“Dark Flower” finally brings together I am the Night’s leads, though the pacing continues to stall.
This recap of I Am the Night Episode 3, “Dark Flower”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Episode 3 of I Am the Night, “Dark Flower”, opens in 1945 with masked women in lingerie working a George Hodel party while his daughter Tamar looks on. The dinner party turns dark, with sexual exploits escalating, including a naked woman hooded and dragged away, and Dr. Hodel wearing a highly suggestive bull’s head (Georgia O’Keeffe would be jealous). The party has a voiceover of George reciting Poe’s “A Dream Within a Dream.” These events, taking place two years before the Black Dahlia murder, serve to establish two crucial things: George Hodel’s mansion was a place of debauchery, and he didn’t care if his daughter knew it.
In the show’s current timeline, 1965, Fauna is still reeling from her odd afternoon with Corinna while Jay gets a threatening visit from the police. With Fauna, she has realized she has a tail, although it is unclear what exactly Sepp (Dylan Smith) wants, despite his offers to explain things to her. She dashes away. Sepp, however, has other hobbies. Aside from making bizarro mannequin cellos, he is also seen tailing Nero, the young man who is trying to make time with Fauna after a lecherous come on at a party a few nights back. Why his conversation with Fauna would be taped is perplexing, unless they are just taping all conversations at the house.
Fauna doesn’t seem too concerned about her Sepp, or at least not concerned enough to stay put. She returns to Corinna’s home, thinking that her mother, Tamar is hiding there somewhere. What she finds is pictures of George Hodel, his O’Keeffe bull mask, some articles on his innovations with hysterectomies, and a letter from Tamar dated the week before. We know it is the week before because Fauna says it out loud. People do that a bit too frequently in this show–making obvious statements when they are by themselves. It’s a basic screenwriting stumble, like having people say character’s names too often in conversation. Before Sepp, carrying a mask, finds her rifling through the trash, Fauna escapes.
As for Jay, his visit to the police station escalates to some serious police brutality at the hands of Billis (Yul Vazquez). Before Jay literally loses an eye, Ohls (Jay Paulson) intervenes again, revealing to Billis just why he has such loyalty to the washed-up journalist. The pair were in the same doomed unit and Jay was the hero of the day, fighting off the enemy with just a shovel and saving Ohls’ life. Jay takes his thwarted eye-loss as a sign he is onto a story, perhaps an abortion cover-up, and somehow gets into another fight before heading him back to Corinna’s house in time to see Fauna leave. This is another problem that keeps popping up–Jay connects dots in somewhat arbitrary ways. Chris Pine sells it, but when I think back on the episodes, I struggle to see how these convenient leaps actually make much sense.
However convenient, this does allow for Fauna and Jay to finally cross paths, when she has to choose between getting in his car or being taken by Sepp. I think we’d all choose Chris Pine, so that’s at least realistic. It’s good to finally have them together, but it doesn’t accomplish much, despite Jay paying her $5 to talk to him. She calls her birth mother a liar and leaves before either of them can reveal much to the audience or each other.
Poor Jay, having hit another dead end, does what he does best–gets high. This go around, instead of hanging with prostitutes, he tries to re-enlist for Vietnam but is turned away because he’s too old. Pine is at his best in this scene as we see how desperate he is to matter, even if it is a death sentence. It’s followed by another of those “Jay connects the dots with an escalating score!” moments when Jay spots a tabloid with the Black Dahlia on the cover. Later, we see him comparing the photos of Janice with the Black Dahlia as he is camped outside the Hodel house, questioning if the two are connected. (The score tells us they are.)
Fauna returns home to discover that Nero has been murdered, his tongue cut out. Given that the previous scene shows Sepp begging George to let him help with his “real work” it is safe to say that Sepp was responsible for the boy’s gruesome ending. Fauna assumes that it has something to do with her as well and leaves. She ends up staying at her friend Terrence’s house (that boyfriend back home is looking pretty far away right now). Lost, she calls Jimmie Lee, only to reject her adoptive mother’s pleas to come home. If Fauna won’t come home, Jimmie Lee will come get her.
She probably should have listened to her mother because the final shots of “Dark Flower” show Hodel gazing under a door at his home at cloven hooves.
Last week I mentioned my frustration at the, for lack of a better term, narrative lollygagging in this show. I stand by that as we are halfway through the series and almost everything has been exposition. I have purposefully avoided reading about Fauna’s real story for now, though I did have previous knowledge of the Dahlia case. I’m assuming Hodel is actually Fauna’s father. What concerns me is that either the second half of the season will be packed with too much plot, or the story does not have enough umph to make it worthy of all this time spent. Hopefully, it will be something in between.
Amber is a doctoral candidate in Language, Diversity, and Literacy at Texas Tech. She holds an MA in Literature and History and a BFA in Theatre. A Texas-based mother of two, she is an Associate Professor of English and History at Howard College.