‘I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’ Is a True-Crime Series That Actually Puts the Survivors’ Stories First

by 24USATVJune 29, 2020, 4 p.m. 19
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Five minutes into I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and I was hooked. The six-part HBO documentary series explores the long—and deeply unsettling—case of the East Area Rapist, later known as the Golden State Killer. The idea that he terrorized California for decades, attacking over 50 people and killing 12, and I’d never even heard of him before rattled me to my core. How is it possible that such a prolific serial killer could stay under the radar for so long? But his crimes might never have garnered national attention if it wasn’t for the late Michelle McNamara, who started a blog, True Crime Diary, that turned into the book the docuseries is based on: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer.

The docuseries focuses on McNamara’s increasingly fervent desire to find the Golden State Killer and bring him to justice as it weaves together original recordings and excerpts from her book along with interviews with survivors, detectives, and McNamara’s husband, comedian Patton Oswalt, who recounts intimate details about her fascination with the case.

Obsession is the only word to describe McNamara’s fixation on finding the Golden State Killer. Though she sadly passed away in 2016, two years before Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. was arrested, her work—including this 2013 Los Angeles Magazine article—unquestionably kept his case in the public eye. In fact, her book was so monumental that an adaptation was discussed before it even hit shelves.

According to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark’s director and executive producer, Liz Garbus, HBO sent her the manuscript before it was published. “I didn’t know about Michelle or even the case prior to that,” she tells Glamour. “And I was inspired to try to help tell the story, tell the story of the survivors, and tell the story of the obsession.”

That’s an important part of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: Unlike many other true-crime tales, the series doesn’t focus on the Golden State Killer—this is about the survivors and their stories. It’s difficult to listen to the women describe in detail the brutal attacks they survived, but Garbus felt it was crucial to include. “I think they trusted that we would be doing a thorough and thoughtful take on their story,” she says, adding she did not want to reduce their interviews to “a horrible sound bite of trauma.”

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