Wednesday, October 9, 2019

REVIEW: 'Nancy Drew' - Nancy Becomes a Murder Suspect Alongside Several of Her Co-Workers in 'Pilot'

The CW's Nancy Drew - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

Nancy Drew is a brilliant teenage detective whose sense of self had come from solving mysteries in her hometown of Horseshoe Bay, Maine - until her mother's untimely death derails her college plans. When a socialite is murdered, Nancy finds herself a prime suspect in the crime, along with a group of other teens present at the scene. When a supernatural presence begins to haunt Nancy's investigation, she discovers that the current crime has an astonishing connection to the long unsolved murder of a local girl.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of The CW's Nancy Drew.

"Pilot" was written by Noga Landau, Josh Schwartz & Stephanie Savage and directed by Larry Teng

This premiere is very heavy on establishing mood and tone. It's big on the mystery of the proceedings even though that largely comes at the expense of the individual characters. It feels extremely front-loaded to an extent. The narrative wants the audience to know that every single one of these characters has secrets and a possible motivation to kill. Plus, there are supernatural elements that could signal something more mystical happening in this world. It's not based on anything previously established in the Nancy Drew canon either. This property has been mined extensively in the hopes of creating a television show. Over the past few years, it has seemed like all of the broadcast networks have hired writers hoping to crack the right formula. The CW version just happens to be the first to make it to air. It does so by basically proving that it fits right alongside Riverdale. That's the precise tone and stakes this drama is going for in the early going. It wants the drama to be unsettling and mysterious. Of course, the true effectiveness will come from how well the show executes this mystery. Will it be able to keep things engaging over a long period of time where the characters are driving the story forward? Will the resolution be as satisfying? Or will it be completely mystifying because of the ghosts that may be haunting this small town in Maine? The show doesn't have to answer any of these questions right away. It just needs to present an engaging mystery and characters at the heart of it who are desperate to get to the truth. It mostly feels as if Nancy Drew is compelled to investigate this mystery even though she has sworn off this kind of work following her mother's death. And yet, she is basically in limbo in this town. She has graduated from high school but hasn't gone off to college. She is making those plans for a year from now. But there is nothing inherently keeping her grounded in this location beyond this central mystery. Once she becomes a suspect in the murder of a socialite, she can't leave town. Otherwise, the police would put all of their resources into pinning this murder on her. Of course, she doesn't inherently trust the police to get things right either. When she discovers that her phone recorded some of the murder, she doesn't take it to a trusted detective on the force. Instead, she shares it with her fellow suspects at The Claw. They may not be friends but this mystery is determined to bond them together. And yes, this is once again a solid young ensemble that The CW has put together for a new show. They all have secrets to hide though. That is a little overbearing at the end. That final montage showcases that everyone may be guilty of doing some part of this crime. Bess has the ring that was taken from the body. George is having an affair with the widow Ryan Hudson. The deceased testified against Nick in his previous manslaughter case. And Ace is actually informing on his friends to the chief of police. All of these details are compromising and ensure that these tentative friendships will only grow more complicated as the mystery deepens. And then, there is the sense that a ghost has haunted this town since 2000. It's a convenient excuse to give in order to blame the world's problems on someone. However, it truly does seem like something is going on in Nancy's attic. Sure, it presents a damning case against her parents for possibly having something to do with this young girl's disappearance all those years ago. Nancy isn't on the best of terms with her father, who also represented Nick as his lawyer. All of these details need to add up to a little more. It's fun watching Nancy in action as she tries to work the investigation and create her own understanding of the case. Those are just a few fleeting moments on display in this premiere though. The tone will have to be just right in order for all of this to remain engaging in the future. It certainly has the potential to do so though.