So far this season, the Drew Crew is trying to outsmart the Aglaeca, Nancy is on tenuous footing with her father(s), and in episodes 2.02 and 2.03 they delve deeper into the mystery of saving their own skins…or rather, how impossible it is to defeat an ancient, angry sea spirit. Spoilers ahead!
“The Reunion of Lost Souls”
The second episode of season two hinges on a sea shanty, and isn’t that the most 2021 thing you’ve heard yet?
Nancy and the gang are desperate to find a way out of their deal with the Aglaeca before it’s too late. Hannah from the Historical Society gives them a hand with research, and they uncover that the sea shanty clue is real…only, it was recorded on a vinyl record which was then lost. The ensuing hunt for the record reveals a deeper puzzle—who is the guy named Johnny Mac who supposedly took the record back in 1975, and then died of strange circumstances?
It quickly becomes apparent that Mac is a ghost…and one that Nick has seen before. Mac becomes attached to Nick, asking him if he can get him a drink and inquiring after the record. When he doesn’t get the answers he wants from Nick (who he has mistaken for a bartender he knew named Buddy), he destroys the objects around him and leaves dark bruises on Nick’s neck and wrists. The Drew Crew surmises that Mac must not have had the record with him when he died, since he is constantly asking for its whereabouts. Did he give it to Buddy for safekeeping, or did Buddy steal it as payment for Mac’s hefty bar tab?
Some more digging reveals the existence of the place where Mac not only grew up, but later squatted as a young adult—an orphanage named Fernwood. Nancy leads the crew on an investigation in the abandoned house, where they uncover not the record but a skeleton. They also find a photograph of Mac alongside some other people and realize the horrible but intriguing truth: Mac and his circle of friends called upon the Aglaeca together and were all killed by her when they couldn’t pay her toll. The catch? The number of people in the photo doesn’t add up to the number of bodies reported found. Did the person named AJ, whose face is out of frame, escape the Aglaeca? Or was his body just never located? When they call the police about the skeleton, Detective Tamura is an asshole as per usual. But he seems to know more than he is letting on about this case.
With only one place left to look for the record, Nancy and co rent out the bar that Mac used to frequent and where Buddy worked so that they can search the place from top to bottom. Lo and behold, Buddy had hidden Mac’s record in the most logical place—the jukebox. When Nancy plays the sea shanty, Mac’s ghost is joined by his friends, all of them perfect images of what they looked like before they died. Hearing the song together seems to break the infinite cycle they’ve been trapped in for decades, and their spirits melt away into nothing. Notably absent? AJ’s ghost.
Upon closer listening to the song, Ace is able to isolate a set of vocals in French. As the voice isn’t part of the actual recording, the group realizes that the Aglaeca has haunted the song about her life: “Hear the truth, I was no man’s wife,” she explains. The sea shanty itself recounts the story of wealthy French heiress Odette LaMar, her short marriage to one Captain Marvin (that’s right, Bess’s ancestor), and how she died of consumption before they reached land, but the Aglaeca’s voice tells a different story. From her underlying song, they learn the reason for her vicious, vengeful nature—she was tricked into joining Captain Marvin at sea, her fortune was stolen, and she was executed aboard ship. And most importantly? She will kill those who cannot pay her toll after exactly seven days.
The Drew Crew has just three days left.
“The Secret of the Solitary Scribe”
Picking up immediately where the last episode left off, we see that our fearless detectives are all dealing with their looming deaths differently. George wants Nick to find a more permanent place to stay, insisting that this is her message to the Aglaeca—life will go on. Bess has thrown herself into more research than anyone thought she was capable of and has a theory that if they throw Lucy Sable’s bones back into the sea that might slake the Aglaeca’s thirst. Ace decides to spend more time with his father, even though he has basically double-booked himself with the Drew Crew. And Nancy? She is determined to track down AJ, the lone survivor of the Aglaeca’s wrath from the previous episode. After all, if he slipped through the spirit’s fingers, they can too, right?
But of course, it’s not that simple. Nancy learns from Carson that the AJ who was friends with Mac is in fact AJ Crane, a renowned horror novelist who has lived as a recluse for decades. Carson used to be his lawyer and says he’ll take Nancy to AJ’s secluded cabin—understandably, Carson is hoping for the chance to reconnect with the girl he still views as his daughter, but while Nancy takes him up on the offer for a ride she is resolute in not wanting any chit-chat…especially the kind that might lead to an emotional heart-to-heart.
