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We Build Alaska

Review: Alaska Daily, Season One – Episode Three: “It’s Not Personal”

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

The show opens with Eileen, Roz and Sylvie (Gloria Nanmac’s mother) en route to Meade, Alaska. The Arctic. “No trees,” Roz dryly remarks as Eileen looks out the window. Eileen asks if she’s been up here before. Roz has been to Meade but is evasive about her past. She explains that she’s Tlingit and from the rainforests of Southeast Alaska – the whole no trees thing doesn’t do it for her.

When Eileen asks if Tlingit is her tribe, Roz tells her its culture, not tribe. She explains that where they are going the Native communities are Iñupiat, and they have a totally different culture, languages, everything.

Back in Anchorage, Daily Alaskan reporter Austin sits down for a candidate profile with U.S. Senate hopeful, Frank Moses. Moses wants to “act in the best interests of all Alaskans” and is running because he “desires to make the world a better place.” When Austin presses him to give one example on how he plans to do that, Moses’ smart watch buzzes and he cuts the interview short. There’s been a leak at LH Mine and photos of thousands of dead fish are starting to circulate. Moses, the supposed pro fish candidate tweets out his response to the spill: I sand with Alaskans who need good honest work and I stand with the salmon. “Can you stand with salmon?” asks a befuddled Austin back at the newsroom. Sounds like they need to put a Yes on Ballot Measure 1 trigger warning on this episode. The newsroom believes the publisher of the Daily Alaskan, Ryan Binkley Aaron Pritchard’s endorsement of Moses is a done deal. Will this environmental disaster change things? Austin starts to dig into Moses’ financial disclosers hoping to learn more about the guy.

While in Meade, Roz and Eileen are staying with Sylvie. They take a moment in Gloria’s room, solemnly examining her pictures, homemade jewelry, and other aspects of her too short life. They head to the police station to track down the police report. The police refuse to give it to the reporters, claiming it’s still an open case. Eileen and Roz find out Chief Durkin was assigned to Gloria’s case before he became chief. Chief Durkin is all smiles and small talk during an impromptu meeting. Durkin agrees to release the police report after he’s had a chance to review it and redact any sensitive information. He asks if Roz is from “around here” and when she says “no, not really” he guesses she’s Haida. When Roz says she’s from Yakutat and Tlingit, Durkin talks about how great her people are and how he loves to fish down there every year. He then tries explaining the Tlingit’s government to Roz, which goes over like a lead balloon. She later describes it as “whitesplaining my own culture to me.”

Two four wheelers are waiting for Eileen and Roz outside the police station, ready to drive them to where Gloria’s body was found and then Skeeter’s. They arrive at a remote spot in the tundra and learn hunters found Gloria’s beaten body under an old boat. Remember: the police ruled out foul play. This now seems impossible.

When they get to Skeeter’s house, it’s literally gone. All that remains are skids. The house has been moved. The neighbors have a lot to say about Skeeter: his real name is Clarence, no one knows where he went, the house was a notorious party house, yet the cops never came out. Speaking of the cops, one neighbor details how they busted his friend with a pound of Matanuska Thunderfunk. (Of course, real Alaskans know it’s not ThunderFUNK. It’s thunder… something else….) A couple days later the police sold a local dealer the same Thunderfunk straight out of the evidence locker.

Austin is hot on the case of three mysterious new LLCs that all gave to U.S. Senate candidate Frank Moses in the same week. Oh snap, they’re all owned by the same law firm: Austin’s ex-wife’s law firm. The same firm that reps LH Mine. Austin goes to his ex-wife’s house and confronts her about the LLCs. She is immediately defensive. When Austin says, “This kind of stuff mattered to you when you were a public defender,” she responds by taking a dig at his job and brings up his late child support payments.

As Eileen and Roz are walking back to Sylvie’s house a truck stops. “Roz? Roz Friendly?” a voice inquires out the window. It turns out to be Roz’s half-brother, Derek, who lives in Meade. It’s the first time they’ve met. Derek tells Roz that he works at City Hall in the payroll department and how their dad is always bragging to him when she writes something for the paper. Roz is uncomfortable and cuts the conversation short. When Eileen tries to get more information out of Roz about her past, Roz shuts down and says Derek is off limits, even though Eileen thinks his City Hall position could be a way to get information they want. The police report arrives. Surprise! Chief Durkin redacted everything. Everything except Gloria’s unrelated criminal record and an unflattering description of her. “Victim blaming,” Roz mutters bitterly. Roz remembers a loophole she used during her time as a legislative reporter: most police departments in Alaska submit their monthly reports to City Hall and it’s all public record. When City Hall stonewalls them, Eileen predictably sneaks into the payroll department and asks Derek, the off-limits-half-brother, for help. Eileen gets the report, but Roz is livid. Eileen doesn’t care. “It’s about the story, she says nonchalantly. “That’s all the matters.”

