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‘I'll Be Gone In The Dark’ Episode 4 Review: Did Michelle McNamara tell Patton Oswalt she was ‘dying’ on text?

Isn't it ironic that she saw the dark before he did? In her quest to seek justice for all the victims, did she lose her own life?
Michelle McNamara and Patton Oswalt (Getty Images)
Michelle McNamara and Patton Oswalt (Getty Images)

"You'll be silent forever, and I'll be gone in the dark..." The Golden State Killer once said. His words had such an influence on crime-writer Michelle McNamara's mind that she penned down a book in her obsession to find the real face behind the monster. "Open the dark, show us your face, walk in the light," she told him.

Isn't it ironic that she saw the dark before he did? In her quest to seek justice for all the victims, did she lose her own life? Did the East Area Rapist figuratively kill her even without attacking her? HBO's six-part documentary sheds light on those pertinent questions, especially after the hard-hitting cliffhanger that makes one wonder: Did Patton Oswalt know Michelle McNamara had a mental breakdown?

If the last episode presented a bouquet of beautiful text messages that the husband-wife shared over time, the fourth episode ‘The Motherlode’ continues that tradition. Frisking its way through the dark alleys of Michelle's mind, the episode moves past as the book became a bottomless monster of never-ending information for her. From the mounting pressure of her deadline for the book to stumbling upon a treasure trove of vital information and pictures, Michelle's addiction to solving the case only grows day by day. 

Michelle McNamara (HBO)

“When you see something that you’re looking for, I can’t even tell you how far down the rabbit hole you go,” she confessed in her book. Poring over 37 boxes of files now occupying her daughter's playroom, Michelle and her researcher Paul Haynes explore the case of the Visalia Ransacker, the perpetrator of a string of burglaries in the early '70s bearing striking similarities to the EAR.

Overwhelmed by the amount of material and the graphic nature of the crimes she is investigating, Michelle struggles to balance the demands of her self-described addiction to her work with her family life. Painful personal memories, combined with her pressure to solve the case and finish the book leads to a string of sleepless nights and harrowing nightmares, as she becomes increasingly reliant upon prescription drugs to manage her mounting anxieties.

​​The demons come to her mind as she catches a glimpse of photographs from the crime scenes. The words "gonna kill you" go over and over again. She texts Patton: "R u home?" and confesses, "Haven't slept more than a couple of hours in the last two days." She says, "I have to either cut Xanax out of my life completely and grit my teeth through this or get some more."

Michelle McNamara and Patton Oswalt (HBO)

"I realized taking a little before I go to sleep helps keep nightmares at bay because I had a terrifying one the little did I sleep," she then says and adds, "Related to this case and crime scene photos. It was truly one of the worst nightmares I've ever had. But I dunno maybe that's my brain working out." When Patton offers to come home, she refuses and says, "There's nothing you can do right now. I just want to take a hot bath and climb into bed."

And then, she asks him not to tell anyone. "Please don't tell anyone that I'm feeling sick or tired or anything," she texts. And then adds, "What I feel bad about is I was going to do Alice's homework assignment w her tonight... But I feel like I'm dying. Ugh." Patton tries to reassure her: "Don't worry sweetie. I've been where you've been."

However, it doesn't end the way it should. She never wakes up. And the last text Patton sends to her is: "You awake?" As the last scene of the documentary is played where Patton calls an ambulance for his wife, it hits you right in the chest and leaves goosebumps. The next episode may lead to the tragic day when she died in her sleep on April 21, 2016 and show how her family dealt with the heartbreaking loss.

Directed by Myles Kane and Josh Koury, the episode premieres on HBO, Sunday, July 19 at 10 pm ET to 11 pm ET.