So far this season, George is sharing her body with Odette LaMar’s ghost, Nancy has confused feelings about being a Hudson, Ace has finally met his long-lost half brother…and that’s just the beginning of what’s been going on with the Drew Crew. Spoilers ahead!
The Beacon of Moonstone Island
In this episode of Nancy Drew, our titular heroine is caught in a grey area—one we never thought she’d struggle with. As with so many storylines this season, identity is a key factor. And who is Nancy now that she was willing to make a deal with Celia Hudson that directly results in Everett Hudson not facing justice?
The day after the events of “The Trail of the Missing Witness” Nancy is feeling conflicted. She is certain that her actions were justifiable given that they saved Ace’s life. And yet, how many Hudsons can be good Hudsons? It’s clear that her biological father Ryan wants to make amends and work on being a better person…his parents, however? They’re pretty much the definition of WASPy corruption and villainy. Nancy tries to talk to Ace about the decision she made, feeling both defensive and guilty, but they don’t get too far in the conversation because (*cue awkward turtle gif*) they are both sleeping with one of the Bobbsey twins and run into each other the morning after… It goes without saying that Ace is jealous of Gil and Nancy is jealous of Amanda, even though neither one will admit it.
Nancy does know one thing for sure—her reputation in the wake of recanting her testimony is at stake, and she needs to work hard to prove to the community that she is not just a good mystery-solver…she’s trustworthy. Remembering that a boat was recently wrecked off the coast of Moonstone Island due to a mysterious blinding light, she gets a ride from Amanda and Ace to explore the abandoned bit of land off the coast of Horseshoe Bay. But instead of finding a haunted lighthouse, they discover a teenaged girl who has been living alone. She calls herself Birdie, but her name is actually Elizabeth—and she is the only survivor of a tragic boat trip from five years ago.
The Drew Crew can’t understand how she could have made it on her own all that time, until they realize that Birdie is never truly by herself. She appears to be haunted by beings she calls Fire Souls. The crew gets online and quickly discovers that the waters surrounding the island have been home to strange shipwrecks since the war of 1812: shipwrecks likely caused by the angry ghosts of a group of pirates-turned-soldiers who were killed by enemy fire aboard their own ship. Convinced that the so-called Fire Souls are evil and caused the accident that killed Birdie’s parents, Nancy talks the girl into doing a ritual that will trap the spirits in a bottle and free her from their influence. Birdie does as she is bid, but is obviously confused and unhappy, believing that the Fire Souls took care of her and love her.
Nancy reunites Elizabeth with her grandmother and uncle, only to realize that the girl was right all along—the Fire Souls might have done evil things before, but they rescued her from the shipwreck and protected her from as much harm as they could. And the real source of the accident? Purposefully faulty boat repairs on behalf of her uncle, who wanted to be rid of his brother prying into his shady business affairs. With the real culprit behind bars and Birdie safe with her grandmother, Nancy feels a modicum of relief when it comes to her reputation. But as far as identity and human motivation goes? There’s so much more than just black and white, and if anything this is more confusing to her. She begins to wonder more seriously if Celia Hudson might be learning to love her as a grandmother despite asking her to recant her testimony. Is Nancy being swayed because she desperately seeks the love of a mother figure? Or is it possible that she’s more of a Hudson than she wants to admit? Either way, Carson, Nick, and Ryan are immediately concerned about her supposed change of heart, thinking that they may have lost her in the fight to bring the Hudson empire to its knees.
The Siege of the Unseen Specter
This season, the writers of Nancy Drew have not been shy about including storylines that deal both directly and subtly with racism. “The Siege of the Unseen Specter” firmly falls into that direct category when Nancy and a handful of others are locked in the police station at the behest of a distant hostage-taker who demands that Nancy solve the murder of Dolores Barrett. According to the person, who is watching them on camera and is only known as The Arbiter, the murderer is one of the people in the station—and the longer it takes Nancy to solve the mystery, the worse the outcome will be. The Arbiter has locked and electrified the doors, frozen the computer system, and jammed everyone’s cell phones so that no one can call for help. Oh, and Dolores Barrett? She was a Black woman who went missing the same week that Nancy solved her first big public case.
Nick, who happens to be at the police station completely by accident, is quick to understand the importance of what Nancy must do. Dolores’s story isn’t just another cold case: when she went missing, the media and the police were completely focused on Nancy and Rose Turnbull (“The Hidden Staircase”)—but if Dolores had been a white woman, the odds that people would have worked harder to find out what happened to her would likely be higher.
