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  • Writer's pictureHannah Zunic

I Watched The CW's Nancy Drew So You Don't Have To

Updated: Jul 25, 2021

There are a few things you should know about me. One: I love the paranormal. Two: I am a true crime junkie; the ID channel can be found on my TV during any time of the week. Three: if you combine these two things into one show, I will be immensely happy. Never did I think that the CW’s adaptation of Nancy Drew would make me happy.

Nancy Drew (2019) Logo

I’d be lying if I said I was excited about the CW adapting one of my favorite book series. In college a group of my friends and I would get together to hate watch Riverdale and make fun of it. To this day I still have no idea what exactly was occurring on that show, and I’m too scared to return to it to see what insanity is happening. So let’s just say my expectations were low when I decided to binge watch Nancy Drew.

"Not Sorry"

Thankfully for me, the CW has the full season of Nancy Drew on their website for free. Bless the CW for this and this alone.

The amount of ads they included almost didn’t make this worth it though. Each episode ran for the standard 45-ish minutes, but I’m pretty sure the CW included an hour worth of ads into each episode. I know this is how they managed to have the full series online for free, but it was the most irritating thing in the world. Plus, their media player really hated my computer and would randomly stop halfway through the show nearly every episode. The amount of times I wanted to toss my computer out the window was unparalleled this week.

Miss Piggy banging head on table.
Same, Miss Piggy, same.

Aside from my issues with the CW’s site, my issues with the actual show are few and far between. A spoiler warning for the entire first season is in order.

But firstly, some background on Nancy Drew. Development began all the way back in 2015, and the show bounced around from network to network in both CBS and NBC companies before finally premiering on the CW in late 2019. The show stars Kennedy McMann as the moody titular character, Tunji Kasim as Ned “Nick” Nickerson, Scott Wolf as Carson Drew, Maddison Jaizani as our kleptomaniac Bess Marvin, and Leah Lewis as George Fan; this series re-imagined George Fayne. The show also stars Alex Saxon as Ace and Riley Smith as Ryan Hudson; two new characters to the Nancy Drew universe.

From left to right: Alex Saxon, Leah Lewis, Kennedy McMann. Maddison Jaizani, and Tunji Kasim; the lead cast of Nancy Drew.
From left to right: Alex Saxon, Leah Lewis, Kennedy McMann. Maddison Jaizani, and Tunji Kasim; the lead cast of Nancy Drew.

As you may have guessed, many of these characters have been reimagined in order to modernize the show; along with some changes made for plot convenience. Bess and George aren’t cousins in this version, George’s family descends from Chinese Spiritualists and her mother becomes the expert in all things spiritual rituals, and like I said before, Bess is klepto. Bess being a kleptomaniac is probably my favorite change made to any of the characters because while it feels like it come out of left field, it fits the character so well. Just think back to the original Nancy Drew series and think how well Bess’ stealing could have worked in Nancy’s favor.

The one change I hated was made to Ned. In the pilot episode, it is revealed that he not only goes by Nick, but he has a criminal record. Having him go by Nick doesn’t bother me, but the jail bit does. It isn’t revealed what he did to be sent to jail until a few episodes later, but he was convicted of manslaughter. Yeah, just let that sink in. Our leading male love interest was convicted of manslaughter. It was truly an accident caused in self-defense, but still, Ned played a part in a man’s death. Once his story is known by the main characters, no one cares.

Gif from The Office.
I am uncomfortable with this fact.

I’m sorry. What!? Your friend just said he was convicted of manslaughter not too long ago, and everything is fine. This plot point serves no point other than to give Ned reason to be a suspect in the mystery at hand, and all it does is cause me discomfort because it’s never brought up again past episode five. That is a big secret to have. And it’s a big thing to bring up. Yet everyone is fine with it when Ned tells his friends. Realistically, these characters should make a bigger deal about Ned’s past than they do. I just feel that this plot point could have been handled much, much better.

Another change I hated to the Nancy Drew series was that the setting was changed from the iconic River Heights to a random Maine town of the name Horseshoe Bay. As a Nancy Drew fan, I am very unpleased. I understand modernizing the characters, and I’m not mad at those changes, but the setting didn’t need to be changed. I don’t know why it was done, but it didn’t need to be done. What’s wrong with River Heights, CW? Huh? Tell me, why did you have to change the setting? It serves no purpose, and these supernatural and murder mysteries can easily have taken place in River Heights. Don’t fix what ain’t broke.

Kevin Hart looking like he's about to fight someone.
I am not pleased, CW, not pleased at all.

Speaking of broke though, Nancy Drew is a very broken character emotionally in this adaption. Nancy’s mom has been deceased in every adaptation and book taking place in the Nancy Drew universe; the 2019 series is no different. A year before the events of the first season, Nancy’s mom passes away after a strenuous battle with cancer thus leaving Nancy depressed and at a low emotional point. The actress portraying Nancy does an amazing job at portraying these emotions.

One can say that in the original Nancy Drew books, Nancy doesn’t suffer much or face many harrowing obstacles. She’s pretty much able to get out of any situation with whatever it is she has in the trunk of her car. And let’s be honest, emotions aren’t a thing in the book series.

90's heartthrob shrugging.
I'm not wrong.

In this adaptation, she is grieving, she needs the help of her friends, and the situations she finds herself in do tend to be dangerous. And unlike the book series, Nancy doesn’t want help. In this adaptation she is very distant. She doesn’t want to let anyone into her life for fear of hurting them or being hurt. It adds a level of depth and realism to the character that was desperately needed, and it helps the show as a whole.

