – another one of the artistic, narrative touches this show uses so well), knocking her to the ground. Cowed, she goes behind the curtain to change and sees crime scene photos of dead women. Fauna asks if what Jay said was true? As he preps his paint, George mocks Jay’s ability to see any truth about George. As Fauna changes, her sobs teetering on hyperventilating, George is working himself into a lather about his place above the laws of normal men and also, his place in the art world. He is a creature of Nature and it’s not George’s place to question his role in Nature’s design.
“I am but a machine, which runs as she likes. Sit.”
She sits, hiding the ball in her right hand. Clever girl.
Jay tries to undo his handcuffs without being noticed. As the three cops in the car laugh about how some people are too dumb to live, Jay leaps into action. With an explosion of violent action, he knocks out (kills?) the two Riot Ger cops. Turning to Officer Jimmy, Jay chokes him out as he steers the patrol car into a parked car on an empty street. Shots are fired but in the end, Jay spills out of the backseat and takes Officer Jimmy’s service gun. Jay staggers away as the three cops are un-moving in the car. Does killing become easier the more you do it?
Hodel Manse. Fauna is hysterical, pleading with Grandpa George that she needs to wipe her bloodied face and begging him not to hurt her. He throws a towel at her, which she uses to house Chekhov’s Cue Ball. He brandishes the gun telling her to behave and listen. So caught up in his pretentious art talk is George, he doesn’t notice that Fauna is keeping her hands behind her back. Speaking of Fauna, she’s finding her courage.
“You sure talk a lot of shit. I went to Corinna Huntington’s Happening. I know what Corinna would call this. She would say this is the opposite of avant-garde. She’d say ‘kitsch.'”
George is not pleased at being disparaged. His shark eyes, normally so intense and un-moving, go wide. Fauna is just getting started. She’s got George’s number and hits all the right notes to provoke him: he’s simple minded, Corinna is the real artist, he’s just like Jimmie Lee, making art without understanding.
Sufficiently provoked, George comes at her with a scalpel remarking that she’ll be just another daughter of his no one believes.
Not waiting for the scalpel, Fauna strikes George in the wrist with Chekhov’s Cue Ball. He bitch slaps her into the wall but holds on to her weapon. She comes whacks him in the knee and he goes down hard, falling over his work station and dropping his gun. As George crawls, Fauna gets to the gun first. She holds him at gun point as he simpers that Fauna is his, before anything else. FAUNA FINALLY BREAKS OUT OF HER MENTAL PRISON!!! YES!!!
“Am I your daughter … George?”
The camera’s focus pulls from Fauna’s face to the gun as she methodically cocks it, ready to fire. The camera then zooms into her left eye, The Hodel Bull reflecting back in her pupil. But Fauna isn’t broken and corrupted, she’s not a Hodel.
“No, I am not yours. I know who I am. I am Jimmie Lee’s daughter. I will never be yours.”
Fauna backs away, insulting him further by calling him boring. Really the worst thing she could probably call George. She runs, leaving him on the floor. This is better than George deserves.
The Hodel Manse. Jay arrives and Fauna meets him as she emerges from the basement. She runs to him for comfort and he hugs her one handed (Officer Jimmy’s gun hanging loose in the other hand). A little human compassion is all Fauna is really looking for. He tells her to stay put as he leaves to finish his mission.
The look on his face as he moves away from her is similar to the look he had when he killed Sepp. It’s his game face. He descends the stairs cautiously looking for George. The room is empty. When he sees a painting of George in the bull mask, reminding him of the paintings in the gallery, he Fucking.Loses.It. Jay busts up everything he can with this animal like scream. It takes Fauna’s calm soothing voice and her hands grabbing his face to calm him down. She assures him that he doesn’t need to kill Hodel. They walk out, hand in hand.
Nighttime in LA, as the city burns. Jay and Fauna are walking through the empty post-riot streets. He doesn’t want to tell her story anymore. Fauna thinks there is grace for Jay, if he can find it. The couple see the National Guard approaching through the gloom and haze, looking like something out of one of Jay’s nightmares. They part ways as he’s gotta leave town and they promise to keep in touch. I found it strange that none of the National Guard members stopped the lonely woman wandering the streets with the bruised face wearing a man’s shirt over her nightgown … the 60s were a different time, man.
