Just who is George Hodel and what are his crimes? Episode three is more heavily George-y than the previous episodes, but the show is still being awfully cagey about the mystery it has in store. It’s running the risk of letting us forget about the real juice in this show: Somewhere in here, there’s a narrative about the Zodiac killer.
Indignance aside, this episode graciously shares a bit about Tamar Hodel. In flashbacks we see her as a young girl traipsing around her father’s home while he hosts lavish, women-in-lingerie parties.
“Hello, my angel,” George says to his daughter. Moments later, he’s removing the bra off of one of the party’s hired dancers while his daughter observes. The Hodel family could use some therapy, I’ll guess.
In the present, Fauna isn’t faring much better. In this episode she’s followed by George’s grubby apprentice Sepp (Dylan Smith). Fauna later calls him a “weird, ugly white man.”
Jay Singletary’s quest for truth isn’t going great, either. Jay comes face-to-face with the police finally, in the form of Yul Vazquez’s police chief Billis.
“You keep turning up in the wrong places, cupcake,” he snarls. He and the rest of the police force want to send a message: Stop sniffing around the Hodels. In the show’s latest moment of grisly violence, Billis nearly chops off Jay’s ear — Jay is saved by his army buddy Ohls, but this is Ohls’ last card to play.
“He walks while I’m alive,” Ohls declares. The men in this show enjoy their posturing, Billis, Ohls, and Jay and the rest.
Which brings us to Nero ( ), the man who came onto Fauna at a party in the first episode. Nero gives Fauna a call, seemingly trying to pick her up once more. He’s actually working on behalf of resident Ugly White Man Sepp — also a move that doesn’t entirely seem clear. Nero was never a friend to Fauna, so why would she answer his call? Not that that matters. Sepp records the conversation using an old fashioned tape recorder on a pay phone, presumably to obtain more information on his employer’s granddaughter.
Our Fauna is getting wise to LA’s betrayals, though. She’s not so easy to dupe, although she may have been wide-eyed and naive in the first episode. She has a sneaking suspicion that Tamar is still around, and she follows her hunch all the way back to the Hodel mansion. She’s not unlike Jay in this regard, poking her nose in places where she’s certainly not welcome. (This is, incidentally, just how she finally meets Jay.)
The Hodel mansion is filled with creepy artifacts, like the shiny horse head that hangs on the wall next to news clippings about Hodel and other paintings; in a flashback, a man it on his own head.
Fauna’s sneaking inevitably leads her to Sepp, the man who’s been following her, and a chase ensues, jazz-synth music blaring. There are stakes now, as Fauna feels a growing sense of unease about her birth family.
Hopping out of the Hodel mansion, Fauna finds Jay Singletary following her in his car. He’s following her with mostly good intentions, though: He wants to use her as a source. (His mission gets a lot easier when Sepp — ugly white man! — also appears in his car, creating a deeply messed up rescue-love triangle. Sepp hisses, “Fauna, get in the car” while Jay says earnestly, “I just want to talk.” Who’s a girl to choose? The mottled ugly man or...Chris Pine, who only wants to help?
This partnership has been a long time coming. Ostensibly, this was the pairing the show promised: Young Fauna Hodel would help Jay Singletary, reporter, figure out just who George Hodel is and whether he’s the Zodiac killer. (As much as this show has purported to be about the Zodiac murders, it has so far avoided the topic.) In their first encounter, Jay and Fauna get almost nowhere beyond some light friendship. Jay jokes about being a “sad ghost” who’s lost his “joie de vivre,” and Fauna picks at a slice of pie.
Moments like these make me wish the characters in I Am the Night had Google. Fauna doesn’t know what kind of dirt Jay has on her family because she doesn’t have access to the LA Times article from days of yore. If she did, she might know that her grandfather is a potential murderer who was running an illegal abortion clinic. (I’m still not sure how abortion factors into his villainy, but I’m interested to find out.) Jay and Fauna’s relationship goes awry when Jay implies that Tamar isn’t a liar.
At that, Fauna slips out of the diner, content never to see Jay again. She has few people she can trust in LA right now, least of all a dirty blonde reporter who calls himself a “ghost.”
While Jay’s ghostliness is a recurring them, the show, has yet to dig into his past — until this episode, where he earns a backstory, with his military history coming into play. First, there’s his buddy Ohls fighting for his honor at the jail — apparently, Jay was a vicious fighter in Korea — and then there’s his bouts with post-traumatic stress disorder. When a chair falls in a restaurant, he leaps to the floor, hiding from imagined gunfire. Earlier, he assumes that the knocking on his door is someone preparing to fire a musket. Then, after his interaction with Fauna, Jay goes to a Marines recruitment office to see if he can reenlist.
Despite all the action in this episode, it doesn’t reveal what George Hodel’s real villainy is. In the final moments of the episode, Sepp goes to his master and insists he can do “real work” (illegal work) for the doctor. During this conversation the doctor is observing photos of naked women. He’s also looking at a statue of a...cello that looks like a woman. The worst, most macabre part of my brain assumed that the cello statue is made out of a real woman. The better, this-is-just-TV part of my brain assumed that Hodel is an art snob who maybe also murdered women.
“I took away your school books and gave you de Sade, Breton, Steiner. Be content to be a man amongst all these pewling maggots. But do not dare my height, Icarus,” he sneers at Sepp, his henchmen. Never has a villain been so unbearably boorish.
Of course, he is a villain, which the show reminds us at the end of the episode with the death of Nero. Nero, who just wanted to date Fauna, has been murdered, with his tongue cut out and tied into a knot Whoever hired Nero to record his conversation with Fauna — likely Hodel — is deeply vicious.
The Chris Pine Shrine
Each week, as Chris Pine digs deeper into his role as Jay Singletary, we’ll catalog his best moments here.
Peter Sullivan: “You look like hammered shit, Jay!”
Jay: “I wouldn’t call it a date.”
Fauna: “Why not?”
Jay: “Would you date a ghost?”
Fauna: “Why not?”
Jay: “Would you date a ghost?”
When Jay told Fauna, “I’m really important.”