This episode, “Matador,” has upped the stakes against Dr. George Hodel. He thinks he is the ultimate puppet-master but it’s clear that his grip is untying. George thinks himself above humanity but, like any self-proclaimed demigod, his act is getting tiresome to those around him. In the wise words of Princess Leia to Grand Moff Tarkin, “The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” Indeed, the pawns in George Hodel’s game are slipping through his perfectly manicured murder fingers. There’s a lot of references to the previous episode, so if you’re not up to date, be sure to read the recap for the last episode.
What better way to start this episode than with a game of chess? Sepp is playing against Dr. Hodel before he performs surgery on a woman. Before he takes the woman to the basement, he makes a move on the chessboard before downing a brandy and belittling Sepp for letting Fauna getaway.
The husband is left behind after Dr. Hodel takes his wife down to the basement to perform the illegal abortion. “I guess you’ll have plenty of time to figure out your next move,” jokes the husband. Sepp, after pocketing the king, replies, “I’m going to spoil this game.” He is done being Dr. Hodel’s pawn. We love some symbolic chess. Jay is still having hallucinations about the Korean War and sees soldiers walking towards him in his apartment. A drunken Corinna Hodel (Fauna’s grandmother) calls crying and distressed. She tells him she knows who he is. She wants to show Jay something but won’t be specific.
After this phone call, Jay meets Ohls for breakfast and finds that he has been demoted down from detective to beat cop after he helped Jay get out of his interrogation in the previous episode. While Ohls makes light of his severe demotion, it’s clear that Jay’s involvement, in this case, is affecting those around him.
Ohls’ partner is an older cop that’s been working the beat for over 24 years. Jay asks him about the Black Dahlia case and if there might have been any copycats, referring to Janice’s body. While the older cop can’t recall copycats, he suggests that whoever killed Elizabeth Short must have been angry and hated her to mutilate her like that.
Jay disagrees with this theory, but he can’t quite put his finger on why he doesn’t think it was hateful commenting, “It looks like something else.” While looking over crime scene photos he looks closer at Janice’s body and notices a keyhole shape that’s been cut out of her flesh.
In “Matador,” Fauna is on a mission to find out what exactly is going on with her family. Nero’s death is a consequence for her involvement but only she knows that. Terrence takes her to the spot where Nero’s body was found. There are no crime scene markers in the area which implies there is no current investigation regarding Nero’s death. To honor Nero, Terrence pours out an offering for him.
Terrence asks two homeless men if they saw anything regarding Nero’s death, confirming Fauna’s suspicion that Sepp has killed Nero. The homeless people refer to a black Buick that was parked outside and a white man walking around “like he owned the place.”
Fauna and Terrence go back to Terrence’s car where he asks her about seeing this Buick. Fauna tells Terrence she doesn’t know what’s going on or why this is happening. But Terrence doesn’t believe Fauna.
Terrence takes her back to Big Mamma’s house. Tina tells Fauna that a white came to the house and asked for her but didn’t say who he was. Fauna grabs the envelope and sees that it is an invitation to an event referred to as the “Happening.”
Jay corners his editor, Peter, and asks for more help on the George Hodel case. Peter thinks Jay is just chasing dust but, when Jay says he can get Corinna to talk to him, Peter recants and passes the same invitation to him that was delivered to his art desk.
The “Happening” is filled with strange art exhibits and people dressed in black and white. There’s a maze at the center of it that people have to navigate through in order to access the rest of the event. Fauna runs into a woman named Jane and immediately blurts out “do you know Tamar Hodel?”
She’s painting a target on her back by asking random people if they know her mother. Fauna realizes her mistake and leaves the conversation. As she is weaving through this bizarre scene, Fauna sees Jay and immediately sneaks into another installation.
This installation is the pinnacle of weird in “Matador.” Corinna Hodel is reclining on a concrete block and wearing an elaborate pink gown. Her assistant dumps a bucket full of scissors around Corinna and picks up a pair with red handles. She cuts a slit in Corinna’s dress from the base to her knee and passes the scissors to someone else. Each person that has the pair of scissors cuts a hole out of Corinna’s dress until the scissors are passed to Fauna. She walks up to Corinna and, after staring into her eyes intensely, drops the scissors and walks back into the group. Corinna’s assistant drapes a white silk jacket over her shoulders and walks her out of the installation. When the assistant comes back, she tells Fauna Corinna wants to see her.
If this is art, I don’t understand it.
Fauna receives a lecture from Corinna about avant-garde and literalism. Corinna assumes that Fauna was too simple-minded to understand the piece, but she surprises Corinna with an explanation: “I think you just wanted for us to be responsible for you. Joining in or even just watching, doing nothing – either way, you would’ve been the one getting hurt.” Corinna taunts Fauna with Tamar by replying, “smarter than your mother ever was.”
But just as Corinna dangles Tamar over Fauna, she gets up and leaves. Carrying a smirk with her on the way out. But Fauna outsmarts Corinna and takes her address book out of her purse while she is looking away. Fauna flips through it and finds Tamar’s address under “T.H. Apate”. Tamar isn’t dead. She’s in Hawaii. Fauna’s win is short-lived. As she’s walking down the stairs, Sepp comes up behind her and knocks her out.
