I am the Night is a limited drama series that aired on TNT on January 28, 2019. The six-episode miniseries is based on the memoir of Fauna Hodel, One Day She'll Darken: The Mysterious Beginnings of Fauna Hodel.
The ensemble cast for the show includes, among other people, Chris Pine and India Eisley, who bring their A-game to the show and remain a high-point.
The critical reaction and fan reception for the show have been tepid, at best. But is the show worth your time? We do a deep-dive into I am the Night and break down the essentials of the show.
I am the Night is a dramatized retelling of the life of Fauna Hodel. The movie is based on her memoir, One Day She'll Darken: The Mysterious Beginnings of Fauna Hodel.
Hodel was given up for adoption by her then-16-year-old mother at birth and adopted into a family in Reno, Nevada. She was brought up in an African-American household and had a comfortable childhood, unsuspecting of the shady circumstances of her birth.
When Fauna Hodel digs into her past, she uncovers the vile events that led to her birth- at the center of which is her grandfather, George Hodel. George Hodel was- by all accounts- a vile human being. He lived a debauched life fueled by drugs and sex. He also molested his own daughter, the result of which is speculated to be the origin of Fauna's birth.
George Hodel would gain further notoriety as the prime suspect in the Black Dahlia murder mystery that saw an LA woman, Elizabeth Short, killed in the Leimert Park neighborhood and her upper-half dismembered from her lower-half.
I am the Night follows Fauna as she uncovers her bloody lineage and together with the disgraced journalist, Jay Singletary, they uncover George Hodel's atrocities.
I am the Night is helmed by a lead performance by Hollywood veteran, Chris Pine. He plays the disgraced LA journalist, Jay Singletary, who helps Fauna Hodel investigate her lineage. For the purposes of the series, Jay Singletary was made-up and resembles no real-life character.
Chris is joined by India Eisley, who plays Fauna Hodel. The series is based on Fauna Hodel's memoir and centers around her as she uncovers the truth of her upbringing- especially relating to her grandfather, George Hodel.
Jefferson Mays plays George Hodel, a wealthy socialite who was the prime suspect in the Black Dahlia murder mystery.
Connie Nielsen plays Corinna Hodel, George Hodel's ex-wife.
Leland Orser plays Peter Sullivan, Jay Singletary's editor and a friend of his.
Golden Brooks plays Jimmie Lee Greenwade, Fauna's adoptive mother who tries to shield her from unearthing things better left buried.
Justin Cornwell plays Terrence Shye, a family friend of Fauna's adoptive parents and someone who takes a romantic interest in Fauna.
Critical and fan reaction for I am the Night have been divisive. On IMDb, the series currently holds a 7.0/10 rating based on reviews by 5,887 users.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the series holds a 74% approval rate based on reviews by 69 critics. It also holds a 74% approval rating with the site's 190 users.
The series also holds a score of 59 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 26 critics' reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Alan Sepinwall, writing for Rolling Stone Magazine praised Chris Pine and Connie Nielsen's performances but was largely unimpressed by the rest of the show. In his review, he said:
"It boasts a terrific lead performance from Chris Pine — in a Wonder Woman reunion with Patty Jenkins, who directs the first two episodes, and Connie Nielsen, who plays a supporting role — but the story’s much too slow to get going and doesn’t deliver enough payoff to merit the wait."
Daniel Fienberg, of The Hollywood Reporter, also praised Chris Pine's performance and Patty Jenkins' direction but was critical of the narrative.
In his review, he said:
"TNT's Black Dahlia-adjacent limited series I Am the Night has some things going for it, including a throwback star performance from Chris Pine, reuniting with Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, but the thing it most clearly lacks is that clear-headed perspective. After watching five of its six hours, I can't tell you whose story I Am the Night thinks it is, nor the mystery it thinks it's unfolding. And despite its standout elements, I look to that last unseen episode without any sense of what arcs the show wants to resolve, or what arcs I'm invested in."
Darren Franich, writing for Entertainment Weekly also had a generally same attitude towards the show- praising the lead performances, while being stymied by the narrative and the plot.
"...Pine and Eisley are just so glamorously pretty, two shining pairs of Pacific-toned eyes lighting the noir darkness. Eisley’s casting is tricky in some ways, but she’s a captivating innocent self-realizing toward self-immolation. People keep telling her to stop searching, and she never does — an act of tough bravery that is also, we discover, painfully naive. And Pine makes great human wreckage. His best scenes are when he visits his editor (the great Leland Orser), whose main office seems to be a bar."
Despite the tepid critical and fan reaction, the universal consensus is that Chris Pine is the highlight of the show, and his synergy with his Wonder Woman-director, Patty Jenkins, makes the show worthwhile in itself.
The show was nominated in two categories at the 2020 Satellite Awards- Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Film for Chris Pine and Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Film for India Eisley, but neither one was able to take home the award.
Fans may be dissuaded by the lukewarm the show received upon its release, but the show is essential viewing for any fan of Chris Pine who know he is more than a pretty face.
Easily the highlight of the show, Pine brings to life the imaginary LA journalist, Jay Singletary, in a show that explores a real-life atrocity. India Eisley, a relative newcomer, also pulls off a tour de force performance as Fauna Hodel. She has had massive shoes to fill, but she pulls it off with equal parts vulnerability and fierceness.
The narrative, while it does get a bit hard to follow as the show progresses, is still full of mystery and intrigue that keeps the show gripping to its finale. The show is adapted from the memoir of Fauna Hodel and while some details have been embellished for dramatic effect, the show stays faithful to its source material.
The show is also worthwhile for historical reasons and brings to light the-now colloquially known Black Dahlia murder mystery, which, to this day, is unsolved.
All in all, I am the Night is a worthwhile series, if for nothing else, then for the star performances of Chris Pine and India Eisley as well as the real-life atrocity that looms in the background.