Sunday, July 25, 2021

Nerds Rewatch: ‘Nancy Drew’ Season 1, Episodes 1-3

Hello, Drew Crew! Welcome to the first edition of Nerds Rewatch Nancy Drew, a new series from Nerds and Beyond where we will be rewatching the series from the beginning to prepare for the arrival of season 3 this fall. We’ll be watching three episodes of season 1 per week, then switching to two episodes a week for season 2, ending the week of the season 3 premiere. Never seen an episode and want to dive in? Seen every episode but want a refresher? Either way, we’ve got you covered with both spoiler-free and spoiler-filled discussion of our favorite sleuth and her friends. You can head over to HBO Max to watch season 1, with season 2 arriving on the service July 3.

Under each episode heading you’ll find discussion ONLY of the current episode and the ones preceding it, while at the end of each article there will be a section discussing how the episodes relate to the series as a whole. (In other words: SPOILERS GALORE, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED). Without further ado, let’s jump right into Nancy Drew season 1, episodes 1-3!

“Pilot”

Robert Falconer/The CW

Written by: Noga Landau, Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage

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Directed by: Larry Teng (and you can also find him on Instagram for some amazing behind-the-scenes shots of Nancy Drew!)

  • Nancy’s first scene in the graveyard, wearing the same pink dress we see on Lucy Sable as she falls from the cliff, is one of the best shots of the series. It also introduces us to a carefree, popular Nancy that quickly morphs into the angsty young adult we know and love.
  • Nancy and Nick have great chemistry from the moment we first see them together in the garage. Tunji Kasim and Kennedy McMann are great at revealing so much about the state of their relationship with so few lines of dialogue. Their talk later in the truck about Nick’s previously unknown criminal record and his desire to be there for Nancy is sweet, and Nancy’s shock at finding Nick’s manslaughter conviction is that much more heartbreaking because of it.
  • Speaking of Kennedy McMann, she truly is the best possible Nancy Drew. This show needed a strong lead to succeed, and they found one in McMann.
  • Nancy’s arrival at The Claw, and our introduction to George, Bess, and Ace, is shot and acted perfectly. Again — this show establishes so much about the characters in a short span of time, which is essential for any pilot.
  • The discovery of Tiffany’s body is terrifying. Nancy Drew is a horror show more than a mystery, and the jump scare of the fireworks as Nancy finds Tiffany’s body in the parking lot is creepy. The image of a ghostly figure slowly coming up behind Tiffany as she waits unaware by the car is also chilling.
  • The confessional-style scene of each Drew Crew member explaining their alibi (or lack thereof) is very funny and is the first time we see the potential for comedy alongside horror. Ditto for George teasing Nancy and Nick about their not-so-secret relationship and Bess immediately jumping to ghostly conclusions. Ace even gets in a few quick moments of levity and one-liners.
  • You know it’s a Josh Schwartz/Stephanie Savage show when the playlist is teen perfection. The pick of the episode is “Got You (Where I Want You)” by The Flys playing in Nick’s truck when he drives Nancy home. For a full list of every song used on the show, you can check out Tunefind and make your own Drew Crew playlist.
  • Fun fact: Harriet the medium is played by Pamela Sue Martin, who was the original TV Nancy Drew in The Nancy Drew Mysteries back in the 1970s.
  • Nick’s prior conviction for manslaughter and Tiffany being the key witness does make him look suspicious … but as every true crime fan knows, the first suspect is never the right one … right? Nancy sure hopes so.
  • Anyone else think Bess’ trailer is adorable? It’s perfect for a tiny house lifestyle … or pretending you have a rich family.
  • Again, hats off to director Larry Teng for the brilliant blocking of Nancy’s walk through the dark house and the discovery of Lucy’s dress in her attic. The blue lighting contrasting with the bloody dress makes a gorgeous shot. Director of photography John S. Bartley worked on the first three episodes of the series, and his work alongside Teng’s in establishing the look of Nancy Drew is a big reason for why the series’ visuals are consistently excellent.
  • Fun fact: Lucy Sable is played entirely by actress Stephanie Van Dyck, so all those cool shots of her ghostly self are practical effects, not CGI.
  • The town kids singing a song about murder should have been a clue from the start that Horseshoe Bay is a town with way too many spirits and secrets.

