Nancy Drew Episode 13 Review: The Whisper Box

Nancy Drew uses an old trope to poke at some deep issues in an installment that sees Nancy tackle the world’s most evil Escape Room.

Kennedy McMann as Nancy Drew in Episode 13 The Whisper Box

This Nancy Drew review contains spoilers.

Nancy Drew Episode 13

Perhaps we should have known from the start that a Nancy Drew episode in which the Drew Crew teams up with an insane asylum patient to rescue a Nancy trapped in an alternate reality is, by its very nature, going to be a weird one.

Weird, as it turns out, is something of an understatement.

“The Whisper Box” picks up where last week’s “The Lady of Larkspur Lane” left off, with Nancy unconscious, trapped in a creepy room in the haunted wing of Horseshoe Bay’s lone mental institution. We’re not clear on what, exactly, has Nancy in its clutches, how it’s keeping her in a dream world of her own making or what drove it to kill an entire family several decades prior, before the “whisper box” room was sealed off. We just know it doesn’t like holy water very much.

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I mean, we can guess what it is. Probably. Particularly since this feels like a slightly more young adult version of CBS’s Evil, complete with a low grade possession, a dark, imposing and ultimately nameless threat, and a moral quandary that offers Nancy everything she ever wanted, even as it forces her to say no to all of it at once.

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“The Whisper Box” isn’t precisely the story I’d have picked for Nancy Drew’s first two-part story, but it gives star Kennedy McMann some really interesting emotional beats to play, even as it treats viewers to entertaining oddities like a smiling, hug-loving George and a Bess who sports fringe and beatnik clothes.

Nancy’s dream reality is intriguing on many levels, though it’s likely the story might have benefited from allowing her to believe in its truth for a bit longer than the episode’s pre-credits opening scene. There’s something to be said for allowing us to really see a Nancy unencumbered by the weight she constantly carries in our reality. The false version of her – the one who went to Columbia, who’s home on a break, whose parents are alive, and who appears to live in a largely ghost and murder-free version of Horseshoe Bay – is a girl I wouldn’t mind getting to know.

Our Nancy carries so much with her, all the time.

But, on the other hand, it’s also nice to see our Nancy get the chance to experience a version of her life where her mother’s test results came back negative and she never got sick, where she opened herself up to the people around her. It’s a world so unlike the one we know her in now that it feels alien and wrong, but if we’re honest, as Nancy tries to be at one point, this would have been a great life for her.Watching Nancy decide that she has to go back to her real world, with all its flaws and problems and mistakes, is cathartic, in a way, and a great moment for both her character and the actress who plays her. The mini-mystery that Nancy and the Drew Crew 2.0 solve is simple enough, but still serves a great reminder of how these friends are drawn to one another in any reality.

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It does feel a bit strange, however, that Nancy’s now so openly mooning over Nick, when just last week she was kissing Owen Marven. At the end of the day, Nick is probably better boyfriend material, and it’ a good thing that Nancy Drew appears to be letting its heroine grapple with her need to push everyone away, even when she loves them. Her reconnection with Nick in the alternate reality was sweet and romantic, and a nice reminder of how good the pair of them can be together, both in a romantic and a crimesolving sense.

Sidebar: I root, always, for Nancy’s wellbeing and happiness, and I like the idea of her finally realizing not just that she has to let people in again in the wake of her mother’s death, but that she actually wants to. But I object to the idea that she was the sole reason behind her breakup with Nick, and fully believe that if they’re going to find their way back together, it has to be a two-way street. (Which, well, we’ve all seen how Nick’s been handling Nancy in mortal danger, yeah?)

The ultimate explanation of the strange symbol that appears all over Nancy’s dream world – a key card with elements of the logo banner from the Horseshoe Bay historical society is ultimately a kind of weird let down. (What kind of historical society keeps secret lock boxes for town residents?) As an attempt to fit Nancy’s AU journey back into the main narrative, it falls pretty flat. And, as a piece of the Tiffany Hudson murder investigation, a flash drive featuring a video image of the dead heiress and the on-camera debut of Dead Lucy, The Ring-style, it hardly feels as though it was information that was worth risking Nancy’s life.

But there are plenty of moments to love about Nancy’s trip to dreamland. Her relationship with her parents seems open and warm. Katherine Drew seems like a nice, kindhearted woman, and it’s clear why her death devastated her daughter. The fact that Nancy’s roadmap home turned out to be a call back to the directions her mom left her on how to find her in heaven was beyond sweet, and her regret over having to say goodbye to the person she loved the most was heartbreaking.

Unfortunately, the show doesn’t bother to explain much about the titular Whisper Box – what created it, what malevolent forces powered it, or why it was even known as a whisper box to begin with. Instead, it simply vanishes when the mental institution is condemned. Which, sure, we all know that this whole endeavor was just a vehicle to get Nancy to reexamine some of her life choices. On a show which often plays fairly fast and breezy with the explanations for its supernatural components, this is kind of next level lazy. But at least it was fun to watch.

Rating:

3.5 out of 5