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TV Review: I Am The Night

I Am the Night, I Am The Night TV Review, TV Review, Drama, thriller, Chris Pine, Patty Jenkins, TNT

SYNOPSIS: The gripping story of Fauna Hodel, a teenage girl who is given away at birth, and grows up outside of Reno, Nevada. Fauna lives more-or-less comfortably with the mysteries of her origin, until one day she makes a discovery that leads her to question everything. As Fauna begins to investigate the secrets of her past, she meets a ruined reporter, haunted by the case that undid him. Together they follow a sinister trail that swirls ever closer to an infamous Los Angeles gynecologist, Dr. George Hodel, a man involved in some of Hollywood’s darkest debauchery, and possibly, its most infamous unsolved crime.

I Am the Night, I Am The Night TV Review, TV Review, Drama, thriller, Chris Pine, Patty Jenkins, TNT

REVIEW: After bringing in nominations for their period thriller The Alienist, TNT continues to up their credibility with another retro crime story. This is the Night comes with some marquee talent in the form of WONDER WOMAN director Patty Jenkins and STAR TREK star Chris Pine. Both serve as producers on the event series which has been heavily advertised since the middle of last year. With Jenkins directing three episodes, this was clearly going to be a buzzed about project regardless of the quality. TNT is also going all out by including a true crime podcast hosted by the daughters of the real Fauna Hodel who discuss their mother's life for the first time. Needless to say, all of this intrigued me greatly, especially since this would mark Patty Jenkins' first directorial effort since WONDER WOMAN. The results are a mixed bag with a lot of missed opportunities to have made something truly great.

Set in 1965, the series starts out as a split narrative focusing on series stars Pine and India Eisley. Pine plays Jay Singletary, a reporter and Korean War veteran dealing with addiction, PTSD, and a shattered career. Singletary called out Los Angeles gynecologist Dr. George Hodel (Jefferson Mays) as a suspected murderer. When Hodel was exhonerated, Singletary's career tanked and he has since been working freelance to cover his drugs and drinking. When he begins drawing connections between Hodel, the Black Dahlia murders, and a recent string of crimes, he finds a renewed interest as well as a desire to help Fauna Hodel (Eisley). Eisley, a relative newcomer, has the most complex role as a young woman who learns she is adopted and quickly discovers that her grandfather, the aforementioned Hodel, may be more than he seems.

On their own, each story could have been interesting enough to drive this entire series. Writer Sam Sheridan hit the jackpot with this story that takes the infamous and iconic Black Dahlia story in an all new direction, the series sputters and stalls with a languid pace and too much information that just doesn't matter. Having seen five of the six episode mini-series, I can say without a doubt that this entire story could have been condensed into three one-hour episodes or even a feature length run time. Sure, the location shooting at several Los Angeles landmarks gives I Am The Night a realistic feel but the story just seems to tread water for the first two and a half episodes before Eisley and Pine finally cross paths. Once the two share the screen, the story begins to pick up speed and interest, but until then you are left wondering why you should care about what is going on.

For the average viewer who may not be familiar with the Black Dahlia case, they will be left confused by why they should care about a mixed race girl living in the racially segregated 1960s. With skin that could pass for white, Eisley's Fauna is not nearly as interesting a character as Sheridan and Jenkins want her to be. On the other hand, while Jay Singletary is a stereotypical and cliche reporter/detective from any number of noir films, Chris Pine's charisma makes him more than interesting enough to watch on screen. I found myself wandering away from the story multiple times when Pine was not on camera and that may be the series' downfall. Over the first half of the series you will be stuck wondering if you should stay with the series until it gets good or just switch to another program. To be blunt, it takes at least three episodes to really get invested in the story and even by that point you still will have only tangental explanations as to why some characters matter to the story at all.

I Am the Night, I Am The Night TV Review, TV Review, Drama, thriller, Chris Pine, Patty Jenkins, TNT

Patty Jenkins' direction is good here despite the overstuffed script. She never goes for anything flashy but does take advantage of the landscape of Los Angeles to really make I Am The Night feel like it was made fifty years ago. Her fellow directors on the series, Carl Franklin and Victoria Mahoney, each get some nice moments that left me wondering if the series was going to go over the edge into something much darker and more disturbing. From orgies to cloven hooves, I Am The Night teeters but never crosses the line from thriller to horror and remains a fairly formulaic mystery that just happens to have a new twist on an old story. Unfortunately, that new perspective never quite comes to fruition, leaving us with a series that is just okay.

As a fan of everyone involved in this project, I was left cold by the story which never really comes together into something that is as captivating as it should have been. Despite some geniunely goof supporting turns from Connie Nielsen, Jefferson Mays, and Leland Orser, the story just cannot pick up enough steam to make it as intriguing as the trailers want it to be, It is too dry to be binge-worthy and requires more focus and attention than it deserves. Maybe the podcast and supplemental materials will flesh out what this series scratches the surface of, but on it's own I Am The Night just doesn't work as well as it should. India Eisley and Chris Pine both do fine work but even at a limited six episodes this series feels too long.

I Am The Night premieres on January 28th on TNT.

Source: JoBlo.com

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