‘I’ll Be Gone In The Dark’: A True Crime Series That Keeps Its Human Core

A brilliant retelling of a decade-old drive for justice

Infinite- that’s the number of true-crime series that exist out there and as for the ones that retold the horrors of the past with a human heart, empathetic to all the people involved in the story, the number was, in our opinion, zero, till well, 28th June 2020. That’s when HBO dropped the six-part true-crime documentary series, I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, based on the book of the same name by the late author, Michelle McNamara, who devoted a better part of her life to obsessively pursue a serial killer known by different names- the East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, or the moniker, the Golden State Killer.

Michelle McNamara’s book was published in February 2018 and soon the police, searching in vain for years and trying to connect the dots sprinkled across California, finally arrested 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo, a former police officer- all the clues pointed to him. But by the time her book was released and the Golden State Killer was charged with six counts of first-degree murder, McNamara had passed away at the age of 46, in her sleep, due to an accidental prescription drug overdose. Her two-thirds completed book was finished posthumously by her team and her husband, Patton Oswalt.

There are many who point out that it was thanks to her ingenuity, her book I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, that helped in catching the serial killer who spelled horror in California for 13 long years, even though the police refuse giving her any credits. 

Just days ago, before the series premiered on HBO, the Golden State Killer or the East Area Rapist, whatever name you prefer, agreed to plead guilty so as to avoid the death penalty. His confession will undoubtedly give some semblance of closure to the survivors. But that’s not why Michelle McNamara’s book was, and will remain, a symbol of hope- it will always be remembered for her dogged determination to solve a case that didn’t affect her directly, for her efforts to give the victims a voice, to find justice till her last breath.

And that’s the reason, the HBO series I’ll Be Gone In The Dark is a brilliantly retold true-crime series- it never, ever lets its humanity disappear. 

Most often, we see true-crime series stick to profiling the criminal, turning the lives he destroyed into mere statistics. While I’ll Be Gone In The Dark will eventually tell the true-crime story of the Golden State Killer who escalated his horrors from being a stalker, to invading homes, to a prolific rapist and a murderer, thanks to the book it is based on and director Liz Garbus (Lost Girls) it remembers to center around the stories of the victims, the survivors, and Michelle McNamara, cause her life too was impacted by the killer who remained uncaught for decades.

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark begins with chronicling how McNamara got obsessed with the terrifying web of the East Area Rapist case in the first place while shedding light on her personal struggles, her life as an introvert, a wife, a mother, who moonlighted as a writer/detective. And it is thanks to Garbus that the different narratives, jumping from a morbid investigation to the life of a mother, never tangled, while retaining its compassionate core. 

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