“The Secret of the Old Morgue”

Robert Falconer/The CW

Written by: Noga Landau

Directed by: Larry Teng

  • Carson may not always get it right, but it’s clear how much he loves Nancy. Scott Wolf was a great choice for this role, and he and McMann have great chemistry together.
  • Even this early, the banter between the Drew Crew is on point. George in particular has some hilariously cutting comments (“Tiffany Hudson’s not the only thing dead around here”).
  • Dead Lucy coming out of the tree in Nancy’s face is one of the best jump scares of the season. Way to be subtle, Lucy!
  • For those who are curious, Nancy’s mother’s car is a 1963 Sunbeam Alpine Series III. It’s adorable, and I need it to have a name like Supernatural‘s iconic Baby immediately. If Ace can have Florence, Nancy’s car needs a name too!
  • Ryan and Carson working together? And a bloody dress in Carson’s attic? It’s not looking good for these two.
  • Not one person in Horseshoe Bay should be surprised by the existence of ghosts when this seawater bucket ceremony exists. Another fun fact: according to executive producer/writer of this episode Noga Landau, Horseshoe Bay and the many seaside references are due to her love of the classic horror film I Know What You Did Last Summer.
  • I take back what I said about the tree jump scare, Lucy showing up in the car window still makes me jump in my seat, and I knew it was coming this time.
  • Lisbeth has arrived! Were those sparks flying between her and Bess?
  • NOPE NOT THE BREATHING CORPSE IN THE DARK MORGUE THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
  • Ace and Bess’ “platanchor” conversation is lovely. His instant acceptance of her sexuality, combined with his genuine desire to be her friend, is the first indication that there’s more to this “slacker” than meets the eye.
  • “Nancy got arrested, I got a bunch of dead people’s parts.” “Ooo, what parts?” “Nancy got arrested?!” Three different types of people right there.
  • I appreciate how the writers immediately address Nancy finding Lucy’s dress and what she saw as a child with Carson. Whether he’s telling the truth or not remains to be seen, but any other show would have drawn out the secret for several episodes. It also gives us the chance to see Nancy’s personality: direct, to the point, and occasionally misguided in her aim.
  • The Claw should never pass a health inspection, EVER.
  • Leah Lewis is so consistently good, but when she shows George’s vulnerable side along with her tough exterior it’s hard not to fall in love with George. It’s crucial that Nancy addresses how her actions hurt George in high school, and the show doesn’t shy away from showing Nancy in a less-than-flattering light. It’s interesting to see how Nancy reacts to being called out.
  • That slow pan over to Nick’s phone with the missed call is great visual storytelling.

“The Curse of the Dark Storm”

Dean Buscher/The CW

Written by: Jesse Stern and Lisa Bao

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Directed by: John Kretchmer

  • Nancy has some theatrical flair calling Nick’s secret cell phone in front of him to confront him about his half-truths.
  • Ace being in the know about all the local legends (and sharing them in the most dramatic way possible) is very on-brand.
  • I know Karen is trying hard to help Nancy out, but the fact that she’s essentially suggesting Nancy frame Nick to get out of her own charges is cold as ice.
  • Nick is immediately sympathetic, even when his motives aren’t entirely clear. Letting him be a step ahead of Nancy is smart writing on a few levels — we see that Nancy isn’t infallible despite her reputation, and we get to see Nick in action.
  • Lucy screaming in the corner of the ceiling is utterly terrifying. I have to give another round of applause to the special effects team for Lucy’s character design and the overall commitment to practical effects — it’s so worth it in scenes like this.
  • There are two major references to the Nancy Drew books in this episode. Tiffany’s clock is a callback to The Secret of the Old Clock while the Lilac Inn refers to The Mystery at Lilac Inn.
  • Nancy defending Nick to Karen is a sign of just how much she trusts him and how her sense of justice works. Even when she could take the easy way out, she won’t if it means doing the unethical thing or hurting someone she loves.
  • Tunji Kasim is a brilliant actor. This episode really helps us get to know Nick as a character, and his monologue about Austin’s death is heartbreaking.
Dean Buscher/The CW
  • Aw, the sun finally came out when Nick told the truth! We love some good cosmic symbolism through the weather.
  • Nancy is remarkably calm for a girl holding $5 million in bonds. I’m with Nick on this one — does this money have strings attached?
  • LUCY YOU GOTTA STOP WITH THE HIDING ON THE CEILING.
  • Bess has Tiffany’s ring … but does it mean she’s a killer?

