Film & TV

‘Nancy Drew’ Comes with a ‘Riverdale’-esque Makeover

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Fall calls for pumpkin patches, cozy sweaters and of course some chilling mysteries. Right on time, The CW debuted its reimagined TV show “Nancy Drew” Oct. 9.

Developed by the production duo of Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (“The OC,” “Gossip Girl”), “Nancy Drew” comes with a supernatural spin, providing a fresh take on the classic teen detective franchise.

Small town girl Nancy Drew (Kennedy McMann) had always been infatuated with mysteries of the unknown, but repressed her passion after the death of her mother. A diner waitress with a short fuse and quick wit, Nancy stumbles upon a mystery too salacious to ignore. 

When a woman is murdered outside the diner, Nancy and her coworkers become the prime suspects. Invigorated to solve the case, Nancy stumbles back into the world of mystery, unraveling twisty secrets of supernatural activity.

“Nancy Drew” draws aesthetic similarities to its lead-in, The CW’s own flashy teen drama “Riverdale.” Unlike “Riverdale” though, “Nancy Drew” embraces a grounded tone and a much more subdued cast. Despite existing in a supernatural world, “Nancy Drew” takes a more realistic approach to the small town vibe “Riverdale” utilizes. 

As its premise sets itself up for many smaller storylines and cases-of-the-week, “Nancy Drew” will need to rely heavily on its character work going forward to entice viewers. Thankfully, each member of the cast has depth and a distinct personality.

McMann provides a strong leading performance, helping characterize Nancy dynamically rather than one-note. The choice to have Nancy out of high school and into her young adulthood frees the series from replicating past efforts. This also allows for a more mature tone, and a character a developed audience can relate to.

The main cast relies on classic archetypes, which fits well given Nancy Drew’s older roots. Rich airhead Bess Marvin (Maddison Jaizani) and Nancy’s former nemesis Georgia “George” Fan (Leah Lewis) stand out the most of the cast initially, apart from Nancy herself. The rivalry between George and Nancy mixed with Bess’ aloof nature add to an entertaining work environment for the show to base itself in.

“Nancy Drew” attempts to add to the intrigue with Nancy’s love interest Ned “Nick” Nickerson (Tunji Kasim). Nick, a former convict represented by Nancy’s father, Carson Drew (Scott Wolf), must overcome Carson’s disapproval to continue their relationship.

The relationship provides some early conflict for the series. In future episodes, Nick’s character can hopefully expand into more than an accessory, since he lacks a distinct personality unlike most of the main cast.

The pilot moves at a steady pace, allowing for gradual characterization and a more seamless plot. By the end of the episode, the central mystery is fully introduced — and with an eerie cliffhanger. 

A murder mystery set to encompass the season provides viewers with a solid hook. It’s a case of whodunit and the entire main cast are suspects. This should surely provide intrigue in uncovering the overarching mystery as the characters and plots develop.

Still, “Nancy Drew” stumbles at times. The relationship between Nancy’s father and his late wife’s friend Detective Karen Hart (Alvina August) is too convoluted to introduce in the pilot, and only makes both characters start off on an unlikeable and confusing note. 

The show would benefit from a somewhat lighter tone, as it was often too serious for its campy nature. While the atmosphere shouldn’t be bogged down by too much humor, some lighter moments would allow for a livelier and less monotonous show.

Despite its misgivings, there’s a level of comfort in the show’s mundane small town setting. It seems like a place away from the world, where mysteries lurk behind every corner and urban legends simply come with the turf. Reminiscent of reading a “Goosebumps” novel with a flashlight, “Nancy Drew” is fall nostalgia in television form.

“Nancy Drew” lives up to the source material in a well-written and gorgeously directed pilot episode that sets viewers up for an exciting mystery series. It’s a boisterously stylized drama that captures a spooky atmosphere and small town feel perfect for this Halloween season.

“Nancy Drew” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.

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