We all like to play detective when watching a true crime, but not quite on the same level as Michelle McNamara.
This HBO series documents true crime buff McNamara’s hunt for the so-called Golden State Killer, who allegedly committed at least 50 rapes and 13 murders across the US in the 1970s and 80s. We follow the story in two parts, both the last years of McNamara’s life, as she searches for answers every which way she can (interviews with victims, reading police reports, investigating crime scenes), and the eventual 2018 arrest of the suspect Joseph James DeAngelo, two years after McNamara passed away. In 2020, it’s pretty difficult to impress us with a true crime series, as there’s very little that we haven’t already seen, but this one is slightly different from the rest.
As well as the constant drive for justice and closure, we see what fixation looks like, not just for the murderer, but those enthralled by murders. We see the price McNamara paid for her fascination, as it is uncovered she died of an undiagnosed heart condition, and with a cocktail of prescription drugs in her system. Although at times clunky, particularly when moving between the different crimes, it’s an interesting, and sometimes heart-breaking, addition to the true crime vault.
The Times’ John Dugdale says that, “Among the film’s strengths is its refusal of hindsight — not jumping ahead to unveil the killer’s identity or pointing out when chances to catch him were missed.” So, it’ll keep you on your toes if you don’t know much about the story already. In The Washington post, Hank Stuever praised the series, calling it “a complex and thoughtful attempt to comprehend mutual fixations.” Lorraine Ali of the Los Angeles Times agreed with us that the series “has some pacing issues,” but says the “docuseries is also a fitting eulogy for McNamara.”
First shown August 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.