Home Before Dark

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Home Before Dark TV Poster Image
 Parents recommend
Kid lead is fabulous in intense mystery for tweens and up.

Parents say

age 9+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 6 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Themes of communication, curiosity, perseverance stand out, as journalist Lysick spots a story, runs it down, and then fearlessly writes about it, publishing her stories online and sending them to her entire school. This echoes real-life Hilde Lysiak, who has won many awards for her intrepid reporting.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tough, determined, smart, fearless, Hilde is a terrific role model for young people, especially those who have aspirations in news gathering. She stands up against criticism from adults, classmates, even her older sister, who asks her why she's not "normal" but also stands up for her at school. Hilde's dad, Matt, is also a reporter; father and daughter share a strong bond -- Hilde's mom calls them "Watson and Holmes." The Lysik family is a loving one, and Hilde receives a lot of support from adult women who understand what it's like to be discounted due to sexism. 


A pair of murders (or are they?) form the centerpiece of this show; we don't see any bodies, violence, or blood, but we do hear about violent acts. Lots of scary music, police cars, distorted images, scenes with young kids sneaking around in the dark. 


Language is infrequent but expect to hear "s--t," "damn," and "ass." Characters occasionally use variations of the "F" word (e.g., "effing"). Hilde is called a "freak," "weirdo," "lame," "loser," "ugly," and more by those critical of her reporting. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Home Before Dark is a drama about a 9-year-old reporter who uncovers a mystery when her family returns to the small coastal town where her dad grew up. Based on the real-life reportage of Hilde Lysiak, Home Before Dark uses Lysiak's life story as a jumping-off point to tell a fictional story. The show's Hilde Lysiak (Brooklynn Prince) is a fantastic role model for young people, following her passion fearlessly, searching tirelessly for the truth, and demonstrating impressive curiosity, perseverance, and communication. The Lysiak family is a tight and supportive one, with Hilde's parents frequently encouraging and going to bat for her, and even Hilde's older sister rallying behind her in moments of crisis. Though a pair of deaths form the show's storyline, we don't see any bodies or blood, but we do see police cars, hear about crimes, and watch as grade schoolers sneak around in the dark sleuthing, presumably in peril. Spooky noises and music accompany these scenes, and may scare younger or sensitive viewers. Language is infrequent but "s--t," "damn," and "ass" make an appearance, and Hilde is roundly insulted by readers offended by her reportage, who comment to call her things like "freak," weirdo," "loser," and "ugly." Though this show's protagonist is a fourth grader, this show may be too scary and slow-moving for viewers of a similar age; tweens and up may be more appreciative. It's a solid choice for whole-family viewing for families with older kids. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMonish Chandran June 2, 2020

Must for kids

This Web series is the only series where I see some positive energy that kids can gain from the series. Here the kid in the series can be a role model to other... Continue reading
Parent of a 10 and 12-year-old Written byfdurocher May 19, 2020

Excellent show, content gets more mature as season progresses

I agree with all of the other reviews of this show, that it's a fantastic whole-family watch for families with kids 10+. The characters are fantastic, the... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written by_IAmMrMuffinMan_ April 12, 2020

Binge-worthy show is inspiring, suspenseful, but surprisingly kid friendly.

The fact that the producers and writers could achieve such suspense, bordering on scariness and still make the show kid-friendly. I hate supernatural and spirit... Continue reading
Kid, 8 years old May 17, 2020


I finished the series like... a month ago but didn’t have the courage to write a review. Now I’m here and here we go! Violence:6/10
Definitely not very violent... Continue reading

What's the story?

Based on real-life young journalist Hilde Lysiak, HOME BEFORE DARK catches up with 9-year-old Hilde Lysiak (Brooklynn Prince) after her reporter dad (Jim Sturgess) has lost his newspaper job and moved the family back to his tiny coastal hometown. Despite her parents' advice to take life a little less seriously -- and criticism from her older sister, Izzy (Kylie Rogers) -- Hilde immediately becomes embroiled in a local mystery when a neighbor dies in a shady incident. Hilde's sleuthing also turns up something her father would prefer stayed in the past: another suspicious death long ago. 

Is it any good?

Brooklynn Prince is sensational as a budding young reporter who boasts a vibe somewhere between Veronica Mars and Nancy Drew, except much littler. In an era when the reputation of the press has fallen precipitously -- a shift obliquely and neatly summarized with a clip from All the President's Men that Hilde recites from memory -- Hilde is a proud crusading journalist, advised by her reporter father to seek out and tell the truth. And there's real magic in the scenes in which Hilde sneaks determinedly around gathering facts before retreating to her computer in her living room, typing out copy while the camera pans down to show us that this tough, implacable reporter has legs so short her feet dangle when she sits at an office chair. Surely with such a girl on the job, citizens could rest a little easier knowing she's rooting out trouble. 

Not everything about this drama is as good as Prince. The show's central mystery is a little undercooked; there's some wheel spinning, often in the form of flashbacks that inform us, over and over again, that Something Bad drove Hilde's dad from his picturesque hometown. And many viewers may wonder why Home Before Dark's parents seem unconcerned that their grade-school kids are out investigating crimes after bedtime on a school night (though if these kids were locked up like actual ones, they'd probably never get anywhere with their sleuthing). Finally, for a show with a 9-year-old protagonist, storylines about murder, complete with spooky music and dark visuals, may be a little too creepy for viewers the same age as Hilde. But with her furrowed brow and intense gaze, Prince is so very, very good in the central role that many will be tempted to come along for the ride anyway. "I'm a reporter!" she tells her dad during an argument. "You're a fourth grader!" he says back. Both are true, and the trick of this neat show is that it makes you believe it. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about movies and TV shows that are based on real people. Does Home Before Dark present Hilde Lysiak's real life factually? Or does it use her story as a jumping-off point to tell a mystery story? Which approach would you prefer? Are the lives of real people ever interesting or dramatic enough that their stories are told truthfully? 

  • Families can also talk about whether Hilde is a role model. Do you think her ability to stand up against adults and her classmates is realistic?

  • How does Hilde demonstrate curiosity, communication, and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mysteries

Character Strengths

Find more TV shows that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate