How to make a serial killer – that about sums up this intriguing six-part documentary series on HBO. The series centers around author Michelle McNamara’s writing and eventual publication of the book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, which is about a serial rapist and murderer nicknamed the Golden State Killer.
Michelle died prematurely while working on the book. The cause of death was due to a lethal combination of prescription and over-the-counter medications. The film hints at the possibility that the book’s subject matter and the stress of publication deadlines may have contributed to her use of the drugs. As with the book, her husband, actor and comedian Patton Oswalt, fills in for his wife and sees that her work finds an audience.
I knew from headlines that investigators eventually caught the Golden State Killer and that it occurred after the book’s publication. I didn’t know that Michelle’s work played a role in that outcome.
Throughout this six-episode series, viewers learn how this individual progressed from breaking and entering to rape to murder. The mystery is who is this person, and what motivated him to commit these despicable crimes?
The final episode unravels the mystery. It goes without question that it takes a psychopathic mind to commit these types of crimes. But there are plenty of psychopaths wandering around causing mischief who don’t commit violent crimes. What flicked the switch with this guy?
The filmmakers don’t draw a definitive conclusion, but it seemed obvious to me. The man, Joeseph DeAngelo, was a former police officer. He lost his job after getting caught shoplifting. He also had a strong dislike for women, most likely the result of the breakup of an early relationship. My theory is that the combination of those two events, combined with a troubled childhood, set him on a course of revenge. His goal, in my mind, was to show that he was smarter than the police and women who ruined his life.
In the end, it’s the survivors who get the last word. Their stories are what’s important. The man behind those crimes will now spend his remaining years in a tiny cell with the memories of his victims haunting him night after night.