This Nancy Drew review contains spoilers.
Nancy Drew Episode 10
Everyone always says absence makes the heart grow fonder. Nancy Drew returns from its winter hiatus with an episode that’s strong enough on its own merits to be named one of the season’s best installments to date. But it also seems worth mentioning that, wow, I sure did miss this broken heroine and her weirdo murder town over the past few weeks.
“The Mark of the Poisoner’s Pearl” is Nancy Drew at its best—a compelling central mystery that is also emotionally resonant for Nancy herself, plenty of meaningful Drew Crew interaction, the focus on several intriguing new relationships, and a quality scare at the end that ties it all together with what came before. And much as it did in “The Hidden Staircase,” the show continues to thoughtfully build out its universe beyond the dead girls that initially formed the central reason for its existence.
After all, at some point they will have to tell us who killed Tiffany Hudson and Lucy Sable. So it’s nice to know they’re planning ahead for that inevitability and thinking about what sort of show this is, and will be, without those narrative crutches.
The only real negative here is that Scott Wolf was nowhere to be found this week, as Carson Drew is in prison and Nancy hasn’t been taking his calls.
But the absence of her father allows the show to really focus on Nancy’s reaction to his arrest, and her growing conviction that she’s the common denominator in all these events that have hurt people she loves. Its an unexpected twist, given that most of us probably assumed that our girl detective would immediately throw herself into proving her dad’s innocence, not moping at home alone.
Nancy generally carries herself with such conviction—and Kennedy McMann portrays her with such confidence—that it’s easy to forget that she’s still a twentysomething girl, and not a hardened investigator or crime solving superhero. She’s not perfect, and doesn’t know all the answers. And that’s okay—that’s how it should be, even.
Nevertheless, it’s uncomfortable for us, as viewers, to see Nancy so rattled, to see her actively pushing away her friends and putting herself in danger in the name of protecting others from the things she sees as her mistakes. (Other things that are creepy? That news of her dad’s arrest has not only spawned a fansite entitled “Nancy Drew News” to cover Nancy’s life, but regularly brings crowds of people to The Claw to gawk at her and take Instagram photos.)
Happily, her friends are there to help. It’s taken some time for this group to really gel, but “The Mark of the Poisoner’s Pearl” feels like the most cohesive episode for the Drew Crew yet. Pretty much everyone has something significant to do, and gets the chance to voice their support for Nancy, help solve the poisoning case and even save her life at one point. This little group of misfits truly feel as though they’re friends beyond their various connections to Nancy, and as the series’ goes on their individual relationships are all shifting in intriguing ways.
Nick and George’s new sort-of-flirtatious, sort-of-not thing is messy and interesting, as is Nick’s sudden decision to team with Bess to take down the Hudson family. Bess, giddy over the news that she and Owen are first cousins, is desperate to prove herself to her new relation, and the result is a bizarre trio with a lot of potential for story that has nothing to do with Nancy. (Though, really, would any of us be that shocked if we found out that Owen fudged the DNA test results he and Bess took?)
And Ace is officially back this week, having survived the car accident that was really an attempt to murder his girlfriend. Apparently, being in a coma has been great for him, as he’s somehow morphed into an amazing and downright intriguing character now that we’re all not pretending to be interested in the fact that he was an informant for the police. (Remember when we all thought Ace was just a worthless slacker? How happy I am to have been wrong.) This week we meet his father, a complicated ex-cop himself who went deaf in the line of duty. And along the way, we learn about a case that “The Captain”—yes that’s what Ace calls him, and it’s perfect—never cracked: A supposed suicide that was probably really a murder, done by the same rare poison that Nancy’s toxicologist friend found in Tiffany Hudson’s blood.
Are they all connected? Surprisingly, not really, though I guess none of us should be shocked anymore that people have apparently just been getting brutally murdered all over Horseshoe Bay for decades at this point, whether by ghosts, child kidnappers, serial poisoners or just one of the megarich families that lives up the hill. Anyway, after Nancy solves a photo cipher with Ace’s dad, the gang realizes that the victims in this decade-old case all have something in common: The rural Hawthorne High.
Nancy’s newfound local fame comes in handy after she films herself leaving a challenge for the killer to come find her, and thanks to Nancy Drew News, our heroine is soon a recipient of a cipher of her own and three hours to save a random woman she’s never met before. Oh, Nancy.
The hunt for this particular bad guy is actually surprisingly tense and twisty, though the identity of the poisoner is relatively easy to guess if you’ve watched any sort of mystery show in the past. That said, it’s still an exciting final sequence of events as Nancy begs her friends to leave her to die in a roomful of poison gas, they all work feverishly to save her, and she uses the haze of impending death to realize she’s been pushing the people that love her away for what are, essentially, selfish reasons.
And, of course, Nancy also runs into Dead Lucy in the spirit realm while she’s hovering on the edge of death, because of course she does. This is Nancy Drew after all.
The series was renewed for a second season while the show was off on its winter break, which is exciting news in and of itself, of course. But when that announcement is followed up by such a strong return, and an episode that so clearly shows a growing understanding of what the show can be and do, well. It’s an exciting time in Horseshoe Bay, indeed.