‘Nancy Drew’ Season 1 Finale Recap: “The Clue in the Captain’s Painting”

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Image courtesy The CW.

Well Drew Crew, it’s hard to believe we’ve already arrived at the season finale of Nancy Drew. After a freshman season full of twists and turns and ghost possessions, the writers had the unenviable task of trying to wrap up all those mysteries a full four episodes early. And boy, did they deliver. I’ve said before that Nancy Drew is the sort of show where every episode can function as a season-ender, and that was proven yet again this week. From stunning performances by Kennedy McMann and MVP Leah Lewis to the terrifying cliffhanger, “The Clue in the Captain’s Painting” did a great job of wrapping up season one’s mysteries and setting up season two. Let’s get to the recap!

Image courtesy The CW.

We open on a familiar scene: Nancy sitting in the Horseshoe Bay PD being interrogated about the murder of someone close to her. Lisbeth is gently trying to find out what happened to Owen, but Nancy is too shocked and grief-stricken to help. There’s also the small matter of the fact that the Aglaeca is likely responsible, and something tells me that blaming the evil sea spirit in front of the police wouldn’t go over well. Bess is at the station trying to manage what seems like hundreds of pushy Marvins as Lisbeth heads out to see her. Lisbeth thinks if she was at the party she could have prevented Owen’s death, and as she walks away Bess is stuck with her terrible cousins trying to plan Owen’s service. Nick and George are waiting on a bench outside, and her knee is shaking from anxiety. But when Nick lays his hand on her knee to try to calm her down, she pushes him away. It seems she’s not quite ready to go public with their relationship yet. Nancy, meanwhile, blames herself for Owen’s death as the Drew Crew heads back to her house.

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When they sit down to discuss what to do, the crew realizes that if the Aglaeca came for Owen, she’s definitely coming for them next. But maybe if they try to contact Owen on the other side, he can tell them what happened after he received the latest portent but before she killed him. It’s the only chance they have of trying to stop the curse. So, they set up another seance (this crew really loves contacting the other side.) Ace sees all the ghost catchers in Nancy’s house and remarks “do they light up? or fly? like Tinkerbell?” which only cements his position as the cinnamon roll of the group.

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Just then, Ryan arrives. He heard what happened to Owen and wants to “check in with Nancy because I’m … her father.” The way Riley Smith stumbles over “my daughter” is heartbreaking, like he’s still getting used to the idea. But Nancy quickly shuts down the father/daughter bonding session by telling him to go. In her anger, she also tells him off for “ruining” the women around him, specifically naming Lucy and Tiffany. But George is there too, and she takes offense at the idea that she is somehow ruined. Nancy tries to apologize when Ryan leaves, but George brushes her off, not wanting to discuss her feelings now. Nick also tries to comfort her, but like before she pushes him away.

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The group sits in a circle to begin the ritual. Right away, a wind whips through the house, destroying a table in the living room (Ace: “Hope that wasn’t a family heirloom”.) They don’t reach Owen, but they do reach the Aglaeca, a terrifying Gollum-like creature who screeches at them and disappears. It seems she doesn’t want them talking to Owen. After their unsuccessful seance, Bess, Nick, and George head to the Marvin mansion to see if there are any clues to dig up there while Nancy stays with Ace. Nancy decides to try to learn more about the Aglaeca, asking Ace to go with her. The Nancy and Ace Detective Squad is back on the case!

On their arrival to the mansion, it becomes clear that Bess’ cousins are more than a little eccentric. One asks George and Nick if either of them are artists because Owen will need “a portrait for the Hall of Tragedies” now that he’s been murdered (best line of the episode and maybe even the season, hands down.) George and Nick talk to the group, who all have a motive for killing Owen but also seem too self-absorbed to pull it off. Based on these interactions alone I demand a Marvin family spin-off immediately, because any family with a Hall of Tragedies and narcissistic power-hungry cousins needs its own series. Bess meanwhile talks to Aunt Diana, who again asks Bess to use her relationship with Lisbeth to benefit the family by finding out what the police know about Owen’s killer. Bess is so desperate to belong here with these people who are not worthy of her goodness. Maddison Jaizani gives a great performance as Bess is torn between her newfound family and her girlfriend.

