Suspect Everyone. Even the dead.
For now, let’s just dive into this review of Nancy Drew season 2, see how the show improved itself where some new problems crept in and if it’s worth giving it a (binge)watch.
Due to the pandemic shortening Nancy Drewseason 1, season 2 can be split into two parts. The first five episodes tie up the loose ends of that first season while the following 13 is what you might call season 2 proper. As such I will split this review into two parts as well. The first 5 episodes will get their own, smaller, part to start things out with and then I’ll move on to the second half of the season.
Part 1: The Curse of the Aglaeca.
To prevent her father from getting wrongfully convicted for the death of Lucy Sable, a teenager who died around 20 years ago, Nancy her friends make a deal with nefarious sea-spirit the Aglaeca. They hope that by acquiring Lucy’s long-lost bones they can find evidence that acquits Carson Drew. This deal comes with a cost, however, they are now in a race against the clock to save their own lives.
What the first 5 episodes, the Algaeca-arc if you will, does so well and what makes it stand out from the rest of season 2 is its cohesion and its tone. Each episode directly flows into the next one and you can feel the tension building with each instalment. From the Drew-Crew’s (the name the fandom has given to the main characters) attempts at escaping the Aglaeca getting more and more desperate causing the tension to rise each episode as well. And the effects are well done, which keeps the suspension of disbelief alive.
It feels very much like a limited, light-horror series in that way which is not a bad thing. However, it does give these episodes some weird flow. The B-plots dealing with the non-supernatural elements feel out of place. With how these first 5 episodes flow right into the next one ala streaming shows, t also set new viewers (or returning ones). The rest of season 2 has a more episodic, case of the week feel. In that sense, it sets some wrong expectations when it comes to the season’s narrative and the balance between the ‘normal’ stuff and the supernatural.
|Ladies & Gentlemen: the Agleaca. All done through practical effects, might I add!|
Speaking of which…
Part 2: The Haunting of Horeshoe Bay OR The Machinations of Everett Hudson
After dealing with Aglaeca (I mean, if they didn’t there wouldn’t be a show anymore) the Drew-Crew take some well-deserved R&R. Well, mostly everyone. Nancy herself is stuck doing court-ordered communal service at the morgue after her breaking & entering from last season. When Nancy starts to experience supernatural activity around one of the bodies the crew learns that multiple supernatural threats are now on the loose in and around Horseshoe Bay.
This uptick in supernatural activity can’t come at a worse time. Everett Hudson’s trial is nearing and it's going to take everything Ryan, Nancy and her friends have to put him behind bars for good. And stay alive while they're at it.
Compared to the Aglaeca arc, the final 13 episodes in the season are much more standalone. Go case-of-the-week. It’s only until the final handful of instalments that the overarching story starts to come into focus. That previous events from the season come back and tie into each other in a way only Nancy Drew can. This approach has its ups and downs.
On the upside, I enjoyed the variety this brought. Not all of them have a supernatural connection, for starters. Some do and some don’t with the show smartly playing with this to keep you on your toes. A criticism I had with the first season is that we often heard about Nancy’s cases but we never really got to see that as she was so focused on the Tiffany and Lucy cases. Getting to see people ask her for help and take on these, often a bit odd, cases are nice and they can be a lot of fun.
On the downside, it’s not beneficial for the overall flow. You don’t really get a good sense of where the narrative is going. The individual episodes can very much feel like filler at times. The smaller plot lines that run throughout an episode of 3 are well done, but not enough to keep the ‘drive’ going. While the season did circle back to many previous elements, big and small, it did so too late in my opinion. That the final episode is also vastly different from the episode leading up to it didn’t help matters and kept it all from being as satisfying as it could’ve been.
What the show also struggled with a bit in this season is finding the right balance between its main characters. Many shows tend to fall into the pitfall of putting too much weight, too much attention, on its protagonist. Nancy Drew puts in the effort to divide its time and developments between its main characters but doesn’t quite succeed at it if you ask me. Bess gets noticeably less attention and meaty plot-lines than the rest of the Drew-Crew and both Carson and Ryan have quite a few episodes in which they don’t appear at all.
It’s a shame really. The performances of Maddison Jaizani, Scott Wolf and Riley Smith are excellent yet we don’t get to see them pull out the stops all that often as the show doesn’t give them enough opportunity to. Luckily, they are not the only ones that turn in good performances. The entire casts turn in excellent performances, bar some exceptions. Considering how much of the season’s storytelling revolves around the characters, their relationships, the problems they face and their growth, the performances of the cast really is integral in making it all work. And making it work they do.
Not every performance is good though. Finding good child actors is always a challenge for obvious reasons so I’m not going to hold that against the show. What I am going to hold against them is the casting change of Everett Hudson. Andrew Airlie took over the role from Martin Donovan and I’m sorry but I can’t take him seriously in the role. I’m sure that he’s a fine actor but he doesn’t have the same presence, the same menacing aura as Martin Donovan. He’s just not that threatening in the role, which is disappointing considering he’s one of the show’s big-bads and taking him down is such a big focus near the end.
|The two Everett Hudson's. Andrew Airlie is on the right, Martin Donovan on the left. From this image, I can see what the casting department saw in Airlie but in the show itself he doesn't look as 'sharp' as this.|
Nancy Drew’s sophomore outing is an excellent little piece of television. After a somewhat rocky first season, the cast and crew figured out what worked and what didn’t and built on the things that did work. This made for a strong season that left much of the more questionable elements behind even if it introduced some problems of its own.
Even the pandemic seemed to have helped in improving the show. The time in which they couldn’t yet film was used to further improve the scripts and allowed them to better plan out the season.
If you liked Nancy Drew season 1 or not, season 2 is worth giving a shot.