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Review: The CW’s Nancy Drew pilot is packed with spooky promise

While some things don't quite work, the series fills your scary fix.

The CW is back with another small-town series, this time with Nancy Drew as the lead. She’s the female detective who inspired several of the hit series we love today, like Riverdale and Veronica Mars. Several critics are calling the new show, “Veronica Mars, but with ghosts”, and the Nancy Drew pilot is a promising episode that could make this angle work.

Newcomer Kennedy McMann plays Nancy Drew, who’s having a gap year after high school, following the tragic death of her mother. She’s a waitress at a diner, joined by a group of kids the same age she: fast-talking-diner-manager George Fan (Leah Lewis), shallow rich-girl Bess Marvin (Maddison Jaizani), and skater-boy dishwasher Ace (Alex Saxon). Her booty call (yep, you read that right) is Ned “Nick” Nickerson (Tunji Kasim), and while the actor delivers a great performance as Nancy’s would-be boyfriend, the two’s chemistry needs some kindling.

While the pilot’s intriguing, there are several moments that require more thought than should be expected from the viewer. Like the Scooby Gang, for example. The cast of unlikeables puts out a vibe that’s hard to pin down. Are we supposed to love this rag-tag group of “friends”? Are we not? The washy dynamic of these characters makes the mystery the pilot’s centered around tough to follow. The awkwardness is topped with a few tropes the series doesn’t need to showcase, as Hollywood Reporter points out, “everyone’s a suspect!” Nancy should also be above the tired “I freeze in a group of teens, but I’ll break into anywhere solo in the middle of the night” trope.

Tropes aside, McMann is thoroughly enjoyable to watch as Nancy. When Nancy’s on the case, she shines. So when Nancy seems to get the help she needs from her “friends” and is put off, it doesn’t work. Nancy is the detective that stops at nothing to solve the crime. It would make more sense for Nancy to say, “you can help solve the case, but stay out of my way”, versus clamping up during a voiceover, then reluctantly agreeing to have her coworkers jump in on the crime-solving.

While we’re talking voiceovers… I get it’s a part of the schtick of the show, but I can’t help but think the dialogue would pack a bigger punch if it came out of Nancy’s mouth versus her head. McMann shines, so let her portrayal of the beloved detective show us what she’s thinking.

Let’s round out this review with what really works in this series: when things get spooky. The last minute of the pilot episode had me pushed into my couch cushion, in an awesome way—the way viewers are intended to be. Did it make up for the convoluted 42 minutes preceding? Maybe. Honestly, the pilot had a ton of intentional moments, moments that will have us going “ahhhh… so that’s what that was for”, three episodes from now. That’s exciting, and it’s worth sticking with the show for.

Nancy Drew airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW, premiering Oct. 9.

Featured image: The CW

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Liz Prugh

Liz is the co-founder of PureFandom.com, an always aspiring #fiercefemale, and loves geeking out over anything and all sci-fi. She believes Luke Skywalker is the most underrated Jedi and has spent an embarrassing number of hours theorizing about 'Game of Thrones'. She hosts several Pure Fandom podcasts on Game of Thrones, Marvel, and Star Wars. Nerd out with her on Twitter @lizprugh.

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