This NANCY DREW review contains spoilers.
Nancy Drew Season 2, Episode 3
Ever since Nancy Drew decided that ghosts are real back in its very first episode, the series has had to walk a fine line: Make its supernatural baddies genuinely scary, but not so much that they overshadow the rest of the show. “The Secret of Solitary Scribe” is a great example of when that balance works – combining multiple legitimately scary sequences with solid character work.
As the clock ticks down to the Drew Crew’s Aglaeca-foretold death date, Nancy and her friends get desperate, in more ways than one. George and Nick deal with their fear of dying by obsessively apartment hunting and trying to have sex. Bess searches for a loophole. Ace decides to spend what may be his last Shabbat with his father. And Nancy sets her sights on tracking down A.J. Kitsune, the surviving member of the group of teens who last summoned the vengeful sea spirit back in 1975.
What she finds…doesn’t exactly bode well for her own future.
In the 44 years since his friends died, A.J. has indeed reinvented himself as a successful author. (Of horror stories, naturally.) But that’s because he has a lot of real-life content to draw from: He’s survived by using a charm that summons the worst possible spirits to him every day, monsters so dangerous that they keep the Aglaeca at bay. A.J.’s alive, sure, but he’s not really living. And he’s being regularly visited by a shrieking horde of grabby hands zombie ghosts that seem to pop through his walls and floor with abandon.
Despite all that, he still never figured out how to stop the Aglaeca, and she has never stopped trying to collect her due toll. Are Nancy and friends doomed to the same fate in a best-case scenario? Truly, this subplot is wildly dark – A.J. is clearly very damaged, and not just by the fact that he’s been haunted by monsters for most of his life. He’s still obviously struggling with his guilt over the accident he and his friends caused and the life they took, not to mention the one they bartered with the Aglaeca to save. (He finally wrote the vision of his own death he’d been carrying for decades into his final book. That’s hardcore messed up!)
One of the best things about this season so far is that it hasn’t asked Nancy to become someone she’s not, just because she’s suddenly discovered her life isn’t what she once thought it was. She’s as prickly and pushy as ever – even more so than usual at times – and clearly lashing out at everyone around her because she doesn’t know what to do with everything she’s feeling. Or even what to call most of it.
She’s so angry with Carson she can barely talk to him, and has spent the season thus far generally avoiding him. Until she needs something. She’s aggressive and confrontational with bio dad Ryan Hudson, at least – again – until she needs something. She’s so desperate to break the Aglaeca’s hold on her and her friends that she steals a token from an equally desperate man, without knowing – or even asking – how dangerous it might be. Isn’t that the exact same attitude that sort of got them into this mess to begin with?
Nancy may be our favorite girl detective, but she’s not always right. She’s not even always admirable. And her behavior this week, well. She’s not being the woman Mister Rogers knew she could be a lot of the time, let’s put it that way, even if she does ultimately make it right in the end. Though I guess that’s the kind of thing that can happen when you have a literal specter of death hanging over your head. I truly want her to solve this mystery not just so she doesn’t die, but so she can finally take a minute to do some self-reflection.
For her part, Bess – shockingly, an avowed horror fan, who would have guessed? – wants to make amends with the Aglaeca, encouraging the group to return what they bargained for, apologize and hope that’s enough to reverse the curse. She’s done research and everything!
It’s not, of course, but the fact that Nancy ultimately came around to the attempt – to letting go of her birth mother’s bones in the name of making things right – feels like legitimate growth in its creepy, weird way. I mean, she didn’t know they were going to get rejected and thrown back up all over The Claw. (Though honestly in this town it’s probably something you should expect.)
At any rate, another episode is down, and Nancy and friends are another day closer to their own death visions. I’m pretty sure we already know that Nancy Drew is going to get them out of this somehow, but the question I keep coming back to is – at what cost?
I really hope we go back to how Bess’ great-great-many-times-over granddad and his role in creating the Aglaeca at some point before all this is over.
This show needs so much more of Ace’s dad on it.
I love the revelation that Ace is Jewish, that his father converted upon marrying his mother, and they actually at least semi-observe. I’m also happy Nancy Drew is finally letting us get to know Ace on his own terms – but pretty soon I’m really going to need to meet his mom. Or at the very least find out his last name. (Which, in my wildest moments of fan speculation, I figure has to be something that rings a bell for those of us familiar with this fictional universe. Hardy, maybe?)
Ryan Hudson is buying groceries for Patrice Dodd – and he got her flowers? – my heart is not made of stone, y’all. (Though we need to talk about his terrible choice in facial hair at the moment. Yikes.)
Nancy inviting Carson and Ryan to help her say goodbye to Lucy Sable properly was extremely sweet.
Of course, the lady who runs the Horseshoe Bay Historical Society is actually connected to a terrifying monster that haunts the town’s shores. Who would have ever expected anything else?