We think this TV show stands out for:
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I'll Be Gone in the Dark is a true crime documentary series about the Golden State Killer, a serial rapist and murderer who terrorized California residents in the 1970s and '80s. Profanity is minimal, but mature language -- including numerous sexual terms and references -- is used regularly to describe the suspect's violent crimes: 50 rapes and 12 murders. Archival footage and crime scene photos also depict some disturbing imagery. The series also digs deep into the obsessive, sometimes dangerous behavior of Michelle McNamara, the late author of the book the documentary is based on.
What's the story?
Based on the book of the same name, I'LL BE GONE IN THE DARK explores the horrific, two-decade crime spree of prolific rapist and serial murderer the Golden State Killer. In addition to narrated excerpts from the book -- penned by the late Michelle McNamara (comedian Patton Oswalt's wife) -- the series leverages archival interviews, old news footage, and recent interviews with detectives and victims to paint a thorough picture of the violent predator, as well as the investigation that brought him to justice. The documentary spends equal time diving into McNamara's dogged pursuit of the suspect, an interest that began as a hobby but ultimately transformed into an obsessive career.
Is it any good?
Like any contemporary true-crime docuseries worth its salt, this one lures viewers into its macabre mystery with compelling interviews, archival footage, old newspaper headlines, uncovered police reports and crime scene photos, and dramatized reenactments. But that's where the similarities between countless other serial killer documentaries and this one -- based on Michelle McNamara's posthumously published book -- end. I'll Be Gone in the Dark elevates the genre by building on the expected tropes with a number of fresh, welcome elements. For starters, the series doesn't sensationalize the suspect. While due diligence is done in exploring his monstrous crimes and potential motives, equal time is spent showing how his predatory spree impacted his victims and society as a whole. The series' most engaging moments come when the Golden State Killer's survivors and victims' family members share their stories. Told in disturbing detail, these interviews can be difficult to watch, but they also highlight the courage, closure, and even hope some of them found at the end of their dark journeys.
I'll Be Gone in the Dark also does a fantastic job presenting McNamara's pursuit of the killer from her perspective. Excerpts from her book (narrated by Amy Ryan), as well as audio recordings and video interviews of the late author, effectively present her role in bringing renewed interest and attention to what had been a cold case prior to her involvement. The six-episode series also doesn't pull any punches in showing her troubled transformation from true-crime buff to obsessive "citizen detective." This story is as much McNamara's -- and the victims' -- as it is her subject's, making it a far more emotional and absorbing watch than your typical serial-killer-of-the-week documentary.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Michelle McNamara's role in helping catch the killer in I'll Be Gone in the Dark. How was she able to bring attention to a case that had gone cold? What skills did she possess that allowed her to help, despite not being a member of law enforcement? What tools aided her in her investigation?
Why did Michelle McNamara's love of true crime turn into a career? What are the pros and cons of turning a hobby into a job? How did she balance obligations to her family with her investigation and pursuit of the suspect?
How were sexual assault crimes viewed in the 1970s and 1980s versus today? Why were victims sometimes blamed or made to feel ashamed? What further work can be done today to bring attention to and help prevent sexual assault?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love mysteries
Find more TV shows that help kids build character.
Themes & Topics
Browse titles with similar subject matter.
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch