(Warning: this article contains spoilers about Season One of ABC’s Alaska Daily)
The show opens at sunset in the waters in the Gulf of Alaska. A pretty, young women is doing an Instagram Live on a large cruise ship. “Last night was insane,” Henley Madison Scott tells the camera. “Let’s just say I had one too many Glacier-tinis ha ha ha!” She climbs the rail of her balcony so viewers can get a better look at the beautiful Alaska sunrise. “Alaska is pretty lit, y’all” are her last words before she drunkenly slips and falls to her presumed death in the frigid water below. Splash! The tragic video goes viral.
Eileen and Roz are doing a spot on a local radio call-in show. After Eileen and Roz explain how their work got Meade Police Chief Durken and Assistant District Attorney Barnett fired, they move on to callers. The first caller is the infamous Concerned Citizen. He immediately goes on a nasty tirade against Eileen, calling her a “carpetbagging meddler” and says she needs to be stopped. The host cuts to a break. Pam from Wasilla will be up next, hopefully with a more polite question. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one.
Stanley tries to assign Claire to the girl gone overboard story. Claire is already slammed covering: a flood in Eagle Village, a truck that flipped into the Matanuska River, a Fish and Game captain with eight hunting violations, overflow at a homeless shelter and the Governor’s Arts Gala. The Alaska writers are working overtime on this episode. Stanley then asks Roz. No go. Roz is looking into Jade Jacobs, a Yup’ik woman who went missing at Russian Pratatsky Park two days ago. (They couldn’t just say Russian Jack?) Eileen rebuffs Stanley before he even asks the question — Eileen doesn’t do human-interest click-bait. Stanley pleads with her to at least go cover the governor’s press conference on the matter. She agrees.
Governor Thacker’s Anchorage press conference is packed and kicks off with questions from the Juneau Empire, Ketchikan Daily News and Eileen with the Daily Alaskan. The search is extensive: several Jayhawk helicopters have been deployed, a response boat from Station Valdez and the Coast Guard cutter Endurance are all involved. The governor is personally committed to bringing Henley home, and no expense will be spared. Public Safety Commissioner Haynes estimates the cost of the search at over a million dollars. Did I mention Henley is white? I have a feeling I know what’s about to happen.
Stanley and the Daily Alaskan journalists have an impromptu meeting about Henley. Reporters from outside are about to descend into Alaska and sensationalize this story, milking it for every penny. Stanley wants the Daily Alaskan to tell it first and best. The story reeks of missing white woman syndrome notes Roz, seething over the stark differences between the search for Henley verses Jade. Claire has the idea to highlight this disparity in a comparison piece of the two missing women.
Stanley is still attempting to dig up dirt on the Pritchard family. He meets a source at Tolstoy’s Beard, which is quickly becoming a supporting character, and is informed the family own several parcels of land that connect to one another. At the far boarder of the Pritchard’s undeveloped land is a large swath of protected land. Stanley wonders aloud how much the family’s property would be worth if the adjacent land lost its protected status. The scene abruptly changes to Aaron Pritchard sitting across from Stanley in his Daily Alaskan office. They discuss the paper’s falling subscription numbers and it’s not pretty. Aaron then turns on the charm and invites Eileen to the Governor’s Arts Gala. Strictly business, natch. Remember – HE JUST KISSED HER in the door of her hotel room like two days ago. Eileen says hell no.
BREAKING: we have our first major faux pas of the night! Bob is going UP to Seward to cover the Henley search. Oops. DOWN in Seward, Bob grills his source at the harbor. Henley was in an off-limits spot when she fell, there’s no security footage, and the mandatory-by-law man overboard system on the ship was never installed. Lucky for the cruise company, the ship’s flag state is Panama. They don’t have to follow U.S. law or reimburse the Coast Guard for the million-dollar search. And who has to pay for it? “We do, says Bob. “Taxpayers.” That’s strike two for Bob. Alaskans don’t pay taxes!!!
Bob and Roz are fired up and head down to yet another Henley press conference. Bob asks if the state is aware it’s on the hook for the one-million-dollar search, while Roz brings up Henley’s recently uncovered past criminal record. When Roz is accused of victim blaming, she turns the heat up at the press conference and reminds the room that the criminal records of Native women are often included in the state’s missing persons coverage. The state official deflects – Governor Thacker recently appointed a task force specifically designed to combat the Missing Murdered and Indigenous Women crisis. Eileen, with the help of her ex-accountant now Tolstoy’s Beard bartender bestie, peruse the financials of said task force. Most of the money is going towards an awareness campaign headed up by Concordia Public Relations. And who owns Concordia PR? The Pritchard’s. “Anchorage is a small town.” Eileen remarks. Fact check: true. Eileen wants a comment from the governor. Guess she’s going to his gala after all.
