I Am The Night Season 1, Episode 4 Recap: I Am The Velvet Buzzsaw

Photo: Courtesy of TNT.
Remember Black Dahlia? Ostensibly, this show is about her murder. For those unfamiliar, the Black Dahlia murder is a famous 1940s murder of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short. Her body was severed in half and left on a vacant lot in Los Angeles. Her murder is still unsolved and a source of fascination for the true crime community — so much so that Josh Hartnett starred in a movie titled The Black Dahlia back in 2006.
The crime case was a source of fascination even during the era in which I Am the Night takes place, as evidenced by Jay’s (Chris Pine) purchase of a Black Dahlia-themed gossip rag at the end of last week’s episode. This episode finally comes forward with what has seemed evident all along: The murder of Janice Brewster, the body Jay examined in the premiere, looks awfully similar to that of the Black Dahlia. Brewster’s body was dismembered, disgustingly so, and Brewster herself resembles Short. All of this evidence appears to be leading to the fact that George Hodel (Jefferson Mays), sinister mustachioed villain, is both Short and Brewster’s killer. Also, he may have made their bodies into art? Serial killers are weird.
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Much of episode four takes place around the murder of Sepp (Dylan Smith), George Hodel’s henchmen. Honestly, Sepp’s demise is a pity, because Sepp himself seems like he was a character worth exploring. A man who aspired to do “real” work for a gynecologist-cum-art-collector? A man who grew up under the tutelage of an art snob and ended up working as a part-time assassin? Let’s not forget that Sepp killed Nero (Astro), too, a death that is acknowledged but hardly explored. And it’s still not clear what Nero offered to Sepp and George — all he appeared to do was record a telephone call with Fauna, which may not have given George any information, anyway.
The Hodels are apparently masochistic nihilists, causing trouble and wreaking havoc just for fun, at least for now. Both Corinna (Connie Nielson) and George are obsessed with art. They are high-minded and condescending and maybe just bored rich people having some violent fun. Corinna is a performance artist, according to the event that both Jay and Fauna attend in this episode. Looking to stir drama, Corinna invites both of them — her granddaughter and a disgraced reporter — to what she calls a “happening,” a party that the show appears to have been referencing all along. Is this "happening" the same sort of party as the one featured in episode three?
“You want to know something?” Corinna taunts Jay over the phone. “I’ll show you something. I’ll tell you something.” She then invites him to her show, where, naturally, he meets Fauna.
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The “happening” is a massive art installation — a kind of haunted-looking Instagram playland for the ‘60s. Corinna’s section of it entails Corinna lying down in the middle of a room while spectators approach with scissors, ready to do whatever they want with her. Most of them just snip off parts of Corinna’s outfit, afraid to do any real harm. Later, Fauna gives her critique of the art piece:
“For your show, I think you just wanted us to be responsible for you,” says Fauna. “Joining in, or just watching and doing nothing.”
A burgeoning art critic! She may not have the quirkiness of Jake Gyllenhaal in Velvet Buzzsaw, but she’s getting there.
Alas, George Hodel isn’t at the party, although his presence is certainly felt. There may or may not be a minotaur on this show, and, as of now, the show appears to be hinting that George and the minotaur are the same. He’s a were-taur! The animal is also potentially a bull (not a minotaur), as this episode is appropriately titled “Matador. Alas, the show isn’t revealing the beast just yet! For now, all the show will share is hoofbeats and the heavy breath of a huge animal.
The real monster, at least for now, is Sepp. When he tries to kill Fauna in this episode, attacking her at the “happening,” Jay intervenes, brandishing his fearsome combat skills. Jay is still haunted by his time at war, as evidenced by the repeated appearances of imaginary soldiers in his bedroom. He has PTSD, clearly — at another point, he leaps on the ground after a chair breaks, thinking he heard gunshots — and this is why he doesn’t just hurt Sepp. He kills Sepp, stabbing him to death with a knife.
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Grisly as it is, the death binds Jay to Fauna, which is helpful for this show moving forward. Fauna is a curious girl, and Jay is interesting, too, but they are far more intriguing as a team than on their own. Now that they’ve collaborated on a murder, they have to stick by each other’s side. Fauna owes her life to Jay, first of all, and they also now know that there’s something deeply wrong with George Hodel.
Which brings us to: Hawaii. Who knew that TNT’s latest noir crime drama would swerve into another state? Tamar Hodel was the only one who knew. Fauna’s mother is in Hawaii, a place where no minotaur can get her, according to Corinna's address book. She's going by "T.H. Apate" now. Knowing this information, Fauna strikes a deal with Jay: If he finds out why Sepp was following her around, she will lead him to her mother in Hawaii. How he'll find the cash for a plane ticket is less clear. The next episode is tellingly titled "Aloha," though, so Fauna and Jay are absolutely leaving California.
As for Sepp, his real name is Ivanovich Victor — just a fun fact for all of us! After some snooping, Jay intercepts an invite for Sepp for yet another Hodel-sponsored art event. This family is deeply, deeply into art. At this event, Jay confronts Corinna about her husband: Where is George Hodel? And what's his big secret?
In this episode, Jay tells Fauna that George's big crime was that he operated an illegal abortion clinic in Los Angeles. But the tone of I Am The Night suggests that this wasn't his sole crime. There's something sinister about the abortion clinic that Jay suspects but isn't willing to share.
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As of this episode, Jay discovers another secret: George owns a lot of very creepy art. The art isn't just creepy — it evokes the death of the Black Dahlia, Jay discovers. Which suggests that George Hodel's interests in macabre paintings may be more violent than just that of a fun new hobby.
Meanwhile, Fauna goes to her mother, Jimmy Lee (Golden Brooks), to get more information. All Jimmy can say is that the Hodels are monsters. She is insistent that Fauna should never discover the truth of her origin. The Hodels? They aren't worth Fauna's time. That doesn't deter our heroine, though.
Says Fauna, "I'm going to find out everything. And I don't care what it breaks."
For Jay's sake, I hope that's a "breaking news" pun.
The Chris Pine Shrine
Each week, as Chris Pine digs deeper into his role as Jay Singletary, we’ll catalog his best moments here.
Remember when Jay brushed his teeth using his finger after vomiting? So sturdy!
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