Nancy Drew Episode 16 Review: The Haunting of Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew solves Lucy Sable’s murder, and changes everything at the same time.

Nancy Drew Episode 16: The Haunting of Nancy Drew
Photo: The CW

This Nancy Drew review contains spoilers.

Nancy Drew Episode 16

Nancy Drew certainly hasn’t shied away from telling unexpected stories. This is a take on the original series of novels that does its best to reinvent a classic heroine for the modern age, complete with messy friendships, death, sex and actual, literal ghosts. That its central mystery should turn out to be something completely different than what we all initially expected…well. It’s not like the show didn’t warn us, right?

“The Haunting of Nancy Drew” feels like season finale – an hour packed full of answers, twists, and even more shocking revelations. After Tiffany Hudson’s killer was exposed, most of us probably expected the series’ other dead girl mystery would at least carry on through the rest of the show’s first season, before setting up another major supernaturally-tinged case for Nancy to tackle in Season 2.

That is…not what happened.

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Instead, Nancy Drew not only solves the mystery of Lucy Sable’s death, it upends almost everything we know about this series and the character at its center. It centers the show’s story more firmly on Nancy herself than ever before, while establishing that she’s not who we – and she herself – thought she was. 

Because Nancy Drew isn’t Nancy Drew at all. She’s Nancy Sable. Secret child of Lucy and Ryan Hudson, born on the clifftops in the wake of the Sea Queen dance. Hidden away by Carson and Katherine Drew, and haunted by the ghost of the birth mother she never knew. 

Yeah. It’s kind of a lot to take in. 

I mean, it’s a pretty bold move to base a television show on the famous Carolyn Keene novels, call it Nancy Drew and then reveal in late midseason episode that Nancy Drew isn’t Nancy Drew at all. On some level, that’s moxie you have to respect. (Props to creator Noga Landau.)

On another, it’s still safe to say that Nancy Drew will always be Nancy Drew. She’s smart and kind and loves mysteries, and that’s what makes her who she is, not the particulars of her parentage. She’ll always be Carson Drew’s daughter, whether they’re related by blood or not. 

But, well. My grandmother would call this an awfully big dose, is all I’m saying. 

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Lucy Sable, whose death gave rise nursery rhymes and ghost stories throughout Horseshoe Bay for years, wasn’t the victim of a grisly murder, but a heartbreaking tragedy. That she is now primarily remembered as a cautionary tale, as Horseshoe Bay’s most infamous urban legend, by the very same townspeople who once drove her to take her own life, is horrifying. And what’s worse, Nancy will never know if – in the moment it counted – her birth mother merely had an unfortunate accident on some slippery rocks, or jumped to her doom. This story should probably make every town resident who ever sang that song about Lucy Sable gazing upon the sea feel like total garbage. (Because they kind of are.)

The narrative beats surrounding Lucy’s death turn out to be almost painfully simple, particularly after sixteen episodes of watching her haunt and possess half the town. Lucy and Ryan fell in love, genuinely it seems. But, of course, Ryan’s monstrous father couldn’t have his bougie son with a townie girl, so he threatened her – not to mention ruined her reputation, branded her the town slut, and turned everyone against her – until Lucy gave in, and broke up with Ryan. But unbeknownst to everyone, Lucy was pregnant, and only managed to hide it thanks to some luck and the forgiving nature of 1980s fashions. And it still wasn’t enough. 

Is it a little convenient that Lucy suddenly went into labor just as she was about to literally throw herself off a cliff? Yes, of course it is. Is it deeply bizarre that Carson managed to find her entire poufy prom gown intact among the rocks, but no body? Duh. But, then again, this is also a town where buildings can be taken over by evil spirits, to it’s hardly the weirdest thing going on. 

Riley Smith and Kennedy McMann also have some not entirely appropriate chemistry for two people who are supposed to be father and daughter, and Ryan Hudson was hooking up with Nancy’s twentysomething best friend when the show began. Thankfully, Smith is surprisingly great at making pseudo-dirtbag Ryan compelling, so it’s been relatively easy to (mostly) overlook the fact that he’s not quite old enough to be a generation above Nancy and her friends (even if he and Lucy did have a baby while they were practically babies themselves.) In short, if you too feel like this twist is going to take some time to get used to, well. You’re not alone. Though, it’s at least clear that Smith will stick around for Season 2, a fact which wasn’t all guaranteed prior to right now. Maybe they can redraw some boundaries between these two.

But for the most part, this was a wild, emotional hour that proves Nancy Drew more than has the courage of its narrative convictions. This little show is crazy gutsy, yes, but it also recognizes the value of telling stories with demonstrable endings, and not making its audience wait forever to find out what they are. It’s also sly enough to come up with a reason why the ghost of Dead Lucy might want to stick around Horseshoe Bay even after the mystery of her death is solved, and finally gives us a reason to not actively wish harm on the Hudson family. (Or at least, maybe, on Ryan. Maybe.)

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Yet, the most important questions this episode raises are character-based. Where does our girl detective go from here? Who is Nancy Drew now – to herself, to the father she’s always known, to the mother she lost, both people who lied to her every day of her life? How do you solve the mystery of who you are, when everything you thought you knew is wrong? And what do you do if the birth mother you never knew is still haunting you from beyond the grave? 

Guess we’ll find out in April. 

Rating:

5 out of 5