Nancy Drew returns for a second season…sort of
When Nancy Drew premiered way back in October of 2019, it seemed to be yet another example of a CW angst filled revision of a once cheerful children’s series. I really railed against mainly because I thought it seemed to be another point as to the direction this once promising network seemed to be going. Nancy Drew, the once cheerful teen detective, had become a bleached out, angry teenager who didn’t so much solve mystery as have them collide with her, whose friends seemed drawn to her more because of their flaws then due to any real friendship. When the series prematurely ended its first season because of the pandemic, I wasn’t exactly upset.
I’ve had some time to reassess my feeling over the series over the past several months and the last few episodes I’ve seen (because of the end, the series is wrapping up the mystery that was the foundation of Season 1 in the early part of this season) it has seemed notably better than I remember it being. The problems with the show are still there, but it may be my own reaction.
The series has been leaning more in the supernatural during the second half of the first season, which in my opinion is actually an improvement. It may seem petty, but by giving these characters the threat of potentially horrifying death has actually given them a bit more life. The fear now actually seems to give them more motivation than trying to solve the murder that took up most of the first season and it’s given them a lot of room to grow. George has gotten over such of her poison by being helped by a backstory that actually explains so much of her harshness — she had an alcoholic mother and had to raise her siblings by herself, and her relationship with an adult has damaged how she views people. She’s actually moved into seeing Ned and this actually seems to have helped both of them move forward. Bess, who was proven to be an illegitimate child of the Marvin clan (the people who run Horseshoe Bay), has been given more of a personality as she fights between the loyalty to her friends, her family, and her police lover. Even Ace, who was the forensic techie, now seems to be really alive as he faces what may be his death.
Sadly, I still think the biggest problem with the show is Kennedy McCann’s work as Nancy Drew. Already weighed down by so much in the early episodes and now dealing with the curse of a sea spirit, she has to deal with the death of a boyfriend and the fact that Carson (Scott Wolf is still struggling for something to do) is not her real father and that she is also a bastard child. There actually seemed to be some forward motion in the first episodes of the season, when she finally realized how her fear and anger were destroying everybody, and maybe it’ll be a motion forward.
Honestly, my major problem with the series that it still plays like a cross between True Detective and Supernatural. Just once, I wish there could be a little light in this series. I know the CW is capable of doing things like with a slight shade of humor — iZombie was a delightful little charmer and Katy Keene proved that being a Riverdale spinoff didn’t mean you couldn’t have fun. And given that the CW has produced some franchises recently that were actually enjoyable — Stargirl was a revelation among the darkness of the Berlanti-verse — it’s not like there aren’t some better examples of it out here. There are good things to be found in Nancy Drew, but half the time it still plays more like a slog that entertainment.
The sea spirit curse that has made up the bulk of the first season will probably reach a climax in the next couple of episode. I really hope that Nancy Drew then tries to do something that’s a little more fun. Part of me thinks they will because once you’ve been faced with a supernatural curse, things can only go up. But then I see what Riverdale has become and I hope that serves as an abject lesson.
My score: 2.75 stars.