This Nancy Drew review contains spoilers.
Nancy Drew Episode 2
The moment Horseshoe Bay became an iconic television location isn’t when Nancy Drew decided to basically confirm ghosts are real and its heroine is being haunted by a dead prom queen.
It’s when the series reveals that the town’s major annual community ritual involves tipping over buckets of seawater to possibly predict your own death.
Basically, this is the kind of weirdo small town activity that generally requires a Cheryl Blossom narration. But, since we don’t have that: Here’s what’s up. The Seawater Ceremony is apparently thing that happens on the final day of the heretofore never mentioned Horseshoe Bay Summer Festival. And the town gathers at the beach, to light bonfires and participate in the Bucket Ritual, in which everyone dredges up a bucket of seawater to take home.
The bucket goes outside your door and you kick it over when the church bells chime midnight. If there’s still seawater inside, you live. But if it’s turned to blood, you’re marked to die in the coming year.
(Personally, I feel like people should be way more concerned about how casually they’re discussing water turning into blood in the first place, but I guess that’s Nancy Drew for you.)
At any rate, the Seawater Ceremony is just another example of how everyday weirdness has saturated the bones of Horseshoe Bay, as well as the ways in which its resident turn to supernatural explanations and solutions for real world problems.
Then again, ghosts are apparently real here, so maybe these folks really have got a better handle on how to deal with them than the rest of us do.
Because Nancy is definitely being haunted by the ghost of dead teen queen Lucy Sable, and her insistence on initially disbelieving it is part of the reason she gets into so much trouble this week. The scares involving Lucy are generally low-key – creepy reflections, unexplained faces in windows, a random vision of blood, that kind of thing. But they’re certainly real enough to prove that whatever’s going on, it’s not a cat slinking in to the neighbor’s garage.
The supernatural elements of this version of Nancy Drew aren’t going to vanish away in the light of day, as they generally did in the novels the series is based on.
This shift offers a fresh, unexpected take on this classic story, and something most of us probably never expected to actually see. Furthermore, it’s a twist that sets the series apart from other shows that share similar thematic and narrative DNA. Even Riverdale, as insane and bonkers as it tends to get, really hasn’t ever done ghosts or supernatural creatures.
The Gargoyle King turned out to be just a guy wearing branches on his head, after all. Dead Lucy is…something else.
Furthermore, Nancy’s as-yet-unidentified connection to Dead Lucy adds an extra frisson of tension to everything that’s going on. Why is Lucy reaching out to her? Is she trying to help or harm Nancy’s investigation into Tiffany’s death? Or was she merely trying to get Nancy to take on her case, too?
Our favorite sleuth’s decision to steal the physical evidence regarding Lucy’s disappearance indicates that she’s not giving up on this mystery anytime soon either. Which is probably a good thing, since her dad Carson is obviously lying to her about the origins of the bloody dress and secret trunk Nancy found in the Drew attic. You don’t immediately burn old party favors just because they’re taking up space. Just saying.
“The Secret of the Old Morgue” is a natural extension of the story that began in last week’s “Pilot,” as suspects are named, discarded, and then named again. But the best part of Nancy Drew’s second episode is the way it fleshes out the series’ supporting characters in ways beyond the simplistic tropes used to identify them in the pilot.
While Nancy pretty much emerged as a fully formed character the minute she appeared onscreen, the same can’t quite be said for her friends. The series’ second episode goes out of its way to fix that, giving George, Bess and Ace some intriguing new layers even as its further solidifies their budding friendships with Nancy and each other.
Ace probably benefits from the most from a few extra minutes of character development, as he goes from slightly sketchy creeper to charming oddball with lightning speed. The easy, supportive way he reacts to the revelation that Bess is a lesbian (or possibly bisexual, the show hasn’t completely clarified this point just yet) is lovely, as is his insistence that he can be the friend she’s been without for so long. (It’s almost possible to forget he’s busy narc-ing on all his new pals, at the same time.)
City girl Bess is more complicated than ever before, lonely and isolated because she can’t be honest about who she is. (Or how little money she has, which is something I really hope we get some backstory on soon, particularly since Nancy has so clearly figured out something’s up.) And her love of all things supernatural and haunted is a nice character touch – after all, someone’s got to be a true believer in this town of oddities.
And everything about George and Nancy’s scenes together are wonderful, as Nancy discovers George’s secret affair and the event becomes a catalyst for the two to hash out some of their long-simmering differences from high school in an honest, extremely realistic way. (Nancy’s apology for not stopping her friends then from being jerks when she had a chance is particularly great.)
Plus, George proves herself to the group and realizes she’s stuck in a dead-end relationship with a maybe-murderer and gets one of the best lines of the episode. And that’s all before her Seawater Ceremony bucket turns out to be full of blood and she realizes she’s destined to die.
Never a dull moment in Horseshoe Bay.