The current television landscape is bursting with moody young adult dramas, from the generally straightforward (Dare Me) to the overtly ridiculous ( Riverdale), and a few with supernatural elements thrown on top (Legacies). Yet, somehow, not nearly enough people are talking about one of the best: The CW’s Nancy Drew, which manages to combine elements from all these subgenres into a sparkling, scary whole that somehow manages to feel entirely brand new.
Nancy Drew is an adaptation of Carolyn Keene’s beloved novels in only the loosest sense of the term. It stars an aged-up version of the eponymous sleuthing heroine and packs enough Easter eggs to delight anyone who grew up reading the books. But this show is very much its own thing; it blazes a new path forward even as it acknowledges its literary roots. As season two begins, here are four reasons you should give this new take on the famous sleuth a try.
A modern update on a classic heroine
This may not be the Nancy Drew you remember from Keene’s novels; but this is still an onscreen version of the character that nevertheless feels entirely right. You could draw a line from the Nancy of Keene’s novels to this young woman wiping down tables at local diner The Claw. Reinvented for a modern audience, she’s spunky, whip-smart, and painfully cynical at times. But she’s also thoroughly dedicated to tracking down the truth… perhaps even most especially when that truth really hurts.
Yet this is also a Nancy with dark secrets, real vulnerabilities, and very human flaws. Aged up into a near-twentysomething whose life fell apart in the wake of her mother’s death, she makes poor decisions in everything from men to employment; she has some serious trust issues to boot. Most of all, she struggles to live down the stigma of her past as Horseshoe Bay’s famous girl detective prodigy.
Ghosts are real (and an important part of the story)
Nancy Drew is the rare teen drama that fully leans into the more frightening and supernatural elements of its setting. While Keene’s novels often featured the threat of the otherworldly, these mysteries ultimately had mundane, real-world explanations. (An unlatched window, a nosy neighbor, a cat somewhere it shouldn’t be.) In this Nancy Drew, ghosts and other monstrous spirits are very, very real. (And they’re legitimately frightening most of the time.)
From vengeful sea witches and demons who trade in human souls to wraiths that haunt local state parks every full moon, there are monsters everywhere. The primary mystery of season one revolves around Lucy Sable; this former high school pageant queen’s mysterious fall from the town bluffs has given rise to decades’ worth of nursery rhymes, hauntings, and cautionary tales for unruly young women. Yet Dead Lucy’s true story is one of tragedy and loneliness. The mythologizing of her death is just one of the mysteries surrounding her that Nancy has to unravel… with all too human consequences.
A town full of secrets
The supernatural gushes from the town of Horseshoe Bay, Maine, from the series’ opening moments. Everyday life is full of urban legends, strange traditions, and ghostly rituals. And none of its residents even seem to think any of this is weird. Allegedly founded by a group of settlers blown off course by a vengeful sea spirit, Horseshoe Bay’s residents celebrate Harbor Day by asking that same spirit for a wish. They can only know such was granted if they start bleeding out of their eyes.
Every Sea Queen now leaves their crown on the bluffs where Dead Lucy died; the entire town celebrates the end of summer with a festival that involves placing a bucket of water outside your door and hoping it doesn’t turn to blood overnight. In Nancy Drew, the series’ horror framework is built right into the world around our characters. That makes its stories all the more impactful.
The Drew Crew
Our favorite girl detective can’t solve mysteries all on her own. (It also appears to be something of a CW rule that even seeming one-handers are really ensemble dramas in disguise.) Though Nancy’s band of Horseshoe Bay misfits initially comes together because they’re all suspects in a crime, the relationships that slowly form within the group are charming and natural.
From Nancy’s uneasy truce-turned-genuine bond with George Fan, a former high school classmate she once ignored, to her sweet camaraderie with awkward hacker Ace, our heroine slowly opens up to the idea of being part of something larger than herself. The friendships the group forms outside of Nancy are equally appealing. Ace and Bess’s BFF bond is adorable, and George and Nick’s budding romance will certainly make waves in Season 2.
These are just a few reasons to check out Nancy Drew, which returns to The CW on January 20.