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Nancy and Ace are at the historical society talking to Hannah, who is incredulous that the Aglaeca could be responsible. She says the spirit is unusually rare, hardly ever appearing in front of people. When Nancy admits they successfully contacted her, Hannah is shocked, saying “she’s not your common street ghost, she’s like a white whale.” Ace unhelpfully but adorably responds with “well, she did have a tail.” The trio realizes that whatever killed Owen was human.

Nancy and Ace call the rest of the crew, who tell her they don’t think the Marvins are responsible. Bess insists that her cousins can’t be cold blooded-murderers, even if they are a little strange (to which I say: Bess, you have a billion cousins you met a week ago. You do not know them.) Lisbeth arrives to obtain DNA samples from the Marvins, and Bess has to step in and smooth things over between Lisbeth, Aunt Diana, and the more vocal of the Marvin cousins. She’s torn between her worlds, and while Lisbeth is mostly understanding, it’s clear many of the Marvins are not ready to accept Bess as one of their own yet. Nick again tries to talk to George about the tension between them, but George isn’t ready.

Nancy and Ace go to Owen’s apartment to look for clues. Nancy notices he has a ghost catcher, and this makes her even sadder. Ace is gently supportive throughout this scene, telling Nancy that he knows she doesn’t like to share her feelings with everyone but that he’s there if she needs him. Ace gets that pushing Nancy is not the way to get her to open up, and it seems she appreciates his quiet but steady presence. She says “if I find the words, I’ll share them with you,” which is as close as Nancy can get to opening up. As Ace tries to unlock a trunk in Owen’s room, Nancy notices a hand-print on the window pane: someone was here.

Lisbeth and the rest of the police arrive. Nancy corners her to ask about the DNA testing at the Marvin mansion. She asks if they have a suspect, and Lisbeth tries to keep her out of the investigation. But Nancy says this investigation is what’s holding her together right now, asking Lisbeth to let her help. Lisbeth seems on the fence, but then looks to Ace, realizing they actually could use his tech skills.

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Outside the Marvin’s home, Ryan arrives to find George standing outside. She texted him, and he’s confused as to why. George appears lost, with the events of the episode shaking her beliefs about herself (especially after Nancy’s comment about how Ryan’s girlfriends are ruined after being with him.) But then she launches into one of the best monologues this season as she tells him that because of him, she can’t have a normal relationship. She tells him how being “the other woman” at seventeen has completely warped her idea of what love is, saying that she may have been young but he should have known better. She calls him out for his behavior, saying “you made me feel okay with being a dirty little secret, because I was seventeen years old.”

Ryan tries to halfheartedly defend himself, but George shuts it down immediately, saying “you are not the victim here.” She ends with this impactful line: “I’m not okay, but I will be. Because I’m George freaking Fan.” Leah Lewis has built up a slow burning rage this whole season, and this reckoning was long overdue. Her performance here is stunning and rings true. The George/Ryan relationship on any other show would be treated as a dramatic device, with the actual implications of such a power and age imbalance not being discussed (here’s looking at you, Pretty Little Liars.) This scene is the reason why Nancy Drew is light-years ahead of its teen drama competition: it features the messy, non-sexy parts of life as much as it highlights the fun ghost hunting and murder mysteries.

After such a cathartic scene, we move back to Nancy, Ace, and Lisbeth, who are reviewing Owen’s calls from the day of the murder. They come to the realization that the killer may have been targeting Nancy, not Owen. Lisbeth is called away, and she instructs Ace and Nancy to stay put. Nancy being Nancy, she immediately gets up. She has a hunch that Josh is back, and she and Ace head to the nursing home to see Patrice. When they arrive, Nancy goes in to talk to Patrice alone and has Ace stand guard outside. Patrice thinks Nancy is Lucy, and her interactions with her “daughter” are poignant and sad. Nancy decides to tell her grandmother who she really is: Lucy’s daughter and Patrice’s granddaughter. Patrice, even in her dementia, is happy about this revelation. She touches Nancy’s face as she laments that she’s missed Nancy’s whole life. Nancy smiles and just says that she’s only missed part of it. She asks where Josh went, and creepy Patrice returns as she smiles and says “he never left” while staring at the ceiling. I felt goosebumps up my arm watching this scene both from the emotion of the moment and that scary reveal.

