By Armando Inquig
Thanks to numerous stories, books, and a couple of films about the unsolved 1947 murder of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, sensationalized by the media as the “Black Dahlia,” the decades-old gruesome murder continues to capture people’s imagination.
Patty Jenkins is the latest to revisit the mystery with “I Am the Night,” a six-episode limited series that premiered its pilot episode on TNT on Monday, with the subsequent episodes set to air on the following Mondays.
The series features a wide-eyed 16-year-old schoolgirl, Fauna Hodel (played by India Eisley), grappling with her mixed-race identity. Struggling with her relationship with her alcoholic adoptive mother, she decides to travel to Los Angeles in search of her elusive birth mother.
Chris Pine portrays Jay Singletary, a disgraced, drug-addicted journalist haunted by his past, at the brink of despair, whose life changes after an anonymous phone call.
The narrative took its time establishing Jay’s character and Fauna’s biracial background, depicting the rough racial and social relations of the 60s at school and in their neighborhood. However, when the two characters finally meet, the story propels forward, revolving around the captivating mysteries of the Black Dahlia murder.
Pine, the major draw of the show, always delivers an intense performance. When his character is dragged out of the Los Angeles County coroner’s office and beaten, he reacts with a manic laughter. His natural talent and effective acting anchor the series throughout.
Credit to Jenkins for her solid and imaginative direction, which offers viewers a captivating glimpse of that era in Los Angeles. She returns to a medium that permits a deeper exploration of the narrative across multiple episodes.
Interestingly, Jenkins has previously transitioned to TV after helming a successful film. In 2004, she directed an episode of “Arrested Development” (“The One Where They Build a House”) during its second season, right after her award-winning film “Monster” established her in Hollywood.
The successful collaboration between Pine and Jenkins in the acclaimed superhero blockbuster “Wonder Woman” is evident here as well, showcasing their undeniable chemistry.
Jenkins directed the pilot and the second episodes, while Victoria Mahoney helmed the third and fourth. The series was penned by Jenkins’ husband, Sam Sheridan.