‘Home Before Dark’: A review
I am the kind of kid who is late to the party. In a literal sense because I don’t actually go to parties — my point is when “Hamilton” was all the theater buzz in 2015, I was not listening to it. I was a little middle schooler who wasn’t interested in musicals; yet, when I started high school, I became obsessed with the historical hip-hop piece.
When new shows come out I usually wait for all the buzz to quiet before I finally judge it for myself. My sister actually saw the trailer to “Home Before Dark” on Youtube while trying to find something else and eventually recommended it to me, and I immediately knew I had to watch it.
“Home Before Dark” tells the story of a little girl, Hilde Lisko, who is an extremely talented investigative journalist. She is only nine, people! I was shocked to find out this story is loosely based of a real life little girl, Hilde Lysiak, who at eight started her own newspaper and became famous for covering a murder mystery. She recently wrote her own memoir, “Hilde on the Record: Memoir of a Kid Crime Reporter.” The now 15-year-old is uncertain to claim journalism as her future forever, but she encourages young kids to find their passion but also to know when to move on.
‘Home Before Dark’ begins with our heroine, Hilde, played by Brooklyn Price. She narrates the story throughout the series, starting with her introduction that “ink is probably a part of her DNA” because her dad, Matthew, portrayed by Jim Sturgess, is an investigative reporter for a New York tabloid. The inciting incident is Matthew losing his job in Brooklyn, forcing his family to move back to his hometown Erie Harbor, a fictional city in Washington state. The first few episodes of season one focus on a local mystery of a neighbor, Miss Gillis, who dies in an “alleged accident.” Hilde, through her persistence, uncovers the truth and proves that the neighbor was, in fact, murdered. The death of Miss Gillis is in connection to a thirty-year-old unsolved disappearance of a young boy named Richie Fife, who turns out to be a dear friend of Hilde’s dad. The mystery not only uncovers the truth about what happened to Richie or who is actually responsible. As the story unravels, the process of investigation reveals underlying social issues such as racism, wrongful conviction and corruption. “Home Before Dark” keeps us on edge to discover what truth really means. It also explores Hilde’s family dynamics such as her parents’ relationship and her sisters, Izzy, played by Kylie Rogers, and little sister Ginny, portrayed by Mila Morgan. Izzy is new to high school, mean girls and boyfriends, but she navigates to make the right decisions despite peer pressure. Izzy is also more than embarrassed by her sister Hilde’s obsession with journalism and finding the truth. Little sister Ginny is your average adorable bundle of joy who is often accompanying Mom — also known as Bridget — played by Abby Miller, who is fully supportive of her daughters and balancing a lot. She is a mom and a public defender.
We also see some representation of diversity through the Sheriff’s Department and in Hilde and Izzy’s friend group. Within the small town police department, one woman stands out. Deputy Mackenzie, played by Aziza Scott, is the only black woman on the force and the only one who decides to take Hilde seriously rather than an imaginative kid. Hilde also finds her editorial board and fellow reporters Donny and Spoon through their solidarity after her dramatic reading of hate comments while standing on top of a lunch table. Donny, played by Jibrail Nantambu, is comedic relief, and he is also incredibly knowledgeable in medical information. Spoon, played by Deric McCabe who is known for his role in “A Wrinkle in Time”, is a Filipino kid who is spontaneous and passionate about fashion, despite being criticized frequently for dressing too femininely. Mean girl-turned friend Jessica Fife, portrayed by Whitney Peak, known for her role as Zoya Lott in “Gossip Girl,” is another Black girl on screen, which is so important to see. Seeing yourself represented on screen is a validation of who you are in a way, and I think the series does an amazing job with having accurate representation and not just for the sake of representation.
I think there are not enough shows that focus on a young perspective while at the same time being very nuanced. “Home Before Dark” dives into important issues and it shows the reality of being a kid with big dreams. By focusing on Hilde we see how often adults can underestimate youth, especially surrounding intelligence. The family dynamic is very interesting because even though Hilde is not a normal kid and regularly misses school, her parents are very supportive of her passion and admire how good she is. The blurred lines between journalism and detective work adds a nuanced perspective and treats the show with care and less of a “kiddie perspective” that might be expected with a young protagonist.
The series brilliantly balances mystery and humor in “a Veronica Mars meets Harriet the Spy” kind of way. Hilde’s character cultivates an image of an emotionally mature, intelligent, and true journalist despite facing criticism because of her age and gender. The show is so captivating, funny, mysterious, and extremely interesting. It is great for all ages and proves that no matter your age, you can be extraordinary.