Outside, Ace sees the lights flickering in Morse code at the other end of the hall. He whispers “SOS” as he walks towards the source. (NO, ACE. We do not investigate creepy things alone. Buddy system!) But when he reaches the room, the door slams shut behind him. Nancy rushes to the roof to find Josh standing there waiting for her, looking like a horror movie villain and covered in blood. He tells her that he didn’t want to kill Owen, but that he refused to lure Nancy to Josh and so he had to kill him. Nancy tells Josh that she is his niece and that Lucy killed herself, which Josh doesn’t want to believe. Just then, Ace arrives on the roof (and I breathed a massive sigh of relief.) He tells them the police are on their way as they hear the sirens, and Josh breaks down. He tries to jump off the roof, but Nancy and Ace manage to catch him.

Back at The Claw, the group discusses what happened, with Nancy feeling conflicted about saving Josh’s life. But the group praises her for doing the right thing. The conversation turns to the Aglaeca, who is still out there and ready to collect her toll. Bess says they’ll face it together, saying that “there’s no ‘i’ in Aglaeca.” She and Lisbeth talk, with Lisbeth telling Bess she knows that Aunt Diana has been pressuring her (Bess, bless her, is not a good liar.) Lisbeth says she shouldn’t be so trusting of her new family. When Bess tries to say they have good intentions and needs to have a family, Lisbeth deadpans “Bess, they have a Hall of Tragedies.” Lisbeth and Bess are okay for now, but something tells me this conflict will continue into season two.

George and Nick are outside, and George asks to talk. She says that she knows she’s been distant and wants to apologize for making him feel badly. He starts to tell her no apology is necessary, but she tell him she doesn’t want to make him feel like a secret. She says she isn’t good at relationships, but is working on it and wants to be with him, for real this time. Nick says that in that case he’ll make a restaurant reservation, and George smiles as they kiss. Bess is back at the mansion with Aunt Diana, who praises Bess for her handling of the Owen situation and dangles the possibility of being a full-fledged member of the family. While I hate her for her manipulation of Bess, I have to admit that Aunt Diana is a boss. She may be cold as ice, but she’s smart. Bess sees the portraits in the hall and asks Aunt Diana who is in them. Diana says there are so many stories to tell that she’ll save them for later, and as she walks away Bess looks closer at one of the paintings. She’s shocked to see that the artist has painted a being that looks an awful lot like the Aglaeca into one of them.

In the final moments of the episode, each member of the Drew Crew receives a vision of their own death: Nick and George drown in Nick’s car, Ace is hung from a chain in the restaurant, Bess burns alive in the mansion, and Nancy falls off the bluffs, echoing Lucy’s death. All are scared and the message is clear: the Aglaeca is coming and she means business.

Image courtesy The CW.

Well, Drew Crew, it’s been a pleasure recapping the season with you. I’m so excited to see what the writers come up with for season two, especially with the loose ends they didn’t have the chance to clear up in this unexpected finale. How will Ryan and Carson handle the new relationship they each have with Nancy? Who is the Aglaeca, and what is her purpose? Will Bess be able to handle the Marvin scheming? And probably most important at the moment: how will the Drew Crew break the curse and escape those terrifying death visions? I for one can’t wait for season two to arrive!

What were your favorite moments from the finale? Let us know in the comments below! Nancy Drew will return for a second season later this year.

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By Jules
I am a nurse and dedicated nerd from Boston, MA. When I'm not at work, I'm rewatching old favorites like Supernatural or discovering my new obsessions (too many to count!). When not fangirling, I can be found reading, writing, or listening to a true crime podcast. You can find me on Twitter @juleswritesblog for more nerdy nonsense.
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