Next in “Matador,” Fauna wakes up to Sepp hovering over her with a knife in the basement of the Happening. He intends to assault her and put one of his masks on her. The mask hanging above them is a stark black and white mask with the black portion in the shape of a crow. In Greek Mythology, a crow often symbolizes prophecy and divination.
Sepp threatens Fauna that, if she screams, he will cut off her calf, fry it, eat it, and puke it up in front of her. This is his attempt at getting back at Dr. Hodel. He is the pawn no more. Dr. Hodel’s treatment of Sepp has directly endangered Fauna even though Sepp was supposed to watch over her. It seems Fauna’s fate is sealed but Jay tackles Sepp at the last second. A battle ensues between the two and something snaps with Jay. He is yelling belligerently and attacking Sepp head-on. There’s an assumption that Jay will grab Fauna and leave after knocking Sepp out but it’s clear that Jay is going to see this through.
In the last episode, Ohls tells the officer that was interrogating Jay about what happened in the Korean War. Jay fought off a group of soldiers and killed them with only a shovel to save Ohls’ life. We are seeing that Jay from the Korean War. Jay grabs Sepp by the tie and stabs Sepp’s wrench all the way through his chest killing him.
Now in “Matador,” Jay is suffering from his PTSD after killing Sepp and sees the outline of a giant beast coming towards him from the hallway. It’s the same one that Dr. Hodel sees when he peaks under the door of one of his rooms. Both Jay and Fauna dispose of Sepp’s body at the same place Nero’s body was found. Fauna grabs his wallet and they head back to Jay’s place. Murdering Sepp has had a negative effect on Jay and he begins to drink heavily.
It’s curious that he shares this imagery with Dr. Hodel. Does it go as far back as the Korean War? Or is this something he acquired when he was investigating Dr. Hodel all those years ago? Jay passes out on the couch and Fauna is left to her own devices. She locks herself in the bathroom and cries.
In “Matador,” Jay dreams that Billis and his partner, Sepp, are about to interrogate him before Fauna splashes him with cold water. Jay tries to pull himself together and shuts himself in the bathroom to snort some cocaine. Fauna thanks him for saving her life and admits that Sepp has been following her for years. She offers Jay a proposition: if he can find out who Sepp was, Fauna will reveal the address of Tamar Hodel. They will go together to see her.
After shaking hands on it, Fauna asks Jay why he wants to find her. Jay realizes that Fauna may not know the whole truth of who the Hodels are. He references the illegal abortion clinic and Fauna scoffs at the idea. Instead of going into details, Jay tells Fauna he just wants the truth. That’s when Fauna reveals Tamar is in Hawaii.
Jay goes to Sepp’s studio apartment to investigate who he was. There’s notebooks, papers, drawings and tools strewn all over the place. Jay sees a photo of someone in Sepp’s photo album and puts it in his back pocket. We never see the photo. A knock at the door interrupts Jay’s investigation and another invitation is delivered to his hands, though it was meant for Sepp. This invitation is to another art event that is being sponsored by Dr. Hodel.
Jimmy Lee is in L.A. and singing at a club while Fauna watches. After Jimmy Lee finishes, Fauna compliments the singing and asks what she knows about Dr. Hodel. In a heat of anger, Jimmy Lee slaps Fauna across the face before telling her, “I’ll see you dead before I let them at you.” Fauna is still determined to see this through and delivers an ultimatum to her mother: “I’m going to find out everything and I don’t care what it breaks.”
Jay arrives at the art exhibit and sees Corinna. Corinna recognizes him but brushes him off when he tries to ask her questions. She innocently claims that she doesn’t recall talking to him and goes to security to try and get Jay out of the exhibit. Jay hides from the guards and runs into an exhibit filled with surrealist pieces that belong to Dr. Hodel.
As Jay studies the pieces, he begins to recognize that the art matches both Elizabeth Short’s crime scene and Janice Brewster’s crime scene. One piece depicts a keyhole on a woman’s body, similar to the one on Janice’s body. And Jay’s suspicion that these killings were not done out of hate is confirmed as the puzzle pieces come together. Dr. Hodel drew inspiration from surrealist artists like Man Ray, Max Ernst, and Salvador Dali.
TNT’s I Am The Night is a limited TV series with new episodes on Monday nights at 9/8c.
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In the sixth grade, Kristen participated in her school’s spelling bee and mispelled the word “lake”. Kristen has since pursued a rigorous career in writing where she tries her best to avoid using that blasted word. She studied literature in her undergrad and is now pursuing her Master’s in Journalism at Emerson College. Kristen has written for StarWars.com, where she gets to let her nerd flag fly as a huge Star Wars enthusiast. She’s also covered press events at New York Comic Con and attended the 2019 Oscars where she ran into Laura Dern and managed to hold it together (a true accomplishment). Kristen will stop at nothing to pet all the dogs and she can quote the film Spaceballs from beginning to end. She also has a website, www.kristenkbates.com, and a pretty groovy Twitter: @kristenkbates.