I didn’t know anything about TNT’s new series I Am the Night going in, except that the Best Chris was in it, and that’s really all I needed to know. I had heard some murmurings about a connection to The Black Dahlia case, but that connection was not apparent in the first episode. I kept anticipating that India Eisley’s Fauna Hodel would end up dead, a victim of the Black Dahlia killer. That’s not where I Am the Night is headed, however, although the potential Black Dahlia killer has already been introduced to the series.
But let’s back up a little: I Am the Night is centered on Fauna Hodel (India Eisley), a light-skinned biracial teenager who doesn’t quite fit in with either black people or white people and is often confused for white. She’s being raised by an alcoholic black mother, Jimmy Lee, and there’s clearly some emotional abuse going on in the home. Fauna soon discovers, however, that the woman she long believed was her biological mother is not. A woman named Tamar Hodel gave Jimmy Lee a couple of $50 tips at a casino in 1951 and basically told her to raise her baby for her. Jimmy Lee was told that the father was black, and Tamar even had Fauna’s birth certificate reflect that to be the case. Fauna grew up believing she was mixed race, although Jimmy Lee had her doubts.
When Fauna discovers that Jimmy Lee is not blood-related, she decides to locate her biological mother, which brings her to her biological grandfather, George Hodel, a wealthy physician, who warns Fauna away from her mother. This is essentially where the first episode leaves off.
Meanwhile, Jay Singletary (Chris Pine) — a fictional journalist for the Los Angeles Times — is struggling because of accusations he leveled against Hodel earlier in his career. Jay is about to hit rock bottom and commit suicide when he receives a phone call from Fauna’s non-biological mother, Jimmy Lee, who tells him that everything he wrote about George Hodel back in the day was accurate.
That’s where The Black Dahlia connection comes in. As it turns out, George Hodel may have been the Black Dahlia killer, at least according to former Los Angeles police department detective Steve Hodel, who is … George Hodel’s son. Steve Hodel has done extensive research over the last 18 years trying to prove that his father was the Black Dahlia killer, and the evidence is fairly convincing. In fact, Hodel was a prime suspect even before his son got involved. Elizabeth Short (The Black Dahlia) was killed in 1947, and the suspicious death of Hodel’s secretary in 1945 cast some suspicion on him when investigators began to pursue leads in the Short murder. In 1949, Hodel’s daughter, Tamar (Fauna’s biological mother), also accused George of sexual abuse, but he was acquitted at trial after he basically smeared his own daughter. There is considerably more evidence potentially connecting Hodel to The Black Dahlia, as well, though I assume that I Am the Night will hit the highlights.
Given the fact that The Black Dahlia murder was never solved, however, I’m not sure that Chris Pine’s character is going to have any better luck this time around. Fortunately, at least, Fauna survived the ordeal, raised two lovely daughters, and wrote a book about growing up biracial in the 1950s and ’60s, before passing away in 2017.
Header Image Source: TNT