Nancy Drew Episode 5 Review: The Case of the Wayward Spirit

TV

This Nancy Drew review contains spoilers.

Nancy Drew Episode 5

Given how many dead people keep turning up in Horsehoe Bay, you’d think its citizens might be a little more prepared in general to deal with things like ghostly possessions and/or angry spirits. Alas, that is most definitely not the case on this week’s episode of Nancy Drew, as a dead woman not only manages to possess George, but parade around a fancy charity gala virtually unimpeded.

Get it together, town. At least put some salt out at these things. (We’ve all seen Supernatural. We know what to do.)

“The Case of the Wayward Sprit” is definitely much weirder than the episodes that have come before it. (Which, admittedly, is kind of saying something for this show.) It structures itself around not just the idea that ghosts are real, but that one of them is actively attempting to take over George’s body and is a definite threat to her life. And the show wears that difference rather poorly.

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Prior to this moment, Nancy Drew has been pretty great at balance. Sure, there were still ghosts and supernatural spooks, and the show still acknowledged that these were things that were real, but these plot points were balanced by more normal and character-driven story developments.

Plus, the hauntings have generally been limited to jump scares and smaller, more negligible forms of creepiness. Unexplained mists. A woman who arrives and disappears in a mysterious storm. Flickering lights, failing electricity, and screens that explode for no reason.

This week… not so much.

Here, we literally watch the Drew Crew stage what is basically an exorcism, in a campy, dramatic sequence that involves George’s mother, Chinese chant, incense and body horror. If Nancy Drew spends its first four episodes carefully treading the line between mystery series and outright ghost story, well. This one blows right past it and doesn’t look back.

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On paper, the idea that George is possessed by the ghost of dead socialite Tiffany Hudson sort of makes sense. (Sort of.) Victoria told us last week that new ghosts – i.e. the souls of the recently dead – can have difficulty understanding that their dead or how to move on. And Tiffany is…well, let’s say definitely having trouble moving on. And the episode does feature some genuine creepy scenes – including its opening, in which Tiffany forces George to break into the Hudson home and write on the bathroom mirror in her own blood to her sudden and a scene in which she aggressively scratches through George’s face in every photo.

Yet something about the episode ends up feeling uneven. Perhaps it shines a light a bit too brightly on the idea of ghost possession, plopping it right down in the center of the episode rather than allowing it to exist on the periphery of the story, as most of the other overtly supernatural sequences have done. Maybe It requires too much in the way of suspension of disbelief. After all, if someone’s possessed by an angry spirit and needs to stay calm, taking that angry spirit into a high stress work environment full of people the dead person knew seems like…less than the smartest idea.

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“The Case of the Wayward Spirit” does turn out to be a nice showcase for actress Leah Lewis, who gets the chance to play both George and Tiffany over the course of the hour, and explore a bit more of what makes both characters tick. Allowing Tiffany the chance to exist as a real person again for a moment, rather than simply as the designated Dead Girl of this story, is also a nice touch, and gives the character the chance to reclaim a little bit of the agency and humanity she’s lost in the wake of becoming the series’ Main Murder Victim. (Though part of me does wish she’d just gone ahead and stabbed Ryan. He’s so useless.)

As the daughter of the designated “town screw-up”, George’s relationship with her mother already seems particularly fraught, and that’s before you throw in Victoria’s drinking, the family’s struggling financial situation and the responsibility for her younger siblings on top of the whole possession thing. Yet despite all her flaws, Victoria still holds it together long enough to show up and fight for the daughter who insists she wants nothing to do with her, all of which indicates that there’s probably more of this story than we currently know.

In the episode’s final moments, it feels as though the story gets back to something like what we expected, as Nick and Ace access Tiffany’s secret flash drive full of corporate espionage documents, Bess successfully lands a date with Lisbeth, and Nancy returns to digging up secrets about Dead Lucy. (Literally, in this particular instance.) The arrival of new hottie Owen Marvin also promises future intrigue, as he clearly dislikes Ryan, fancies Nancy and doesn’t care that he’s making Nick real jealous at the same time. Oh, and speaking of Ryan, he sure does have connections to a lot of dead girls, and Dead Lucy definitely wants Nancy to know about it.

And all of this sounds great – just as long as no one else gets possessed, okay?

Nancy Drew airs Wednesdays on The CW. You can find out more about it here.

Lacy Baugher is a digital producer by day, but a television enthusiast pretty much all the time. Her writing has been featured in Paste Magazine, Collider, IGN, SyFyWire and elsewhere. Literally always looking for someone to yell about Doctor Who and/or the CW superhero properties with, you can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.

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