Many adaptations of Nancy Drew tend to fail at modernizing the characters and setting, but the above truly helps. The strong headed heroine isn’t capable of doing everything. She isn’t the perfect girl fans have seen before. Her failures ground her and make her more relatable. She needs help from her friends, even though she may not want to admit it.

Surprisingly though, these changes, while fairly necessary, don’t make her my favorite character.

Reese Witherspoon gasping.
Shocking, I know.

None of the main characters I already knew from the book series where my favorite. I absolutely love George’s bad-ass personality, Nancy’s tenacity, Bess’ high maintenance persona, and Ned’s charm, but my favorite character is actually one of the new characters created for the show. I absolutely adore Ace; he quickly became my favorite in the first episode.

I think part of the reason was because I had no expectations of the character going in. While I love the changes made to Nancy, in my mind she is still a young woman from the 1950’s who can do it all. Ace on the other hand had no expectations to meet; I didn’t have to compare and contrast him to his book counter part because he doesn’t have one.

The writers gave him a lot to do, they made him a hacker, so Nancy had to come to him for help quite a bit. The writers also gave him a goofy, fake stoner persona for the start of the season; this was just to hide how intelligent he was along with the secrets he couldn’t reveal for awhile. He isn’t a character who is scared to make a fool of himself or fight for his friends.

Woman clapping.
A 10 out of 10 character.

Now that I’ve spent a thousand words on the characters alone, let’s talk about the plot.

Our story opens with Nancy working at a local diner with Bess, George, and Ace; Nick works nearby as a mechanic. It’s the end of summer with the town celebrating its form of a homecoming festival. Ryan Hudson, the other new character who I haven’t mentioned in awhile because I don’t care about his character all that much, comes to the aforementioned diner for a business meeting after closing. During said meeting, his wife Tiffany, who chooses to eat outside instead of be stuck inside at said meeting, mysteriously dies. Nancy, Bess, George, and Nick-who just randomly showed up after Tiffany is discovered dead-are taken to Chief McGinnis’ office to be interrogated because they are obviously the prime suspects. Having filmed the fireworks that went off at the time of Tiffany’s death, Nancy realizes that she has video evidence to prove she and the others weren’t responsible for Tiffany’s death. She didn’t manage to see who killed Tiffany though as there was nothing much to see other than what the group must assume is local ghost legend Dead Lucy.

Lucy Sable was an 18-year-old girl back in 2000. Upon winning the title of Sea Queen, the equivalent to Homecoming Queen in this fictional universe, she mysteriously perished. It is unknown if she committed suicide or was murdered, but now Nancy Drew has not one but two mysteries to solve as she believes Tiffany’s death must be connected to Lucy's in some way; hence why the latter showed up on the video.

I love the premise. Like I said, I love combining true crime with the paranormal so the plot is right up my alley. This overarching plot is done very well, it’s the minor plots that fall flat.

1920's disappointment
Whomp, whomp

Every few episodes it feels like the writers had to create some filler to pad the season. Random mysteries that had nothing to do with the main plot would present themselves and then I would have to spend 40-minutes watching irrelevant plot for five minutes of relevant information. I know this happens with pretty much every TV show, but I would appreciate the show to streamline a little bit more.

This happens a lot towards the end of the season. Both Tiffany and Lucy have their deaths solved, but Nancy and friends have angered another evil spirit for “not paying the toll.” You see, the crew called upon a spirit called the Aglaeca for the bones of Lucy Sable in order to prove Carson’s innocence after he was charged with her murder. I know there’s a lot going on in that sentence, but stay with me.

Anyway, the squad was supposed to pay a blood toll for calling upon the Aglaeca, but they didn’t and are now marked for death. The season ends with the main characters seeing visions of their deaths from the hands of a killer mermaid. Yes, the one time viewers see the Aglaeca she is presented as a decrepit mermaid, again stay with me here.

Illustration of the Aglaeca.
This creature is even creepier when the characters actually see it.

By this point, both murders are solved, but everything seems too wrapped up by the end of the season. Yes, the characters are marked for death, but this is Nancy Drew and the characters don’t have a mystery to solve. This is likely because there were supposed to be like three or four more episode in season one, but it had to be wrapped early due to the COVID pandemic. Viewers know where the next season is going, but I don’t know exactly how the death curse can be dragged out.

The murder investigations that season one focused on spanned over the course of months. You could see the seasons change in season one, but I can’t imagine the death curse plot line being dragged out for months, and I don’t want to spend 18 plus episodes that only span a week or two in the show’s reality. Outside of the whole marked for death plot line, it seems Nancy is going to solve who the mystery of who the Aglaeca was in life and why he or she is terrorizing Horseshoe Bay. That being said, I don’t want to see the main characters deal with this curse all season. There needs to be some other mystery to investigate and not just the Aglaeca story line.

The Lucy and Tiffany murder investigations kept my attention throughout the season; primarily because they were two separate stories even though they were connected. I think the writers did a good job at planning out these mysteries. Each episode, even the irrelevant ones, contained information that was necessary to plot progression. There were so many twists and turns that even when I did guess some plot points correctly, I was still surprised by other clues and events that happened.

I wasn’t expecting to like this show as much as I did, but I’m actually a fan. The show has its merits, and I think that if you like the Nancy Drew book series, you’ll like this new take on the characters and universe. I make fun of the shows on the CW a lot, but they do make some entertaining content. I am looking forward to season two, and anxiously hoping that the season is going to be more than just a death curse.

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