What happens when The CW’s Nancy Drew meets Saw? You get “The Siege of the Unseen Specter,” a confined and thrilling bottle episode that pushes its characters to solve the main mystery in a short amount of time. Sometimes a captivating case doesn’t need multiple locations or a supernatural demon pulling the strings to draw us in. Give us a juicy mystery, a cast of suspicious characters, and a connecting web of clues to keep us entertained. “The Siege of the Unseen Specter” hit it out of the park on all fronts!
The case surrounding the disappearance of Dolores drew on many horror movie elements to frame its narrative, specifically that of the Saw series. When The Arbiter spoke over the intercom, it brought back that nostalgic feeling of hearing Jigsaw push his victims to complete his little game. (Come on, you were expecting Billy the Puppet to appear over a TV screen too!) Elements like the countdown, the threats of death, and the random traps of water and electricity could’ve been pulled right from the setting of a Jigsaw game. But, Nancy Drew is on broadcast, so the threat level wasn’t going to be too high of a cost. Detective Tamura being the first victim of the electric door trap nicely set the tone that The Arbiter seemed like they would kill, but they probably would only harm to achieve their ultimate goal.
The pace of the mystery was interesting because Nancy, Nick, and Ryan making their way through the small pieces ultimately led to the big revelation. Deducing Dolores’ murderer wasn’t an instance of it being a supernatural occurrence or a left-field reveal that miraculously pulled the pieces together. Nancy Drew has fallen victim to this in the past, like with “The Beacon of Moonstone Island.” Viewers were given the same pieces of evidence, along with the suspects right up front for who could’ve been involved in the disappearance. This method can’t happen with every mystery, but it was a nice change of pace to be in step with the Drew Crew to solve the case ourselves.
The police officers being at fault for Dolores’ death complemented the reveal of The Arbiter. I’m glad it wasn’t an instance of an officer confessing to the Reverend and them not being able to reveal it, so they had to create an elaborate ruse to get them caught. That trope can only go so far in the believability realm, especially when the Reverend was helping Dolores’ mother. Having the Reverend know someone at the police station caused the death (and not whom) allowed the Drew Crew to work through the case organically and draw the right conclusions.
Ryan, the ex-boyfriend reporter, and the realtor couldn’t have caused Dolores’ death due to the sheer fact that Dolores was last scene at the police station. All three could easily be removed as suspects. Nick had nothing to do with the case and Nancy was only dragged into it to solve the disappearance. The only plausible suspects left were the retired officer and the current police officer. Having them both involved in a cover-up was a great twist because it exposed a secret and expanded the reveal to more than one person. Though, the reporting officer should’ve gone to the team about the accidental death; her superior ordered her to do nothing. The majority of fault fell on his shoulders, not hers, especially since he caused the brain injury. She implicated herself more so by covering it up and hiding the body.
“The Siege of the Unseen Specter” included themes of racism and police brutality surrounding the case. Even in the small quiet town of Horseshoe Bay, prejudices and racial biases affect its citizens, and the police playing a part in how Dolores ultimately was murdered showcased that Horseshoe Bay was no exception. Dolores would still be alive today if Mitzi hadn’t called the police and the officers had treated Dolores with respect. The approach fit the tone of the story and connected seamlessly with the narrative.
Where “The Siege of the Unseen Specter” also succeeded was how the tale connected to the overall plot of Nancy Drew and its affect on Nancy. Dolores’ case connected back to both big and small moments from the series, like Nancy’s iconic case of the hidden staircase. She saved the day there, but it took attention away from solving Dolores’ case. It’s great when Nancy Drew ties the pieces together and builds its world; a trip to the past expanded the universe within Horseshoe Bay. And, it gave Nancy the clarity to face the consequences of recanting her story and helping Everett Hudson. Her reputation took a big hit, but overall, Nancy can now start reclaiming who she is as a person and determine who she wants to be.
Separate from the main case was the side-story of Ace being possessed by George’s dead great aunt. This C-plot was pleasant and it didn’t take attention away from the main story. Ace being possessed served more as a tool to give George some reassurance and setting a timeframe for getting Odette to leave. Odette couldn’t wait around for Mary’s spirit forever, and regardless of her improving George’s life, there was harm for George harboring the spirit.
George and the Drew Crew needed the reminder that Odette had to go or else George’s life could be eliminated permanently. Though, now the big question is whether or not Odette will leave willingly? Mary had a long life without Odette, so she’s not coming back to reunite with her former flame. Odette may change her tune if she isn’t ready to go.
“The Siege of the Unseen Specter” was a thrilling and fun bottle episode. The main mystery was strong enough to carry much of the episode and included a few twists and turns to keep us on our toes. The side-plot didn’t take away from the main attention; instead, the possession provided a few laughs and developments that were needed for the progression. Out of the many great Nancy Drew mysteries, this case at the police station will be one to remember.
Nancy Drew airs new episodes Wednesdays at 9 p.m. EST on The CW and streams Thursdays on cwtv.com.