Some days later, Fauna and Terrence visit Jimmie Lee in the hospital. Terrence has on a suit. What a classy guy. The music is same as the opening scene in Episode 1. Jimmie Lee is in her hospital bed, smoking.
“You gonna bring your man up in here. You know I ain’t done my hair in two weeks.”
We cut to Jay sitting up against a tree in a tropical location, his shirt open and a surf board next to him. He’s reading a letter from Fauna. She hopes he’s doing well and found a life. As Fauna narrates her letter, we get a montage.
Peter is reading a newspaper; we see a headline that Hodel has fled the country.
In LA, Tina and her friends walk past burned out storefronts, the remnants of the riots.
“Things here have changed. It feels that the more they change, the more they stay the same.”
Cut to some undisclosed foreign land, George Hodel, looking positively disheveled and broken, hobbles down a staircase. He glares at Yuma who has unveiled the red abstract painting from earlier in the episode. He shakes his head and she cover it up. His bull statue has accompanied him in exile. He walks with a cane and a limp, a lasting souvenir from Fauna.
“I feel lost and alone sometimes. Feels different from everyone around me. Like you feel. Maybe its because we know what monsters are.”
Back to Jimmie Lee and Fauna in the hospital. They share a hand squeeze as they realize they’re stuck together for better or worse.
“We keep struggling and making do cause that’s all there is.”
Jay is on a surfboard, staring into a setting sun. The ghosts of those he killed alongside him. Is it resignation or peace that we see in his eyes?
“The devil is something we all carry in our hearts. We have to make peace with them … What you did and didn’t do, that saved me.”
We come back to Fauna, as she’s finishing her narration, she looks at her own reflection.
“When I look in the mirror, Jay, I see something else. Something I don’t quite recognize, but something I chose.”
Fauna’s reflection dissolves as we fade to a sun rising over a mountain. A new day is beginning.
Whoa. I don’t know about you, but I was holding my breath for most of this episode. The action and tension are dizzying. These episodes have been the fastest hours; they start, the drama unfolds and BAM! it’s time to cue the credits. The music, as ever with this series, was a complimentary companion tonight. The presence and absence of music were equal statements to the drama unfolding.
I enjoyed this final episode immensely. The ends for the characters were tied up nicely and I feel, authentically, for all players. Corinna’s finale betrayal of Fauna completed the twisted circle of the entire California crowd and I appreciated the closed loop. Corinna’s lemonade roofie showed where her loyalties lied, or at least where her loyalty compelled her to be. But, then she gives her that warning to not eat anything. In that instant, she became a complicated character. With all the power George has, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had something on Corinna forcing her hand and actions.
Hodel obviously does not get the justice he deserves, and Fauna is still innocent enough that she won’t kill him when given the opportunity. And justice for the real victim of the Black Dahlia murder and whether said justice lies at George Hodel’s feet, will likely never be known. In the end, that is the real injustice.
I do mourn for Jay, as I feel his character dropping from view while the sun was setting was intentional [Ed. Note: Do you think his eyes going wide right before they pulled away from him was some indication of his death?], whereas Fauna was facing a sunrise. I don’t think Jay’s heart splinters would ever let him live in peace. He had done his good in the world, he told the truth and exposed Hodel’s horrors while helping Fauna learn the truth about her birth family, as sordid as they are. That was his mission and he completed it.
Even Billis, who I felt had zero redeeming qualities, really delivered in the end. I guess he remembered why he became a cop, looked Hodel in the eye and did Jay a solid by sticking to the plan Jay outlined. Elegant.
As for Fauna, she accepts her origin story and chooses to define herself as she sees fit, by acknowledging Jimmie Lee as her mother, selecting Terrence as a partner, and going about her life knowing the tragic story of her birth lineage. She chooses to find happiness despite all she learned.
With big Hollywood names, like Chris Pine and Patty Jenkins spearheading this, we knew the quality would be there and they delivered. The acting, production, score, every component was top-notch and is deserving of award recognition. TNT certainly has quite a production team on their hands, with The Alienist last year and I Am The Night this year. I will definitely be tuning into their next installment in their suspense series.
As always, thank you for reading along these last six weeks as we’ve followed the journey of Jay and Fauna in learning the truth of who she is and by extension, a way to figure out who we all are.