'Home Before Dark' addresses bullying and harassment amidst a whodunnit murder mystery
As the little girl begins reporting on a murder mystery, she and her sister become subjects of bullying - something the town has always been infamous for
Spoilers for 'Home Before Dark'
On the surface, Apple TV+'s 'Home Before Dark' might be a tale of a precocious nine-year-old girl's investigative journalism expertise, but at its core, it's more than just a whodunnit plot as it touches upon the characters' lives and highlights the raging impact of bullying on impressionable minds.
The 10-part-series is based on the real-life journalist prodigy, Hilde Lysiak, who — following her reporter father's footsteps — had reported on a mysterious murder in the town, thus earning some harsh negative criticism from the townspeople.
On the show, we see Brooklyn Prince as Hilde Lisko and Jim Sturgess as her father, Matt Lisko, the jaded New York returned reporter who is haunted by his past. Matt had witnessed the kidnapping of his best friend Richie Fife at just 11. The trauma of his disappearance and an innocent teenager getting locked up for life for the same lingers and is what keeps haunting Matt even now. And with his return to town, the rest of the locals are faced with the harrowing past as well.
Hilde, following her instincts, sparks the town's distaste when she calls a local woman's death a murder in her self-run newspaper. The online news article gets ample negative criticism from the town's people, with most of them calling her out for being so young.
Others ask her to go play with her tea sets and dolls, while some just get downright mean and attack the child where it hurts the most. And these are all local adults trying to shut down a little nine-year-old girl who is basically a less glorified and younger version of Nancy Drew meets Veronica Mars.
Luckily, with precocious instincts also comes wisdom beyond her age and Hilde doesn't let any of these comments dampen her quest for the truth as she digs out what happened to Richie Fife eventually.
Sadly, her elder sister Izzy (Kyle Rogers) isn't all that unfazed by people's criticism. Izzy is a young adult who had to move from New York to a small town and apart from adjusting to the quaintness of her new surroundings, she also has to deal with fitting in school. When she photoshops a photo of her in front of the Eiffel Tower, the snooty girls at school don't hesitate from insulting her about her parents' financial status. That's how deep the spite runs.
The harder they strike her, the more desperate Izzy gets at trying to win them over. Apart from her own personal struggles, she also gets bullying for Hilde's pursuits, and even though Izzy begins to brush it off and publicly take Hilde's side, eventually she crumbles when Hilde barges into a room full of kids smoking pot at the school dance and gets attacked by one of the bullies.
Izzy punches the bully for trying to hurt Hilde and even though that's a proud sister moment right there, she lashes out at Hilde about how the little one makes everything horrible for her. Izzy even tells Hilde how she wishes Hilde would just disappear and while the rampant bullying results in aggression in Izzy, decades ago, the same kind of bullying led to another little boy making some poor choices.
We see that in flashbacks of a local kid called Al Wergeles aka Birdman, who — because of his love for birds — was christened Birdman by none other than Matt himself. Al was a tiny, shy little kid who just liked watching birds. But bullying had made him feel so unsure of himself that when he spotted Richie getting kidnapped on a camera Al had set up to tape birds, he ended up giving the tape to the worst person he could've given it to — a sheriff who just doesn't want the case to reopen.
Maybe Al was too young to take that call, or maybe he just trusted the wrong adult to do the right thing, but years later, as he lives as a social recluse all the way across town in a carnival junkyard, it becomes obvious that his seclusion isn't all that different from Izzy's teen angst.
Luckily for Izzy, she has extremely keen parents who are always there to support her and pick her up when she crumbles under the bullying. And as for Hilde, all the negative criticism buds a constructive conviction in her quest. But Al wasn't as fortunate: the sheriff scared him off with arrests under obstruction of justice as he had had the video for a while, even though he had no clue of it. Just goes on to highlight that the impacts of bullying can manifest in different ways but are always just as effective.
'Home Before Dark' premieres on Friday, April 3, with all 10 episodes only on Apple TV+.