Austin uncovers the members of the mysterious LCCs are also the members of the LH Mining board. This means the mining company that Austin feels poses a giant threat to the fishing industry is covertly funding the pro fish Senate candidate. Something doesn’t smell right, and it’s not just the thousands of dead salmon at LH mine. Austin wants to publish right away, but Stanley pushes back. He wants Austin to make sure the LLCs didn’t donate to any other candidates. Austin thinks Stanley is stalling and refusing to print because the Pritchard family is endorsing Moses. Austin comes back to Stanley after doing his due diligence. The LLCs didn’t donate to any other candidates. Stanley gives the story the green light for publication.

Roz sits down with the Council Chair of Meade, my real-life former co-worker. Hi, Mary! Still so fun to see familiar Alaska faces. Roz apologizes for not coming sooner and gives a gift of Nagoonbery jam. “Quyanaq,” the Councilwoman replies. Roz asks for help finding other people who have had troubles with the police chief. She is introduced to a young woman who is willing to go on the record saying that Chief Durkin refused to investigate her domestic violence incident and decided her case was unfounded. Eileen discovers out of all the felony complaints in the last two years, seventy-two were for sexual assault or rape and the cops didn’t arrest or charge for any of them. The police either keep the case open, like with Gloria, or dismiss it as unfounded, just like the woman Roz spoke with. Roz and Eileen are finally united – they are going to take Durkin down.

They rush into the police station and demand to speak with Chief Durkin. He’s gone on a hunting trip. Eileen writes a note to the chief, seals it in an envelope and says, “We’re writing a story on your boss and he’s going to want to read this as soon as possible so he knows what’s coming.” The front desk policewoman runs out in a panic to deliver the letter. What did Eileen write? See you soon! They tail the policewoman to find Chief Durkin. Clever.

Chief Durkin is dressed head to toe in camo, unloading guns from his truck. Eileen confronts him with allegations he sold confiscated drugs (the Thunderfunk). “Nice truck, by the way,” Roz notes. They again ask about Gloria and bring up the wounds discovered in the autopsy report that are consistent with assault. Durkin asks to speak to Eileen alone, but Eileen refuses saying for the first time, “We’re partners.” A big moment.

Roz asks point blank why he isn’t investigating crimes against Native women. Chief Durkin goes on a racist tirade, saying he doesn’t want to waste anyone’s time or tie up the courts on “Native girls who can’t handle their alcohol. It’s just how they are.” With a rifle in one hand he tells them to get the hell off his property. Luckily, Eileen did her research: Alaska is a single party consent state, and she recorded every second of the confrontation.

Back at the newsroom Eileen, Roz and Stanley are tweaking the Chief Durkin story before they publish. Stanley mentions he’s going to add a tip line at the end of the story. As they wrap up Roz speaks up. She says Eileen needs her, but Roz has to be able to trust her and she’s not a “Tonto” side kick. Roz is still upset about the half-brother incident and gives Eileen an ultimatum: if she does anything like that again, Roz is out. “We can get this story without you being a dick,” she asserts. Eileen halfheartedly agrees.

As the episode winds down, we see Yuna receive counseling after the subject of her first front page story allegedly killed himself. The Daily Alaskan story about Frank Moses is published, and his campaign stalls; the pro mining tag will cost him his base. Austin’s wife announces she’s moving to Chicago and taking their son with him. Stanley reaches out to an old contact asking for information on the Pritchard family. Initially, Aaron Pritchard called the mining story a nothing burger and questioned why Stanley would even publish it. It is only after public blowback that the Pritchard family dropped their endorsement of Moses. Stanley is left unsettled and wonders what the family stood to gain if Moses had won the Senate seat. The voice on the phone warns Stanley that the Prichard family is powerful. Watch out, Stanley!

While this episode was heavy on the details, there was little action, and the pace felt slower to me than the first two episodes. The character development was significant. Eileen is finally starting to learn how little she knows about Alaska, and how that could hinder her investigation. She needs Roz for this story. Eileen and Roz are beginning to work as a team while Yuna and Austin’s relationship is slowly heating up. The corrupt cops storyline is unfolding quickly, and the Pritchard family subplot is starting to play a larger role. How does everything lead back to Gloria’s murder? We’ll find out more pieces of the puzzle next week – and I’m betting a big lead will come from that new tip line.

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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1 month ago

If I gave 2 shits about this episode I would watch it.

Larry Smith
1 month ago

Program has interesting backstory re Pulitzer, funders, writers and producers. Standing up for victims is always good. Should save some girls! The PFund character disappearance was mentioned was it not? The real Fund is losing market value concealed by using ‘unrealized’ gains to overestimate what to take 5% ‘cap’ from. Inflation proofing kept to 2 1/4% by appropriation. Together this has caused draw to be 20% over cap. Larry Persily recently wrote Fund down $10 billion. Even more it seems to me. Investments have been leaning for quick bucks. Not prudent and careful by chief investment officer at PFund. Look… Read more »