Five weeks into the TNT show I Am the Night, this much is obvious: Fauna Hodel (India Eisley), the wide-eyed 16-year-old who glues the show's entire wild premise together, has been dealt a rough hand of cards. As this episode, "Aloha," proves, Fauna's biological mother, Tamar (Kassidy Slaughter) was too. In "Aloha," the long-separated mother and daughter are finally reunited in Hawaii. But the revelations about Fauna's parentage are grim enough to spoil any idyllic tropical paradise.
Tamar tells Fauna the truth about her father — and in doing so, unspools all of the illusions upon which Fauna has based her identity. The first major revelation? Fauna is not Black. Never was, never had been. For the real Fauna Hodel, this was devastating news. "I almost died when I found out I wasn't Black," Fauna told DuJour. "Being Black was so important to me." She'd spent her entire life waiting for her skin to "darken," as her adoptive mother promised would happen. If Fauna's father wasn't Black, as her birth certificate indicated, who was he?
In the episode's most shocking twist, Tamar insinuates that she became pregnant though a sexual assault perpetrated by own father, Dr. George Hodel (Jefferson Mays). I Am the Night is based on a true story – that's part of what makes the show, which weaves adoption intrigue with the Black Dahlia murders — so extraordinary. But in some instances, the Patti Jenkins mini-series deviates from the truth for the sake of narrative. This parentage twist is one such case. George Hodel was not Fauna's father.
Troublingly, the real Tamar was repeatedly sexually assaulted by Hodel. Hodel's lavish mansion, Sowden House, was the site of wild orgies and parties in which Tamar was forced to participate starting at the age of 11. In his book Most Evil, Steve Hodel, Tamar's half brother, writes that Tamar had an abortion as a result of Hodel's sexual assault. However, others believe Tamar became pregnant by a young man who once stayed in Sowden House. Though abortions were forbidden in California at the time, Hodel ran an illegal abortion clinic in his basement.
When she was 14, Tamar ran away from home. Three days later, she was found by police and confessed to the alleged extensive history of incest. A trial ensued in 1949. During the trial, two eyewitnesses testified they saw Hodel performing sexual acts on his daughter. But the combined forces of Hodel's aggressive defense lawyers, who paid off other eyewitnesses, and his allies in the police force ensured that he got off the hook. Hodel was acquitted. In I Am the Night, Jay Singletary's (Chris Pine) career as a journalist derailed after he tried to go after Hodel during the trial.
After the trial, which garnered her the reputation of being a harlot and a liar, Tamar was sent to live in a juvenile hall. She no longer had to live with Hodel – but her troubles continued. After being released from the juvenile hall, Tamar moved in with her mother in San Francisco (where she had been living before Hodel summoned her to move back to Los Angeles upon hitting puberty). At age 15, she was raped by a neighborhood boy (who was white) and became pregnant with Fauna.
Hodel controlled nearly every aspect of his teenage daughter's pregnancy. He named Tamar's baby Fauna (taken from the same poem from which he got the name Tamar) and insisted she be put up for adoption. Allegedly, George even brokered the terms of the adoption with Jimmie Lee (Golden Brooks), a casino worker, himself. Tamar's only act of assertion was insisting the baby's father was Black. According to Fauna Hodel's website, Tamar did this to "ensure that the child would never return to [her] emotionally reclusive white family."
Tamar should have thrown "murderous" into that list of adjectives to describe her family. Her father, George, was also responsible for one of the most sensational unsolved murders in American history: the case of the Black Dahlia. In 1947, Hodel brutally murdered 22-year-old aspiring actress Elizabeth Short. Years later, Hodel's son, retired LAPD cop Steve Hodel, put the pieces together and published a bombshell book with his damning findings.
Unfortunately, Hodel remained a part of Tamar's life, even if they were geographically disparate. After Tamar linked Hodel to the Black Dahlia murder during her trial testimony, he was put on the LAPD's list of suspects. Hodel fled California for Asia, where he lived until 1990. Tragically, the cycle of abuse continued another generation. Tamar brought her daughter, FaunaElizabeth (Fauna's younger sister), to meet her father. FaunaElizabeth says he sexually abused her as well.
This homicidal rapist was Tamar Hodel's father. But, in all likeliness, he wasn't Fauna's — even if I Am the Night indicates otherwise.