Nancy questions the suspects as quickly as she can, and realizes that not everyone is telling the truth. Most of their stories don’t match up, like the fact that the last man to see Dolores alive wasn’t a stranger but her boyfriend, and that Ryan remembers walking home at midnight from the police station after a DUI arrest but the official records say he was released the following morning. In the midst of Carson, Bess, and George trying to break in to help, the facts begin to reveal themselves with a bit of paper—in the evidence box, Tamura found an pen imprint on a notepad where the top page was torn out. The imprint reveals that on the night Dolores went missing, an earring matching the one she’s wearing in her photograph was discovered at the station. Realizing that Dolores was there on the night she died, and likely in custody of the police officers, Nancy doubles her efforts to solve the case.
The ugly truth about what really happened to Dolores isn’t surprising to Nick, who as a Black man understands inherently the fear she must have felt. Dolores wasn’t drunk, as the records indicated, but upset after a fight with the man she was dating. On her way out of a parking lot, she accidentally bumped her car into Mitzi, one of the women trapped in the station with them. She offered to pay Mitzi in cash, but Mitzi refused. Instead, once Dolores drove away, she called the cops to tell them that she thought Dolores was a drug dealer. The current Councilman Fraser, who was a police officer back in 2013, pulled Dolores over based on Mitzi’s tip and arrested her. In the process, he banged her head against the car and caused internal bleeding. Later, at the station, Officer Hampton did nothing to help Dolores even though she was crying out in pain. The internal injury caused a seizure, which killed her—and instead of doing the right thing, Fraser and Hampton panicked. They released Ryan early, so that he wouldn’t witness anything, and planted Dolores’s body back into her car which they sent flying over the edge of a ravine, where it wasn’t discovered until months later.
In a bit of dialogue that is sadly all-too-familiar these days, Fraser defends himself by saying that it was all an accident: he didn’t mean to be rough with Dolores, but she was resisting arrest so he was justified in using unnecessary force. Nick steps in and says that of course she resisted—she was a terrified, innocent Black civilian. “We’re always terrified,” he explains sadly.
After the Arbiter is satisfied and lets them go, Nancy has a hunch as to who the remote hostage-taker was. She visits the church and speaks to the reverend in the confessional booth, uncovering that the reverend was close to Dolores’s family. When Dolores’s mother died the week before, the reverend became determined to find out the truth in her memory, and rigged the police station with new cameras and other tech in order to force a confession from the witnesses. Understanding, Nancy agrees to keep the reverend’s secret in honor of Dolores. Before she leaves, though, the reverend asks Nancy why she recanted her testimony. Nancy, who has been struggling with her decision since the previous episode, says that she isn’t even sure anymore. People’s choices tell the world who they are, the reverend reminds her. “What will yours say about you?”
Later that night, during a small birthday gathering for Nancy, she leaves the dinner to go upstairs. In her bedroom, she breaks down crying before angrily ripping the news clippings and reports of her solved mysteries off the wall. In their stead, she writes a new note to herself: “Everett — Justice.”
What we’ve learned so far
Nancy knows what she has to do. Though she took a chance to save Ace’s life (because hello, they aren’t just friends, they are obviously endgame), she now must balance the scales by undoing the damage recanting her testimony caused. The events of the last two episodes, especially the unsolved murder of Dolores Barrett, reminded Nancy that Everett isn’t just a rich man—he is at the heart of the murders of those aboard the Bonny Scot. And just like she couldn’t let Birdie’s uncle or Councilman Fraser get away with murder, no matter how many years later, she can’t allow her grandfather to escape justice either. Earlier, she told Nick that she was still on their side and could use her new status as a Hudson to infiltrate from the inside. But what were previously words said in self-preservation may now launch us into the final arc of the season.
In the background of these episodes, George and Bess were struggling with their own issues thanks to Odette. Co-existing in one body isn’t going to work, and while George is starting to feel badly for the lost spirit she also wants to live her own full life; a feeling that intensifies after she speaks with the ghost of her late Aunt Mei (temporarily inhabiting Ace’s body) who tells her that she has done a great job raising her siblings and becoming an independent woman. However, her lifeline is becoming dangerously intertwined with Odette’s and they must be separated, or the consequences could be dire. After Mei leaves, Ace tells George that he overhead the conversation. She swears him to secrecy, as she doesn’t want to bring down Nancy’s birthday celebration. How they will manage to move Odette into a peaceful afterlife is beyond me, but they will certainly address it as the second biggest storyline before the season comes to a close.
Oh, and by the way, next week we meet Tom Swift! Drew-niverse, anyone?
Until next time, sleuths.