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Entertainment

The Underrated Nancy Drew

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

The CW is known for their teen-angsty YA drama shows, such as Supernatural, 90210, and Riverdale. Whatever opinions people have of these shows, no one can doubt that their audience and fan base are huge.

One of their newer shows is Nancy Drew, based on the book series by Mildred Benson (known under the pen name as Carolyn Keene). While this show is on season three, it’s not one of the network’s more well-known programs, flying with an average 0.08 rating in the 18-49 demographic, around 466,000 viewers. For comparison, Riverdale, the CW’s most popular show received an average 0.39 rating with around 970,000 viewers for season five (TV Series Finale).

With rumors flying about the CW getting sold, there’s a high chance that the show will get canceled. That would be a shame since Nancy Drew is one of the most exciting, well-written, and realistic of the YA shows on the network. And yes, even with ghosts.

Characters and Diversity

The main cast of Nancy Drew consists of the main book characters: George, Bess, Ned (who is now Nick), and of course Nancy herself. Introduced in the pilot is Ace, a new show-specific who joins Nancy in solving mysteries for the town of Horseshoe Bay. 

These five make up the “Drew Crew” (as they are referenced throughout the show).

New characters aren’t the only thing the show takes creative liberties on. Along with character relationships being diverted and the Drew Crew being aged up to their early 20s, diversity was something the CW was strongly pushing. Nick and George are portrayed by actors of color and Bess is a part of the LGBTQ+. 

The writers could’ve kept the diversity points, but instead, they opted to let the characters grow away from cardboard cutouts and subtly comment on the stereotypes they were avoiding. For example, George, who is Asian, isn’t book smart. Rather, she runs a restaurant while taking care of her three younger sisters. Even Nancy, the sleuth, the super-smart girl who solved her first case at eight, missed the college applications and can’t seem to get back on track.

As the characters grow and, naturally, change throughout the two (full) seasons, they become more complex, like people you would meet at a college campus, and less like characters in a T.V show. They react appropriately to the deaths and it doesn’t just go away after an episode, but rather haunts them for the whole season or beyond. The character development doesn’t rely on the plot either, rather working in tangent to the mysteries instead of certain changes in characters happening only when the plot demands it does.

Plot and Stakes

A serialized murder mystery show can be hard to sustain. You could try and keep the big mystery going for multiple seasons, but that can get convoluted pretty quickly. If you solve the big mystery by the end of the season, what comes next? The Nancy Drew writers realized this problem early on and began to set up clues throughout the first season to set up the second and so on. It allows the viewers to wonder what is important, which characters may be coming back, and how on earth it’ll all tie together. 

It also raises the stakes for the characters so the audience doesn’t always expect people to come out of situations alive. More often than not, the characters are put in harm’s way and if they do pull through, they’re normally out for the count in the next few episodes. This gives realistic portrayals of injuries and the mental toll on the characters over time. 

The audience can never rely on the ‘plot armor’ for the main cast, giving way for a sense of urgency and suspense throughout each adventure.  

IP Adaptation

As with much of Hollywood this decade, reboots, remakes, and book adaptations are being churned out by many networks and studios, and Nancy Drew is no exception. Along with the previously mentioned character changes, the show is set in the modern-day and decides to stray away from low-tier criminals, moving into the supernatural.

Yes, this Nancy Drew fights spirits. 

Although the concept sounds vague and very unorthodox compared to the original stories, the themes of the novels are still intact. The struggle between Nancy’s desire to do good at any cost runs deep and is normally the cause of many problems in the first place. How one views justice is another theme at play, shifting from one definition to the nuances brought on by today’s society and culture.

Because of the dark tone, the show also doesn’t shy away from character failure and deaths, something only touched on in the books. There are still episodes, however, that have the lighthearted tone and almost younger tone the books had, mainly when the characters solved smaller mysteries around the town. In these episodes, there are also little easter eggs and references to events from the books.  

For those who love the book series as much as I do, give this a chance. At first, it may seem like just another campy teen show, but it’s much more than that. With its compelling characters, intricate plot, and a clear love for its source material, hopefully, Nancy Drew will be added to the list of iconic CW shows.

Majoring in Philosophy, you'll find Katharine either scrolling through the trivia section on IMDB or yelling at T.V. characters.
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