Roz along with her boyfriend spend time at Russian Pratatsky Park conducting interviews, taking photos, and even joining the search team for Jade. There is zero police presence, and no MMIW taskforce. Much to her surprise, Stanley shows up to help search. Jade’s bracelet is found, but no other leads are discovered. The 72-hour mark ticks by. Things aren’t looking good.
The Dena’ina Convention Center makes her Alaska Daily debut (short and sweet because they sure didn’t film inside). The outside shot must have been fairly recent– I spied the new Crystal Worl mural in the background. Eileen and Aaron Pritchard walk into the Governor’s Art Gala together. Claire notices Aaron’s hand lingering on Eileen’s back. I can almost smell the infamous Dena’ina chicken as they go grab a glass of champagne and OH MY GOSH IT’S THE PILOT POET!!! He won an award and he’s doing a reading at the event. Swoon. Eileen introduces Aaron to Jamie. Awkward. Aaron introduces Eileen to his rich and probably villainous father, Conrad. Mid-handshake Eileen launches into a direct line of questioning regarding Concordia PR that leaves Conrad scrambling. Aaron is furious Eileen used him to get to his dad. Are they even now?
Jamie Pilot Poet is jealous of Aaron and misses Eileen. They test the waters with a mini DTR right before he takes the stage for the reading of his newest poem. Eileen stays to watch.
“Her face, open like the neck of sweet August nettle.” Pilot poet recites, staring at Eileen. “Like a bird I chose sky. She chose night.”
Max tension between these two and I am here for it. Alas, work comes first for Eileen. She spies the Governor and makes a beeline towards him. She informs him The Daily Alaskan is publishing a story on the disparity between the search and rescue efforts of the two missing women: one white and one Alaska Native. Would the Governor care to comment? After a couple flubbed lines, Thacker rushes off. The former disgruntled Daily Alaskan employee turned blogger gets a shot of Eileen ambushing Governor Thacker at the Gala and posts it online ASAP. The character’s name is Dennis, his blog is the Anchorage Eagle, and I am crossing my fingers he becomes a series regular. (At first I thought this character has to be Craig Medred, right? But the whole crashing a gala, hitting on Claire and then posting Eileen’s loose exchange with the governor has some major Jeff Landfield vibes.)
The Daily Alaskan goes to print with the comparison piece: The Price of a Life. On one side, Officials spend over one million for search of overboard Texan woman. The other, The road to nowhere: Inside the unfunded search for a missing Alaskan Native woman. The message is clear. Cue the montage of the paper flying off shelves and close ups of the commissioner, press secretary, Aaron Pritchard and other background characters pensively reading the story. The Times and the Post are picking up the piece and Stanley is so pleased he’s buying everyone a round at “the Beard” after work.
Eileen and Roz have hit a serious roadblock on the Gloria Nanmac case. Their lead suspect, Rega Horn, cannot be found. It’s almost like he doesn’t exist. Bob tentatively approaches. He might have something on the Gloria case. He wrote an article on her disappearance and a contact from Gloria’s church, Alice Porter, could have additional information. Bob is ashamed to admit he never followed up with her. Roz speaks with Alice and she reveals Gloria’s pastor is named Reed Gallahorn. Kinda sounds like Rega Horn, right? Roz is convinced this is the break they’ve been waiting for.
Everyone except Eileen heads toward the Beard. I guess that’s what we’re calling it now. A door opens in the newsroom. An unknown white man appears in the door of Eileen’s office. It’s Concerned Citizen and he has a gun. Eileen is now his hostage. The screen fades to black and Alaska Daily is officially on hiatus until late February.
Even though this episode had almost nothing to do with the Gloria Nanmac case, it was packed with action and my favorite types of Alaska centric cameos and Easter eggs. The reporters are becoming increasingly aggressive with local government. After a police chief and ADA were fired for flagrant and even criminal misconduct, it’s hard to argue against their methods. There were several cases where the plot felt a bit like journalists patting themselves on the back. But. if I’m being honest, that’s an underlying theme of the entire show. I found it interesting the writers assigned some of the “missing white women syndrome” blame to local media. I expected that focus to be on national media, government, law enforcement, etc. I also thought it was wise they chose Henley, a girl who fell to her death accidentally, to compare to a missing Alaska Native woman. It worked because her death was accidental. It would have missed the mark if Henley was murdered. At this point I am more invested in the Jade storyline than the whole Concerned Citizen taking Eileen hostage debacle. Who is this guy? Could he be Rega Horn/Reed Gallahorn? I hope Jade is still alive. But mostly, I hope I still care about any of the characters at all when the show returns in late February.. Happy fall finale! See ya’ll in 2023.
Allison Hovanec was born and raised in Alaska. She and her husband are raising three young children in South Anchorage. She is a co-owner of the Alaska Landmine, writer for the Alaska Political Report and generally competent.