Teen detective Nancy Drew has been around for nearly 90 years, but she’s as popular as ever. Earlier in 2019, the character starred in a feature film—but her Comic-Con presence was all about an unrelated new TV series coming to the CW this fall. And there shouldn’t be any confusing this thoroughly modern Nancy Drew with any previous incarnations.
Thursday’s San Diego Comic-Con panel featured a screening of the first episode, followed by a panel with stars Kennedy McMann (Nancy Drew), Leah Lewis (George), Maddison Jaizani (Bess), Alex Saxon (Ace), and Tunji Kasim (Ned Nickerson, nicknamed “Nick” here), plus executive producers Noga Landau, Melinda Hsu-Taylor, and Stephanie Savage.
Nancy Drew takes liberties with some of the well-known elements from the Carolyn Keene book series—necessary to both update the story as well as make the show fit in with the CW’s other programming, especially Riverdale, whose edgy influence is felt here. The new Nancy hails not from the everytown burg of River Heights, but atmospheric Horseshoe Bay, Maine. While her mother is no longer living in the books, the TV show imagines that Mrs. Drew has recently passed, and the grief from that loss has made Nancy decide to put her detective habits (and her college plans) aside. But where there’s a Nancy Drew, there’s always a crime nobody can solve...and this time, there’s a ghost involved.
The pilot first introduces us to all the main characters via Nancy’s exposition-heavy voice-over, but it also doesn’t waste any time plunging everyone into a major whodunnit. Nancy, George, Bess, and Ace are all frenemies who work together at the Claw, the local diner; Nick, Nancy’s casual boyfriend (who’d like to be her real boyfriend) works across the street repairing boats. Everyone’s in the vicinity when a blackout darkens the town on the night of Horseshoe Bay’s summer festival, and when fireworks light up the sky, Nancy discovers a well-known young socialite has met a grim end in the parking lot.
Somehow, the Horseshoe Bay police assume the kids (except Ace, who has an alibi) are suspects, and we learn throughout the episode (but especially in its last few moments) that practically everyone has a hidden motive. One who does not: Nancy, who just can’t resist falling back into her childhood detective ways. You can’t really blame her, especially when it starts to feel like the murder may have something to do with a juicy, 20-year-old unsolved mystery that’s become something of a local legend, involving a beauty queen who’s supposedly haunted the town ever since her untimely demise.
Nancy Drew is aiming for entertainment over substance, which makes sense given the easy-reading fun of the book series it draws inspiration from. That’s not a ding against it; obviously, this ain’t True Detective, nor is it trying to be, though this version of Nancy Drew is a bit darker than any we’ve seen before. Every character has a secret or two, even the resident ghost, and there’s no doubt Nancy Drew will take its time teasing out everyone’s skeletons while it mulls over the crime that’s anchoring the plot...and works some romance and lighter moments into the proceedings, too.
At the panel that followed the screening, executive producers Noga Landau, Melinda Hsu-Taylor, and Stephanie Savage noted that this version of the character is notable because she’s so complicated. She makes mistakes, and while she’s brave enough to take risks while chasing down clues, she’s also emotionally vulnerable. Her nascent relationship with Nick, and her antagonistic relationship with her father (Freddie Prinze, Jr. played him in the pilot, but Scott Wolf has the part on the series), are both going to be sources of angst, but she’ll also be building friendships with George and the gang as the series moves forward.
The panelists couldn’t reveal too much about what’s to come, but Kennedy McMann (who notes that she was playing Dungeons & Dragons when her agent called her about the role) said that she’d formed a close rapport with Pamela Sue Martin, who played Nancy on the 1970s TV show and will guest star on the CW series. And, since you know you were wondering, here’s what the executive producers said, very teasingly, when asked if the Hardy Boys would also be turning up in Horseshoe Bay: “We shall see.”
Nancy Drew premiers on the CW on October 8.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.