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TV SERIES Online Watch: Home Before Dark

Home Before Dark is the first must-see series from Apple TV+ after the stumble out of the starting gate that was The Morning Show

HOME BEFORE DARK details the efforts of a nine-year-old reporter to get to the bottom of a disappearance and supposed murder that has racked a small town in the state of Washington.

While The Morning Show glamorises mainstream media by supposedly revelling in its foibles, Home Before Dark is a critical series that exposes, though its youthful truth-seeker, the inner workings of a small town ruled by ageing male public officials who conceal and bury the truth.

The intrepid reporter Hilde Lisko, based on an actual pre-teen journalist, is the protagonist. Her  passion is investigative journalism and her heroes come from All the President’s Men.

Her single-minded pursuit of the truth gets her to the bottom of a long-buried crime which had resulted in the ostracising of a Native American brother and sister. The former had been falsely convicted of the disappearance of a young boy. The sheriff, the mayor and the sheriff’s son all have secrets around the disappearance which they guard jealously.

On Hilde's investigative team team are two classmates, Asian girl Spoon and African-American boy Donny, with the latter particularly well fleshed out as a world-wise nine-year-old investigative entrepreneur.

Among her other allies are the independent African-American female deputy Trip, the lone truth-seeker in the sheriff’s office, and Hilde’s lawyer mother, who comes to the aid of the jailed Native American Sam.

The villains are equally well drawn — the smug sheriff who constantly covers up his initial rush to judgement, the alcoholic mayor who may have beaten his son, the missing boy Richie and the sheriff’s son, Frank, caught up in the lies of his father which have imprisoned him as well.

What the series does is assemble a group of outsiders who challenge the white patriarchal power structure in the town and succeed. Diversity triumphs, and the  enterprise is led by the stunning performance of Brooklyn Prince as the stalwart heroine.

The series tells some truths about what this new generation is facing. It has the structure of the John Hughes teen films of the 1980s, but this is a darker time than back then and the “teens” are nine-year-olds.

They’re exposed to murder, corruption and cover-ups much earlier than in the 1980s, when neoliberalism was just starting to take hold. In these more perilous times, the confluence of greed and corruption is an essential part of what kids must confront in growing up.

Home Before Dark also zooms in on the generational differences when it comes to technology —  its focus is on the social media expertise of its pre-teen characters. Hilde’s publication is online while her father’s was printed, and young entrepreneur Donny notes about their foes: “My intel tells me they are smart and savvy,” and Hilde must explain to her peers what in the world microfiche is.

Unlike Netflix’s Stranger Things, the technology gap is seen as something to be overcome in their exposure of the truth, not as mere nostalgia.

The only false note in the series come from Hilde’s father. Jim Sturgess’s constant mumblecore Marlon Brando as Matt Lisko, a relocated Brooklyn slacker, is a solitary piece of ham acting that attempts to suck the wind out of what is an otherwise stunning ensemble cast. His digressions and constant illogical reversals often bring proceedings to a halt.

But this drawback does not succeed in sinking or even deterring the forward motion of the series. Hilde and her expert crew of diverse truth-seekers expose and triumph over the decaying debris of a white male power structure which attempts to hang on at all costs and stands in the way of progressive change.

 

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