This Nancy Drew review contains spoilers.
Nancy Drew Episode 4
Do you have someone in your life who hasn’t tried Nancy Drew yet? Do them a favor and maybe stage an intervention of some sort for them, because this is honestly the bonkers little teen murder mystery that could.
Four episodes in, and “The Haunted Ring” is the series’ strongest and most well-rounded effort to date—offering some genuine scares, unexpected character twists and satisfyingly heartfelt character interactions.
Other than the fact that we only spend approximately three minutes with Nick, there’s honestly not a lot to complain about here. Almost everyone else gets a chance to shine, and a significant pivotal moment within the episode’s story.
The titular “Haunted Ring”, of course, once belonged to murdered socialite Tiffany Hudson, and now happens to be in the possession of vagabond city girl Bess. Is she Tiffany’s killer? Of course not, it’s simply Bess’ turn on the Nancy Drew introductory episode merry-go-round, much like George and Nick before her.
The series handles her backstory much less clunkily than it did Nick’s, however, and the episode’s various revelations about Bess’ past are woven much more cohesively into the rest of its story. To what is probably the surprise of no one, Bess isn’t exactly who she pretends to be. She’s not rich, doesn’t really have a posh accent, and isn’t a member of the snooty Marvin family either.
Or at least, she doesn’t know for sure. Yet.
Her name is really Bess Tarani and she’s convinced she’s a long-lost Marvin because of a dream she once had. Which…sounds about right for this show, actually. Makes sense, I suppose, in a town where another character’s mother just casually drops the news that she’s not only clairvoyant, she’s super willing to teach her daughter’s friends how to get rid of a ghost. Anyway, Bess in Horseshoe Bay to find out the truth about her family—if she can get up the nerve to do something other than stare at her supposed relatives during public events.
“The Haunted Ring” sends our intrepid group of sleuths to Tiffany Hudson’s funeral, not just because this is a small town and pretty much everyone has to go to these things, but because it’s also the only way to stop Tiffany’s ghost from haunting (and attacking) Bess. It does still feel a bit strange to take the idea of ghosts, hauntings and possession so seriously in this universe, but Nancy Drew keeps on providing evidence that the supernatural is a real thing in Horseshoe Bay, and scaring us at the same time.
From exploding lights and cracked technology screens to physical attacks on various characters, it’s clear that the undead in this town have a lot to say—or possibly do—to the living. And some of them may even be connected, given the fact that it very much looks like a brief glimpse of Dead Lucy is visible on the recording made just before Tiffany’s death.
Sure, it’s maybe ridiculous that George had to hide under her ex’s dead wife’s casket and maybe possibly left a funeral carrying a restless spirit in her purse, but the scene in which she genuinely apologizes to the dead woman she wronged, including admitting that she should have had her back from the start was honestly so unexpectedly mature and great.
It’s been easy to wonder how Nancy Drew would keep its story going if and when Tiffany’s murder is solved. But the show is taking a careful approach to inserting new, smaller mysteries and connecting characters along the way that seem geared to keeping the overall story moving forward even as it drops ghosts and possessions on us at the same time.
And Bess’ family history—as well as the question of whether she’s really a Marvin or not—certainly seems as though it will be one of those things. Along with Carson’s seemingly shady history with the Hudson family, the question of what to do with Nick’s sudden five-million-dollar windfall, George’s marked for death status, the introduction of Tiffany’s sister, Laura, and whatever it is that allows the Chief of Police to constantly blackmail Ace. The murder that so much of the main plot seems to center around currently will likely continue to be a main story for the bulk of this season. But it certainly won’t be the only one Nancy Drew is telling.
“The Haunted Ring” is also the first episode to really dig into Nancy’s personal trauma, and the painful aftershocks from her mother’s death. While most of us were likely convinced Carson was probably evil after his shady disposal of that dress in the attic that we’re all assuming belonged to a dead prom queen, it’s hard not to want to just hug him after his heartbreaking and tear-filled graveside chat with his daughter.
Scott Wolf and Kennedy McMann knock this scene out of the proverbial park, and I’m now 100 percent on board with Heal the Broken Drew family as a subplot for the rest of the season. Carson and his daughter are so damaged, but they obviously love each other so much. Even if the death of Nancy’s mother will likely always be a point of pain and possible contention between them. But it’s lovely to see them take what feels like a step toward healing.
As Nancy herself says early in the episode, she does have a lot of dead women in her life, and Katherine Drew’s presence looms as large as any of the murder victims. Possibly more so, since Nancy has spent so long wrestling with her own guilt over not being present when her mom passed, and containing her anger at her parents for not letting her say goodbye. McMann is honestly wonderful at portraying such a nuanced, messy but still perfectly appropriate take on a modern-day Nancy Drew, who is fallible and fantastic at the same time. It’s such great news that we’ll get a full season to see where the folks in charge take this character and what mysteries she’ll encounter along the way.
For now…who is going to notice that their friend is maybe possessed?
Nancy Drew airs Wednesdays on The CW. You can find out more about it here.
Lacy Baugher is a digital producer by day, but a television enthusiast pretty much all the time. Her writing has been featured in Paste Magazine, Collider, IGN, SyFyWire and elsewhere. Literally always looking for someone to yell about Doctor Who and/or the CW superhero properties with, you can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.