AJ is exactly how Carson described: eccentric and prickly. But Nancy can see why…he’s still being haunted or hunted or some combination of the two. When she asks for his help, AJ says that she’s on her own. Before he can explain, a torrential wind blows through his house and he ushers Carson and Nancy outside. Nancy steals a small talisman that she saw hanging on his front porch, thinking that it might provide some protection. What she doesn’t see are the sets of hands and limbs trying to pull AJ through his own floorboards, and the Aglaeca watching him from a distance.
While Nancy is trying to decipher what the talisman does, Ace sneaks into the police station to retrieve the missing piece of Lucy’s skull that the crew knows Detective Tamura took from the Claw (back in season one)—after all, if they can convince Nancy to give her mother’s remains back to the Aglaeca, they will need every piece. He finds the shard of bone not logged in evidence but hidden in a lunch box in Tamura’s desk. Moments later, he runs into his father, Tom, who invites him to Shabbat dinner. Ace agrees to join him, even though his friends are expecting him. Later at dinner, Ace is shocked to see Tamura there as Tom’s guest. The detective insinuates that he knows Ace stole the bone from his desk, but Tom refuses to allow Tamura to search the house sans warrant.
In the meantime, Nancy has experienced the same phenomenon that we saw at AJ’s cabin. Hannah tells her that it was a mistake to take the talisman because it doesn’t repel ghosts—it attracts them. Before Nancy can do anything against the onslaught of spirits, AJ bursts into the house and hides her under the table. The din subsides just as Tamura shows up and arrests AJ for breaking and entering. Nancy is upset and suspicious once again that Tamura is up to something.
Using her connection to Ryan, Nancy gets into the jail to give AJ his talisman back. He confesses the truth behind everything, revealing that in 1975 he and his friends had accidentally caused a car accident wherein a little girl almost died. They summoned the Aglaeca and asked that she spare the child’s life. But after the spirit killed his friends, AJ started looking for anything that could help him—the only thing that worked was the talisman. When he is being overwhelmed by malevolent ghosts, the Aglaeca can’t come too close. Oh, and the little girl? She grew up to be Hannah, the same woman from the Historical Society who has been helping the Drew Crew.
Nancy ultimately decides to give the bones back to the Aglaeca, which appears to work at first. But after getting back to the Claw (after saving Hannah’s life from an escaped AJ’s half-hearted attempt to reverse the Aglaeca’s curse by killing her the way she would have originally died), they find the restaurant cluttered with Lucy’s remains and seaweed—an obvious f*** you from Odette LaMar. Around the same time, they learn that AJ has been finally killed after years of narrow evasion and torment. With time still running out, Nancy asks Carson and Ryan to help her bury her mother’s bones. The next day, the Drew Crew buries something else; AJ’s talisman. At his cabin, they locate a potential boon—a half-made dybbuk box that is mean to trap evil spirits. With only hours left and nothing to lose (except their lives of course), they take the box and AJ’s notes with them.
What we’ve learned so far
Things seem pretty grim for Nancy and her friends. But the secondary storylines are just as important as what’s happening with the Aglaeca. In 2.02 we meet Nick’s mother Millicent and get just a glimpse of what it’s like for a Black mother to worry for her son’s life. In 2.03, we get more screentime with Tom than we’ve had in a while, and can we please have more d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing characters on television? We also learn more about how George views the world, but desperately wants to be happy with someone like Nick—even in the face of certain death.
And at the heart of it all is Nancy’s internal struggle with her own identity and what she should do with the whole “I now have two dads and I’m pissed at them both” situation. Asking both of them to help her bury Lucy’s bones was a huge step forward, although it won’t magically fix their deep-seated issues. But Nancy finally seems willing to try—partly because Ace encouraged her to talk to Carson before it’s too late, but also because of something AJ told her before he died.
“You can’t avoid the monster when it’s you,” he said. Of course, he was talking specifically about the years he spent trying to hide from the Aglaeca when really, deep down, he still thought of himself as a monster for the car accident that started the whole thing. I would wager than this stuck with Nancy. If she goes to her death without at least trying to make up with Carson or understand Ryan, then who is the monster? Will she able move on peacefully after death if her spirit is troubled?
So what comes next when it’s a double race against the clock—one for your life, and the other for your own peace of mind?
Until next week, sleuths.