Oscar winner Hilary Swank stars in ABC’s Alaska Daily as an investigative journalist who moves to Alaska to start over — but did this week’s premiere move you to add the new drama to your season pass list?
Swank plays Eileen Fitzgerald, who we meet as she’s hounding a source to hand over dirt on a five-star general who is in line to be the next Secretary of Defense. Eileen works for a Buzzfeed-esque news outfit called The Vanguard — one of those places that has screens up all over the office telling them which stories are getting the most clicks in real time — and when another employee warns her about going to press with only one source, Eileen curtly dismisses her: “I’ve been doing this since you were finger-painting with baby food.” She goes ahead and publishes the story, but the next day, the general claims the documents Eileen used as proof of his wrongdoing were forged. Plus, her source isn’t answering her calls. She shrugs off the general’s threats of a lawsuit — but her editor also brings up allegations from the staff about Eileen’s abusive behavior. Eileen gets defensive (“You’re trying to cancel me now?”), and when the editor suggests they walk back her story, she threatens to quit. And when we jump forward four months, it looks like she did.
Eileen is holed up in her apartment working on a book about the general — who’s now the defense secretary — when she gets a visit from a former boss named Stanley, played by Scandal‘s Jeff Perry. He’s now running a local newspaper in Anchorage, the Daily Alaskan, and he offers her a job up there, but she waves it off as “the minor leagues.” She’s clearly still hurting about how things went at The Vanguard, though, and at 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 cops ruled out foul play, but her mom disagrees. Eileen thinks it’s just a small-potatoes crime story, but then Stanley hands her a pile of more missing women, all Indigenous. Eileen is intrigued and does a little digging on 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 had a panic attack until a kindly village health aide named Melinda explains it to her. She’s greeted in Anchorage by a chipper assistant named Gabriel (Pablo Castelblanco), who hands her an eye mask, since the sun doesn’t set until 11:30 pm around here. The next day, he takes her to the Daily Alaskan‘s office, which has been downsized to a humble spot in a strip mall. The newsroom is cramped and bathed in fluorescent lights, and they do have real-time click stats… but theirs barely top a thousand readers. At the daily news meeting, Eileen quickly makes a reporter bristle by attacking the paper’s ineffectual legal team. (“We don’t believe we need to be jerks to do our jobs,” he declares.) Plus, Gloria’s mother Sylvia turns her away because she’s still bitter about how the newspaper dropped her daughter’s story and painted Gloria as a criminal.
Stanley thought that might happen and decides to pair Eileen up with a local cub reporter named Roz (Grace Dove). She’s just as fiery as Eileen (“Do you know anything about Alaska?” she sniffs), and neither of them want to share the story — which probably means they’ll make a good team. Eileen combs through Gloria’s social media and finds a guy, Toby Crenshaw, who invited her to the party where she went missing. She also calls in a favor and gets some records on another case the cops didn’t want to release. At first, it just seemed like a local oddity: a naked man brandishing a gun at police. But the records show the man’s apartment is owned by an oil money big shot named Jordan Teller, and when reporter Yuna (Ami Park) questions the naked guy, he admits Teller is his boyfriend and bought the place for him, but kicked him out after running into financial problems. Oh, and Teller is currently being investigated for misappropriation of funds. Hmmm… this is getting juicy.
Eileen clashes with Roz when she theorizes that Gloria may have just committed suicide, but she also gets a threatening call from “a concerned citizen” telling her to go back to New York “before something bad happens.” So she must be on the right track, somehow. (Plus, she meets a poetry-writing pilot played by Mare of Easttown’s Joe Tippett at a bar and goes home with him, so she already has a potential love interest locked up.) Meanwhile, Yuna tracks down Jordan Teller to get his comment on the naked guy’s allegations about him, and Teller tries to deny it at first, but then he crumbles and tells her he intended to pay back the missing funds after a big sale went through, begging Yuna not to publish a story that could destroy his family. (Yes, he’s married.)
Eileen tries to talk to Gloria’s mother Sylvia again, this time with Roz by her side, and Sylvia is resistant until Roz shares the story of her own cousin going missing just like Gloria did. Sylvia softens and reveals that Gloria’s body must’ve been dragged to where it was found — because they didn’t find her crutches nearby. (Her needing crutches was left out of the initial report.) Yuna comes back to the newsroom with her big Jordan Teller scoop… but she doesn’t want her byline on it, scared off by Teller’s pleas about ruining his life. Eileen talks her down, conceding that their job isn’t easy, but it matters, now more than ever. Her pep talk about local journalism works, and Yuna hugs her, saying, “We’re very lucky to have you.” But as Yuna walks away, Eileen starts to have another panic attack, crouching down and taking deep breaths behind a parked car.
Alright, it’s your turn: Give the Alaska Daily premiere a grade in our poll and tell us if you’ll keep watching, and then hit the comments to share your thoughts.