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Nancy Drew Review: Veronica Mars, but Make It Supernatural

Welcome to Horseshoe Bay

Amanda Bell

It's already been thoroughly established that the new Nancy Drew series is not going to be as innocent as the beloved little mystery novels that kept generations of kids turning pages far too late into the night. This Nancy Drew (portrayed by Kennedy McMann) doesn't fancy herself a do-gooder, and when we meet her in the pilot, she doesn't even want to do what she's good at, which is solving all kinds of crimes in her hometown of Horseshoe Bay. As a child, she once sprung into action and saved a little girl's life, but in her newfound adulthood, she can't be bothered to even try anymore.

See, Nancy's mother's sudden illness and death drew her away from the crime-solving game some time ago -- and led to an incredibly strained relationship with her father Carson (Scott Wolf). She feels bitter about everything and everyone in her seaside hometown, except her secret lover Ned "Nick" Nickerson (Tunji Kasim), whom she still keeps hidden from the rest of her world. Instead of going away to her dream college, the 18-year-old works as a waitress at a diner which also employs her childhood nemesis George Fan (Leah Lewis), a down-on-her-luck former socialite Bess Marvin (Maddison Jaizani), and an exhausting burnout named Ace (Alex Saxon). She's disappointed, she's tired, and more importantly, she's pissed.

Kennedy McMann, Nancy Drew

Kennedy McMann, Nancy Drew

Dean Buscher/The CW

Things change for her quite suddenly when a murder occurs in the diner's parking lot. As much as she might like to keep her investigatory interests at bay, Nancy can't help but be curious about the case, and she gets to work.

Here's where the bevy of similarities to Veronica Mars start to trickle in -- Nancy doesn't hesitate to hop a fence or help herself to some potential evidence, and, hey, she's even got beef with the town's chief of police. Unlike Neptune's superstar private eye, though, Nancy's not quite as much of a brainiac; it takes her an entire day to remember that she just so happened to record the attack on her phone. Huh? What she then does with it is bound to give your palm an itch to meet face.

Leah Lewis, Tunji Kasim, Kennedy McMann, Maddison Jaizani, and Alex Saxon, Nancy Drew

Leah Lewis, Tunji Kasim, Kennedy McMann, Maddison Jaizani, and Alex Saxon, Nancy Drew

The CW

Nancy Drew's pilot has some hokey moments, for sure, but there are two things that seem poised to keep this show from being humdrum. First, there's a supernatural element that looms large over the entire town -- in the pilot alone, we see the newly-crowned "sea queen" (a little girl who gets dolled up and does a little ceremony in a graveyard) disappear without a trace and a super creepy seance ritual at play. Second, while Nancy is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get-style protagonist, the people around her are a lot less honest than they seem. The final few minutes of the pilot alone present a montage with such juicy little character revelations that we're left to question everything we've just learned about all of these people. No doubt, Nancy Drew will get to the bottom of it -- eventually.

This grown-up re-imagination of the teen detective series fits right in the The CW's mold of shows with a gloomy small-town atmosphere and a broody, reluctant hero with a tragic history at the center (see also: Pretty Little Liars, Riverdale). If you're looking for a show that combines that signature mood with a friendly poltergeist element, well, this oughta do it.

TV Guide Rating: 3.5/5

Nancy Drew premieres Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 9/8c on The CW.

(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of CBS Corporation.)

Leah Lewis, Maddison Jaizani, Kennedy McMann, Nancy Drew

Leah Lewis, Maddison Jaizani, Kennedy McMann, Nancy Drew

Robert Falconer/The CW