Author Michelle McNamara’s 2018 book I’ll Be Gone In the Dark ends with a haunting exhortation to the Golden State Killer: “Open the door. Show us your face. Walk into the light.” On the first day of filming for HBO's miniseries of the same name, that’s exactly what happened. Joseph DeAngelo, who has now pleaded guilty to 13 murders, was arrested, securing justice for his victims and warping the planned arc of the show. Given how recent events have already pushed the limited series beyond the scope of its source material, is it possible I’ll Be Gone In The Dark will return for Season 2?
The final episode moves years past where McNamara’s book leaves readers, featuring long interviews with DeAngelo’s family members and footage from some of his court appearances. It also attempts something like closure, or at least what closure can look like on TV. We see victims and their families meeting and exchanging histories at a garden party. One couple — the only couple whose marriage did not end in divorce after surviving their attack — takes a long-planned trip to Europe.
And there’s closure for McNamara’s family, too. The author, who died as the result of a combination of drugs in her system and an undiagnosed heart condition before her book was published, never got to see the culmination of the search for the Golden State Killer. Her husband, the comedian Patton Oswalt (also an executive producer on the series), tries to explain his devotion to the project via their young daughter, Alice.
“There were parts of her I didn’t know about. And I figured if I talked with other friends of hers and family members and people that she worked with…” His sentence trails off. “I try to tell Alice every single thing about Michelle that I know, but there’s stuff I don’t know.” The implication is that this series may help him fill in the gaps and restore a full image of his late wife to their daughter.
Given that the case is now solved, it’s difficult to see how a second season could focus on the Golden State Killer alone. But true crime is as popular a genre as it is a morally complicated one. Some of DeAngelo's victims and their families have already expressed anxiety about the focus of I'll Be Gone In the Dark. Blogger Jennifer Carole, whose father and stepmother were murdered by DeAngelo, wrote about the tensions that plague all documentaries rooted in real tragedy:
"But now imagine being a studio that must profit off the storytelling. The book gets optioned – meaning they license the rights to make a film based on the book – and now you must create something that will make money for the studio. How do you do that? What creative choices will you make? Will you include some “star power” to make sure it has mass market appeal? Will you conduct re-enactments to depict the crimes? Will you edit interviews in a way that increases the entertainment value while maybe compromising the intent? This is the hot mess that truly lies in the hands of the creative team."
One survivor, Kris Pedretti, also replied directly to Oswalt when he first tweeted out the trailer for the show:
If HBO or series director Liz Garbus opts to pursue a second season, these are serious issues to contend with. Garbus, for one, seems prepared to take them on, even publicly agreeing with Pedretti’s words of caution on Twitter: “Foregrounding the trauma of the victims and survivors was front and center for Michelle, as it is for those of us who created the series."