Review: Alaska Daily, Season One – Episode 7: “Enemy of the People”

(Warning: this article contains spoilers about Season One of ABC’s Alaska Daily)

I have a confession to make. I completely forgot Alaska Daily had made it’s triumphant return. After a three-month hiatus they ended up pushing the restart back another week. I lost track. Then, it was difficult to summon the desire to dive back in. Remember: the season left off with our flawed protagonist, Eileen Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), being taken hostage at The Daily Alaskan headquarters by “Concerned Citizen,” a bad man with a gun. I knew they weren’t going to kill Eileen off and I have never particularly cared for this plot point, which has nothing to do with the death of Gloria Nanmac. Reluctantly, almost two weeks after Alaska Daily picked back up, I tuned back in.

The show starts with the voice of Dennis Gibson, a right-wing blogger of Daily Alaskan competitor The Eagle, ranting on AM talk radio. This is going to be good. “Disagree with anything they say and you’re labeled fascist, racist, homophobic…” Concerned Citizen is sitting in his car getting hyped up for his big move. He grabs a gun from the glove box and heads inside the newsroom. I must give it to Swank – she knows how to act with even the thinnest of material. The rest of the newsroom is at the bar next door. Concerned Citizen grabs her phone and texts her colleagues that she won’t be joining them anymore. The clock shows after 9PM. It’s going to be a long night.

As Concerned Citizen starts berating Eileen about how she didn’t go back to New York like he demanded, we find out Gabriel is still in the building, hiding in a small room in the back. Gabriel texts his editor Stanley the mother of all #BREAKING texts. The news team, acting like a well-oiled machine, go to work. The police are called, they start investigating Concerned Citizen and the bar is transformed into a crisis center. Yuna and Roz scour social media and find a prolific commenter with the same handle that frequents The Daily Alaskan (TDA) and The Eagle. Oilman223. Okay, so we have a far-right internet troll who mails people bullets before taking them hostage, and his screen name is Oilman223. Give the writers an Emmy already!

Back at the newsroom, Concerned Citizen wants Eileen to write a confession saying she’s fake news and spreading “liberal crap.” Eileen is offended. She’s not political and doesn’t even vote! While Eileen attempts to write the fake confession, Oilman223 scrolls through Twitter, as you do when you’re holding someone hostage. Gabriel figures out a way to communicate with Eileen using a computer in the backroom that can display messages on a TV in the newsroom.

The team ID’s Concerned Citizen. His name is Eric Barry and he lives in Spenard. The SWAT team moves in, the crisis negotiator arrives on scene and so does TDA publisher Aaron Pritchard. Eileen and Eric Barry start arguing over Eileen’s manufactured “I am fake news” confession. She can’t post it online without first sending it to her editor, which will then alert him that something is wrong. Eric is still unaware of Gabriel’s presence in the newsroom, and the full SWAT team outside. As the conflict heats up, the crisis negotiator calls. Eric shoots the phone; he’s not picking up.

Oilman223 AKA Eric Barry seems to be a super fan of right wing blogger Dennis GIbson. In an exchange online, Dennis compares Eileen to a spreading cancerous sore that requires excising. Roz decides to question Dennis while Austin goes with Detective Kowalczyk to Eric’s recently foreclosed on home in Spenard to canvass neighbors and look for clues.

While peeing by gunpoint, Eileen notices Eric’s work boots and asks if he’s an oil worker. She convinces Eric to tell her his story. We find out Eric has been an oil worker most of his life. He was making good money until “ANWR and all that crap messed it up.” Eileen asks “Who’s ANWR.” Facepalm. Eric explains how the oil companies started pulling out and government regulations coupled with global warming BS has killed Alaska oil. “You really think global warming is BS?” Eileen pushes back. This guy just asserted the Kulluk was sabotaged by environmental whackos, but sure let’s focus on how the far-right wing turned violent extremist believes a mainstream conservative talking point.

We find out Eric hasn’t worked for seven years. Even with oil jobs coming back, he’s now being passed over. His marriage fell apart, and his estranged daughter, Daisy, is now at a rehab facility in the Valley. Eileen is getting through to Eric. She explains how Dennis exploits the pain of his readers by writing misinformation, fueling their anger until one of them picks up a gun. As Eric’s anger towards journalists dissipates, Eileen seems to be out of immediate danger. Suddenly, Eric sees the messages Gabriel’s been sending to the TV screen and a crash from the backroom confirms that Eileen isn’t the only hostage on scene. Gabriel is found out, and Eric is on the rampage!

Roz confronts Dennis about his inflammatory remarks towards Eileen. Remember the cancerous sore that requires excising comment? Apparently, it was in response to Oilman223 asking what’s a guy to do while people like Eileen twist facts to turn the great state of Alaska into another woke mess like California. Hey! That’s not fair. I’d say we’re more of a woke Seattle. Dennis says he was speaking metaphorically but agrees to call Eric. The conversation is tense and Eric is convinced Dennis is compromised. “They got to you!” Eric hangs up as he closes the blinds and continues to discuss his demands with the hostage negotiator. Eric reads what Eileen has written about him. He becomes emotional. He feels seen. Eileen gives him her word she will publish his story. He’s ready to end the standoff. Eric pops his magazine out, steps into the middle of the newsroom and performatively points the now empty gun at his hostages. The SWAT team takes their shot, just like Eric wanted them to. His phone rings one last time. It’s his daughter, Daisy. So sad.

Eileen and Gabriel are escorted out into the parking lot. It’s morning. In front of Anchorage Al’s Dank Buds, the news team is reunited. “You’re one of us,” says Austin to Eileen.

Back at the hotel, the audience is treated to an Eileen Fitzgerald monologue exposing on the virtues of print journalists and the importance of a fair and free press to protect our democracy. I’m not sure what happened to Eileen’s story about Eric Barry, but I don’t think she’s keeping her promise to publish it. As she hits submit, she picks up her phone and makes a post-hostage booty call. PILOT POET IS BACK AGAIN!

This episode was absolutely ridiculous, yet I couldn’t look away. I can’t quit you, Alaska Daily. I’m trying not to get too attached. With the extended hiatus and low ratings, things aren’t looking good for a second season. Add in Hilary Swank’s twins that are coming any day now (their due date is April 16) and the situation gets even more complicated. Until a decision is made, I’ve decided to keep watching and enjoy the ride.

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.

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