Portents of Things to Come…

  • It is incredible watching the pilot after seeing the season 2 finale. From Nancy’s references, to how seeing her parents hiding so much from her as a child impacted her later, to watching young Nancy solve Rose Turnbull’s disappearance (as is later expanded on in “The Hidden Staircase” and “The Siege of the Unseen Specter”), this show set up so much of the ongoing mythology from the very beginning.
  • Bess faking an American accent is absolutely hilarious now that we know her backstory.
  • To see Nancy go from declaring that none of her coworkers are her friends to now considering them her family is heartening. That’s character growth, folks!
  • I don’t think we ever see any of the Drew Crew work this much at The Claw ever again. Nancy waiting tables? Ace cooking in the kitchen? What wonder is this?
  • Nancy’s trusty beanie-and-jean-jacket combo makes its first appearance of many!
  • Now that we know that Lucy means Nancy no harm, that ghostly “Nancy!” shout of warning while Nancy searches the Hudson home has a different meaning.
  • Even with Nick and Nancy’s chemistry, the signs are there so early that they don’t work as a couple the way they should. Nick wants something serious, a partner he can share things with and trust. Nancy is just not there yet emotionally and clearly won’t be for some time, especially evidenced by her looking up Nick’s file after telling him she’ll wait for whenever he’s ready. They’re still compelling to watch despite knowing where their relationship ends up, which is down to the great acting by McMann and Kasim.
  • Nancy’s monologue to Nick in the pilot about feeling out of place in her own life is the start of the show leaning into Nancy’s mental illness, which the wraith later exploits in season 2. It’s the start of a long arc that is more fully explored in the second season.
  • Ace trying to put the moves on Bess repeatedly is very funny. I had forgotten how flirty he was with her early on, considering how that relationship is so fully platonic now.
  • Knowing now that Ryan is innocent of Lucy’s murder, it’s interesting to see how hindsight makes him less suspicious than he was when I initially watched. His redemption arc completely changes how I view his actions now. Watching him try to charm the locals with bribes is classic Ryan, as is his arrogant and fumbling approach to asking Carson for help. Also, Lucy haunting him is much sadder now that we know she’s not trying to tell us he killed her.
  • The start of the Carson/Ryan feud (and later, co-parenting relationship). They’ve come so far from Ryan bribing Carson to help him rehab his image. More of this dynamic in season 3, please!
Dean Buscher/The CW
  • The Nancy Drew writer’s room deserves a lot of credit for making every clue matter in the end. Tiffany’s necklace with the medium’s address inside, along with the symbol of the Sea Queen, is great foreshadowing. The fact that George’s bucket portent happened just two episodes into the show proves that these writers are playing the long game with their story arcs. Also, anyone else catch that the harpoon that almost hit George in The Claw is the same harpoon that does eventually hit her in “The Drowned Woman”?
  • The fact that I got a bit teary-eyed seeing Ryan meet Nancy for the first time speaks volumes to how well that relationship has developed.
  • Anyone else laugh at how George was ready to have Nick sent straight to jail for Tiffany’s murder on zero evidence? Oh, how just one season will change all of those ambivalent feelings between them.

What did we miss? Let us know in the comments! Season 1 of Nancy Drew is available now on HBO Max, and season 2 will hit the streamer on July 3. Be sure to catch up on episodes 4-6 of season one for next week’s rewatch!

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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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