Roush Review: 'I Am the Night' Delves into Hollywood's Deepest, Darkest Corners

Matt Roush
Review TNT

When even a side trip to balmy Hawaii can’t pierce the darkness of the soul, you know you’re in that shadowy twilight zone that Turner Classic Movies likes to call “Noir Alley.” In I Am the Night, it’s less an alley than a labyrinth of corruption and decadence that awaits 16-year-old Fauna (sultry, sulky India Eisley) as she leaves small-town Nevada for the glamour and grit of 1965 Los Angeles to embark on a perilous quest for identity.

Her search for an elusive birth mother, somehow connected to shady L.A. gynecologist George Hodel (Jefferson Mays, oozing perverse malice), puts Fauna on a collision course with washed-up reporter Jay Singletary (Chris Pine, suggesting James Dean gone seriously and outrageously to seed). An ex-Marine with nightmares from Korean combat — “You take a life and they come at you forever” — Jay has a nose for news, and also for cocaine. Both obsessions fuel his desire to get the goods on sinister Dr. Hodel, despite police interference and bullying.

'I Am the Night' Star Chris Pine on Working With Director Patty Jenkins Again

'I Am the Night' Star Chris Pine on Working With Director Patty Jenkins Again

'It was a chance to see how she breaks down character given greater time,' explained the actor who previously worked on 'Wonder Woman' with her.

A flawed and self-loathing hero, a tragic femme fatale in training, a truly creepy villain with stalker henchman in tow: What more could any fact-based crime drama want? Try a connection to 1947’s infamously unsolved Black Dahlia murder. (One look at Hodel’s grisly art collection and you’ll get it.) Add a squadron of brutal cops and a cynical editor (the terrific Leland Orser) who warns Jay, “Some stories will eat you alive.” Night provides a smorgasbord of period genre touchstones, stylishly delivered by director-executive producer Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman) and her husband, writer Sam Sheridan.

The writing can lay the nihilism on a bit thick: “Death and evil, they’re around us all the time, and the line between us, it’s thin as tissue paper,” Jay tells a petulant Fauna after she uncovers one unpleasant truth too many.

'I Am the Night': TNT Releases Trailer for Companion Podcast

'I Am the Night': TNT Releases Trailer for Companion Podcast

Dive even further into the mystery of the Black Dahlia murder.

And yet there’s no denying the spellbindingly ominous mood cast over six episodes as Night plunges its protagonists into a sordid subculture of sex cults and hip “happenings” that reveal the more tarnished side of Tinseltown. Innocence is lost quickly and forever, as once-naive Fauna — whose red shoes and bobby socks make her look like Dorothy in a profane Oz — quickly hardens from fragile sparrow to ruthless siren. She is the night, and even Jay didn’t see that coming.

I Am the Night, Series Premiere, Monday, Jan. 28, 9/8c, TNT