The follow-up to the groundbreaking HBO true crime miniseries puts a compassionate spotlight on the Golden State Killer’s victims and survivors.
Nearly a year after the series aired on HBO, there is a new episode of I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, a docuseries based on Michelle McNamara’s book of same name. This time around, the epilogue serves as a coda, bringing the story of The Golden State Killer (and the root McNamara’s obsession) full circle.
Rather than focusing entirely on the trial and sentencing of Joseph James D’Angelo, director Elizabeth Wolff and producer Liz Grabus have intertwined the victim impact statements with the still-unsolved 1984 murder of Kathy Lombardo, the case that launched McNamara’s lifelong interest in crime, it’s impact on the victims, and the process of identifying the perpetrators.
It would have been too easy to spend more time focused on D’Angelo, who is wheeled into the courtroom as a tiny, enfeebled old man playing at both physical and mental illness. Briefly, we are shown footage of the same man pacing his cell, covering the lights in his room the way he once covered the television screens in the homes he invaded. The story—at least the story that interested McNamara—was never the man himself.
The epilogue serves as a coda, bringing the story of The Golden State Killer (and the root McNamara’s obsession) full circle.
Instead, the women D’Angelo attacked, their husbands, children, parents and siblings are all given the spotlight, because for McNamara, theirs are the stories worth telling. Interspersed through this are interviews with key figures in the Lombardo investigation. Neighbors, witnesses, and a retired detective who saw the larger pattern at work behind Lombardo’s attack and many more like it. Once again, the thing that sets I’ll Be Gone In The Dark apart from its true crime contemporaries is it’s complete lack of seedy voyeurism. The victims and survivors in both Lombardo’s case and those involved in the Golden State Killer’s case remain firmly in the spotlight.
While some might call this epilogue an afterthought, it’s an important piece of the overall picture. Because McNamara was such an empathetic investigator and writer, seeing the victims statements at D’Angelo’s sentencing hearing is a necessary part of this story. Pain, fury, and the ripple effects of trauma don’t just go away when the episode ends. For the ones who got out alive, it’s always with them, something we sometimes forget in our fascination with crime.
Michelle McNamara never forgot. She was still trying to find Kathy Lombardo’s killer at the time of her death. Would solving that first murder, the one that started it all, have tempered her fascination with crime and criminals? Probably not, because as one of D’Angelo’s victims demonstrated by crumpling a sheet of paper; you might rise above trauma, you might live well to spite it, but it never really leaves you.
The I’ll Be Gone in the Dark special is now available on HBO Max.