Nancy Drew Season 1 Episode 1 – TV Review
Firstly: Maggie Lawson in all her TV movie glory will always be my favourite Nancy Drew, so let’s just make that perfectly clear.
Or Veronica Mars, if we’re not going literal.
But this Nancy Drew? Ya bland, baby.
TL;DR It’s pilot jitters to the extreme (I hope), as Nancy Drew is an alienating mess; despite the best efforts of its lead actress, who at least appears to be giving a shit; things seems to be heading down a supernatural route, which is not promising; I expected more from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage.
We thought that 2019 couldn’t get any worse, but I swear if Dynasty also falls off a cliff, I’ll be inconsolable. Please, Josh and Stephanie. Please.
Speaking of falling off a cliff, that’s how our episode begins, as some pageant queen takes the leap. This begins the incessant narration from Nancy about mostly everything, a clear crutch that I hope the show is able to overcome (narration isn’t always death, as exemplified by Veronica Mars herself. But here? I’m not convinced). We go about meeting Nancy Drew and learning that her child/teen crime solving career ended up getting her in hot water, and with the recent death of her mother (Jenna from TVD), she’s decided to just be an unambitious waitress while she seethes at her dad, and saves up to leave for college. Working alongside her at the diner are an ex-friend-now-enemy woman named George; a spoiled city girl out here for some reason; a stoner dishpig; and a bland boyfriend character who works at a nearby garage. These five all happen to be unlucky enough to be present when a local rich girl gets murdered one night at the diner, and Nancy must fight her safer instincts to instead go out and get back on the detective horse. Some minor drama ends up ensuing (George is having an affair with the dead woman’s husband; City Girl actually is poor, and she stole the woman’s ring; Stoner Guy is secretly working for the police; Bland Boyfriend is shadier than he appears), but the outlook seems to indicate that the pageant queen from the opener, who in the intervening years has become a local ghost story called Dead Lucy, is the culprit. Oh, and Nancy’s parents might have something to do with Dead Lucy, as Nancy finds an ominous chest in her attic with a bloodied pageant dress. And then a ghost shows up – cut to black.
So you see now why I made the Scooby Doo comparison.
And, like, wouldn’t you totally be here for a sexy teen Scooby Doo show? Get on that, CW.
Because Nancy Drew does not seem to be that. Like I also said up top, I’m hoping the blah-ness of this episode is pilot jitters, and things settle in over the next few weeks. The cast they’ve assembled is actually pretty good (a couple of CW C-Listers in there, which is always nice to see. But where’s Tori Anderson, hmm? God, I miss No Tomorrow), and I am always here for a mysterious town by the bay setting. It was one of the better features of The Secret Circle.
But the cynical cunt in me is worried that this could be a sign of the Schwartz/Savage empire cracking from being spread too thin. God, I hope not.
Why I hate this episode:
A lot of the pre-air commentary was around how similar to Riverdale the marketing made this out to be. And given the content of those trailers, I think that was fair. But then the actual episode hits, and apart from the Dead Lucy stuff, this is not Riverdale at all. Nancy Drew wants to exist in something close to the real world, it seems, whereas Riverdale is much more at home when it’s a candy-coloured fairytale. I’m not saying I want Nancy Drew to become as detached from reality as Riverdale, but when you’ve got ghost princesses rolling around and all your characters in colour coded waitress outfits, I feel like that’s what Nancy Drew wants to be. And if it wants to be that, then bloody be that. Don’t half-arse it.
For my vote, I would prefer Nancy Drew to instead lean into the obvious I Know What You Did Last Summer of it all, which this location is just begging for. But again, given you’ve got Dead Lucy on the loose, I don’t have faith that would be possible. This show needs an identity.
Is the murder mystery from this episode going to be a season-long arc, or will we be getting cases of the week? Because this episode largely plays the whole thing out.
Nancy’s detective past is kind of hand-waved away, I think assuming that the viewer knows the general premise of Nancy Drew being a child detective. Which is fine, but also lazy. Maybe they’ll actually shows us some more of that over the season?
The show in general feels like a muddy mid-season replacement show that’s been mistakenly aired now.
Oh, and this is more of a personal thing, but I assumed from the marketing (and Riverdale comparisons) that this would be a high school show. Making the characters college-aged is a little more daring, I suppose, but I find ridiculous premises are easier to swallow when your characters are stupid high school kids. Remember how much less plausible Gossip Girl became when they graduated? And can you imagine what’s going to happen to Riverdale in a couple of years? Maybe we shouldn’t have skipped those teen years of crime solving, and set it there, huh?
But it’s not all bad:
Dare to defy, Nancy Drew. Let’s see if you can pull it off.
I think what is most promising so far about this show is its setting. Seaside mysteries are a blast, and I have to assume the allusions to I Know What You Did Last Summer are deliberate. In addition to being near the sea, the episode starts out with a view of the cliffs as someone contemplates suicide; there’s a local pageant that is key to the events; we have characters who are college aged sulking around their hometown with dark pasts; hell, they even find a little charm/pendant thing that becomes important to the mystery, just like in IKWYDLS. Lean into it, Nancy Drew. This could be great!
The cast is also better than I think this kind of mid-season-esque show deserves. Nancy herself isn’t blowing me away yet, but she seems competent enough. It’s the supporting cast that caught my attention, though. George is spicy and demanding, but I like the camaraderie between her and Nancy over their shared disdain for the local sheriff; I wrote off Stoner Boy as just that, but lookie here, he’s a police mole; City Girl being poor is the oldest twist in the book, but her apparent lack of shame for looting that dead woman’s ring seems intriguing; and the husband (a recent mid-season CW staple from Frequency and Life Sentence. Bless), despite having an affair, doesn’t appear to be a cardboard cut-out cheating bastard.
Nancy’s bland boyfriend gets a little more meaty when we find out he has a manslaughter trial in his past, and Nancy’s dad was his lawyer, and the dead woman was a witness or something. I could have done without the apparent drug running thing he’s also wrapped up in (that’s what I assume that package he’s seen with later in the episode is), as drugs didn’t do Riverdale any favours. But props to Nancy Drew for giving the stock boyfriend character something more to do this early on.
The biggest wtf moment comes near the start of the episode when Nancy has a memory of her parents digging up a big, ominous chest when she was little. Which is where she finds the bloodied pageant dress to close out the episode. I’m interested.
Oh, and how can I stay mad at a show that cracks out the goon in the very first episode?