I’ll Be Gone in the Dark Recap: Darkness Falls

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There are two mysteries in the fifth episode of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark and only one is definitively solved — and it’s not the one you’d expect. At the end of the episode, a combination of renewed public interest in the Golden State Killer case and a winnowing of DNA evidence leads to the capture of Joseph James DeAngelo after a search that lasted over four decades. The case that had obsessed Michelle McNamara — not to mention her collaborators, the survivors, and the many others with a stake in the outcome — finally achieved the outcome that she had predicted and described so eloquently at the end of her book. (“Take one of your hyper-gulping breaths, clench your teeth, inch timidly toward the insistent bell. This is how it ends for you.”)

The unsolvable mystery is the death of McNamara herself. Granted, her autopsy details a cocktail of prescription medications (Adderall, Xanax, and fentanyl), combined with blockages in her arteries. But there’s no one answer to account for why McNamara was driven to self-medicate, and so we’re left with a cocktail of stressors — some immediate, some longstanding, all converging at the same time. The immediate stressors are easy enough to identify: a looming deadline on a book that’s receding into an evidentiary abyss; an immersion into the psyche of a killer whose pathology is snapping more and more into focus; a cycle of insomnia and mania. The longstanding stressors are less obvious: her possible sexual assault in Northern Ireland; a family with a history of addiction and depression; and an abiding feeling that the moments of lightness in her life were not enough to chase away the darkness.

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