Oscar winner Hilary Swank stars in ABC’s Alaska Daily as an investigative journalist moving to Alaska to start over — but did this week’s premiere make you put the new drama on your season pass list?
Swank plays Eileen Fitzgerald, who we meet as she tracks a source to deliver dirt to a five-star general who is set to become the next Secretary of Defense. Eileen works for a Buzzfeed-like news company called The Vanguard — one of those places that has screens all over the office telling them which stories are getting the most clicks in real time — and when another employee warns her about only printing with one According to the source, Eileen brushes her off: “I’ve been doing this since you used baby food to finger paint.” She goes ahead and publishes the story, but the next day the general claims the documents Eileen used as evidence of his wrongdoing has, were fake. Also, her source doesn’t answer her calls. She dismisses the general’s threats with a lawsuit — but her editor also brings allegations from staff about Eileen’s abusive behavior. Eileen becomes defensive (“Are you trying to fire me now?”), and when the editor suggests retracting her story, she threatens to quit. And if we jump ahead four months, it looks like she did.
Eileen is in her apartment working on a book about the General – who is now Secretary of Defense – when she is visited by a former boss named Stanley, played by scandalis Jeff Perry. He now runs a local newspaper in Anchorage, the Daily Alaskan, and he offers her a job up there, but she brushes him off as “the minor leagues”. She’s obviously still pained by how things turned out at The Vanguard, and over dinner Stanley shows her a photo of Gloria Nanmac, a young Indigenous woman who went missing two years ago. When her body was found, the police ruled out foul play, but her mother disagrees. Eileen thinks it’s just a little detective story, but then Stanley gives her a bunch of other missing women, all Indigenous. Eileen is intrigued and does a little research of her own – and before she knows it, she’s on a plane to Alaska.
It’s not a smooth ride, though: she faints in the aisle mid-flight and doesn’t realize she’s had a panic attack until a friendly village health worker named Melinda explains it to her. She is greeted in Anchorage by an assistant chipper named Gabriel (Pablo Castelblanco), who hands her an eye mask since the sun doesn’t set here until 11:30 p.m. The next day he brings her to Daily Alaskan‘s office, which has been downsized to a modest space in a mall. The newsroom is cramped and bathed in fluorescent lighting, and they have real-time click stats…but theirs barely reaches more than a thousand readers. At the daily press conference, Eileen is quick to enrage a reporter by attacking the newspaper’s ineffective legal team. (“We don’t think we have to be jerks to do our job,” he explains.) Also, Gloria’s mother, Sylvia, rebuffs her because she’s still bitter about how the newspaper dropped the story of her daughter and Gloria portrayed as a criminal.
Thinking this might happen, Stanley decides to set Eileen up with a local young reporter named Roz (Grace Dove). She’s just as fiery as Eileen (“Do you know anything about Alaska?” she sniffles), and neither of them want to share the story — which likely means they’ll make a good team. Eileen combs Gloria’s social media and finds a guy, Toby Crenshaw, who invited her to the party she went missing from. She also asks for a favor and gets some notes on another case the cops didn’t want to publicize. At first it seemed just a local curiosity: a naked man pointing a gun at police. But the records show that the man’s apartment is owned by an oil major named Jordan Teller, and when reporter Yuna (Ami Park) questions the naked guy, he admits that Teller is his friend and bought the apartment for him but him afterwards kicked out got into financial problems. Oh, and Teller is currently under investigation for embezzling funds. Hmmm… this will be juicy.
Eileen clashes with Roz when she theorizes that Gloria may have just committed suicide, but she also receives a threatening phone call from “a concerned citizen” telling her to return to New York “before anything bad happens.” . So she must be on the right track somehow. (She also meets a pilot who writes poetry, played by Mare of Easttown’(s Joe Tippett at a bar and going home with him, so she’s already got a potential love interest locked in.) Meanwhile, Yuna tracks Jordan down to get his comment on the naked guy’s allegations about him, and Teller tries to get it deny at first, but then he breaks down and tells her that he planned to repay the missing funds after a big sale was completed and asked Yuna not to publish a story that might destroy his family. (Yes, he is married.)
Eileen tries again to talk to Gloria’s mother, Sylvia, this time with Roz by her side, and Sylvia resists until Roz tells the story that her own cousin went missing, just like Gloria. Sylvia softens and reveals that Gloria’s body must have been dragged to where it was found – because they didn’t find her crutches nearby. (The fact that she has to walk on crutches was left out in the first report.) Yuna comes back to the office with her big Jordan-Teller bullet… but she doesn’t want her attribution on it, deterred by Teller’s pleas to ruin his life. Eileen talks her down and admits her job isn’t easy, but it matters now more than ever. Her pep talk about local journalism works, and Yuna hugs her and says, “We’re very lucky to have you.” But as Yuna walks away, Eileen has another panic attack, crouching and taking a deep breath behind a parked car.
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