CW Nancy Drew: Supernatural hijinks, puzzles, and a promising third season


One of the early promotional images for Nancy Drew.

When I watched the first trailer for the CW’s Nancy Drew, I was simultaneously worried and unimpressed. As someone who grew up reading the books and watching the 70s TV show (The Hardy Boys/ Nancy Drew Mysteries) starring Pamela Sue Martin, I was convinced the CW would take what I loved and turn it into a melodramatic, paranormal, average teen show with unconvincing characters and a convoluted plot. Sure, I was not totally won over by the first season, and yes, there was room to improve in the second, but I am here for it. I think the show is great, the characters and mysteries are compelling, and I’m looking forward to the third season.

The CW’s Nancy Drew is a nice blend of Easter eggs and divergence from the source material. The pivotal cast include characters from the original novels such as Nancy Drew (Kennedy McMann), George Fan (Leah Lewis), Bess Marvin (Maddison Jaizani) and Ned ‘Nick’ Nickerson (Tunji Kasim), but it also adds original characters like Ace (Alex Saxon) and Ryan Hudson (Riley Smith). Additionally, the second season incorporates the Bobbsey Twins- from the Bobbsey Twins mystery books- Gil (Praneet Akilla) and Amanda (Aadila Dosani). The setting is slightly changed with the town being named Horseshoe Bay instead of River Heights, and the main cast are co-workers at a restaurant, The Claw, as opposed to pre-existing friends. This incarnation of Nancy Drew doesn’t hesitate to subvert expectations. It unabashedly introduces the supernatural in the premiere episode, and leans more heavily into this during the second season, which features a variety of paranormal mysteries. Rather than rely on traditional conventions of the 30s book series, the show goes for a feel that’s tonally darker than its predecessors but retains the core themes of friendship and truth-seeking.

Not only does the show allow for the plot to evolve in a unique way, it utilizes its modern-day-setting when it comes to sleuthing techniques. Rather than try and validate why the town of Horseshoe Bay is behind the times with technology, it sets limitations on it. Their investigations often take them to the abandoned (and disconnected) part of town, either creating a delay between their call and when help can arrive or preventing it entirely. In other situations, their sleuthing violates a law and deters them from seeking legal help. There are instances in which not getting help clearly serves as a plot device, but it generally feels reasonable, or is consistent with their past actions.

CW’s Nancy Drew doesn’t flinch away from flawed characters, nor does it shy-away from their action’s consequences. There are numerous times Nancy gets herself into needlessly unsafe situations out of a desire to be independent, but throughout the episodes, we can see her become more reliant on her friends. The characters make their own mistakes, but they also earn their redemption and character growth. The darker tone of the series allows for a greater exploration of the main players. We get to see them deal with long-term grief, traumatic pasts, and the cost of trying to solve mysteries. However, the show doesn’t let itself become overly gritty and dark; it highlights the character’s strengths and shows a hopeful future without delegitimizing the heavier topics. Second season especially deals with the engrained problems of Horseshoe Bay, and the pasts of those who live there. Racism, financial inequity, and the power of the elite families (Hudson and Marvin) are all topics discussed within the episodes. These topics are given room to breathe, and the show doesn’t try to give answers or make excuses for why it is the way it is. The disparities are real problems, and there are not simple solutions, but there is a way forward.

Going into its third season (which has already begun premiering) I’m hoping to see more full group interactions, and more confrontations between the characters as they deal with what their relationships will look like in the future. I’m hoping the supernatural elements will remain integrated without taking over the non-paranormal aspects of the series, and I’m hoping that the big bad is something the characters can feasibly beat (season two sets up an organized crime ring as a recurring antagonist). Most of all, I’m hoping the Bobbsey twins will become more fleshed out contributors to the story. Despite my expectations, I’m just looking forward to returning to the CW Nancy Drew story world. I’m ready for the world of old spirits, modern-mayhem, and character development. The show has a lot of potential, and I’m ready to see where it decides to go.

9.15/10 would visit the Claw Again

Further breakdown:

Writing Quality: 9/10                   Enjoyability: 9.3/10

Pace: 8/10                                       Visual elements: 9/10

Plot development: 8/10               Insightfulness: 8.5/10 

Characters: 9.25/10