Episode 1 of the limited TNT series I Am the Night begins with Fauna Hodel’s search for her roots. The series is based on the real Fauna Hodel’s memoir One Day She’ll Darken: The Mysterious Beginnings of Fauna Hodel. Fauna’s search sparks fascinating questions. Is she white? Black? Biracial? There’s a more sinister turn to her story, however, and that turn involves one of the most intriguing unsolved mysteries in true crime.
Fauna learns who her birth family is and how she came to be raised by Jimmie Lee, a black woman whose life hasn’t turned out the way she hoped. Golden Brooks plays the character of Jimmie Lee, and whoever cast her in that role made a perfect choice.
A fascinating storyline aside, Brooks morphs into a woman tortured by her past and by her love for the child she informally adopted after an exchange with a white woman in a Nevada casino. The character of Jimmie Lee is not only a symbol for pre-Civil rights America. She’s a symbol of motherhood against all odds.
The sheer emotion Brooks as Jimmie Lee displays in an exchange with her adopted daughter Fauna could make you forget you’re watching a TV show. Brooks is Jimmy Lee in a way so authentic you forget what she looks like when she’s not in that role.
The first episode of the series also features great performances by India Eisley as Fauna and Chris Pine as Jay Singletary, a life-in-the-fast-lane kind of guy whose career in news was derailed when he chose to look into and write about the secrets of powerful people. The premiere sets up the story to follow—Fauna and Singletary’s paths haven’t crossed yet, though they will.
If I had to choose a dominant character for that first episode, it would be Golden Brooks as Jimmy Lee.
The limited series airing on Mondays for six episodes on TNT has received a great deal of praise and some negative critiques as well. Don’t mind the critics. Thus far this is a series worth watching, for the mysterious journey of an adopted child searching for her birth family and her convergence with her grandfather whose own son suspected him of being the “Black Dahlia” murderer.
As someone who rarely watches regular TV programming, all I can say is this one’s worth it.
(Kay B. Day/Jan. 30, 2019)