Time to talk about Nedcy.
Alright. Sea of Darkness is out and many of us have finished it. I have seen a fairly polarizing divide within the fandom regarding Ned in this game. So I’m gonna talk about that (+ the series as a whole.)
It is… pretty clear from my blog that I’m anti-Ned most of the time. I just really dislike him. He irritates me and most of the time I feel like he’s a waste of space. So I know you all were expecting me to dislike his arc in SEA and yeah, well, I do. But it’s a lot more than just my personal character preference. It’s not like I think Ned is absolutely worthless. Like, I ship him with Deirdre and I really like the idea of them as a couple. I feel like Ned might actually be much more entertaining if he and Nancy were just buddies. When they joke around and just act like friends, I’m so much more at ease. And his character becomes infinitely more interesting to me when he’s pitted against anyone but Nancy (for example: when he was a joint phone character with Bess in Ghost of Thornton Hall.) But I hardly ever get to see him interact with ANYONE besides Nancy. When they are one-on-one I am infinitely bored, and 99% of the time, that’s all I get from him.
Part of me thinks that Her Interactive feels stuck in the Nedcy relationship. They kind of just… made him her boyfriend in the original games and didn’t think twice about it. Generally speaking, their relationship is not questioned and it is fairly unchanging. Take Phantom of Venice, for example: Nancy walks around toting this precious locket Ned bought her. Colin obviously has a crush on her but she brushes it off, telling him about her boyfriend and then calling Ned and having boring, amicable discussions with him. This is pretty much how it is for twenty. three. games. We had pleasant, calm, textbook adorable interactions between the two of them. Nothing happens. They just… are.
Until Captive Curse comes along and throws everyone for a loop. Nancy and Ned have… a… fight??!? Couples have arguments? What? Honestly, the argument between Nancy and Ned in CAP makes a lot of sense to me and they resolve it pretty well. The more interesting part of this game, in my opinion, is the introduction of Frank as a possible love interest for Nancy. This is emphasized even more in The Deadly Device. I think they have obvious chemistry. At the very least, the Her Interactive team was toying with Frank having feelings for Nancy. And it’s not a new idea for suspects to be romantically interested in her. Colin in VEN and Dave in SHA both express an interest in Nancy. She’s never been available to reciprocate but what if she was? I’m really in favor of this possibility!! But first we have to look at this Ned situation again.
The Silent Spy is probably the best Nedcy game out there. Again, I’m not massively happy about Ned’s existence but I will concede that their relationship is strong and this is truly the only game where I see them as a couple. They aren’t facing problems like in CAP and SEA, but they aren’t sitting in a static relationship either. Instead I actually feel growth and substance to them as a couple in SPY whereas in the other games I get nothing. I’d be more keen to the idea of Ned and Nancy dating throughout the rest of the series if their relationship was always like this, but it’s not. SPY is–so far–a one-time achievement.
If anything, I am usually noticing details about Nancy and Ned’s relationship that really makes me think they aren’t compatible. Ned tells Nancy in HAU that he literally can’t have fun without her. He depends on her in this weird, unhealthy way. And Nancy is not there for him. Not ever. There have been multiple games where she’s written notes to herself in her journal that she has to remember to call Ned. It’s like… he’s not a priority for her while she is everything to him and I hate that. I hate that so much. It’s not balanced and it’s not normal and it’s not healthy.
It needs to be said that Ned is not Nancy Drew’s boyfriend throughout all the books. I want to make that clear. She dates different guys throughout the original series as well as spin off book series. He’s often her main squeeze, so I understand why Her wrote him as her boyfriend in the games. I get that. At the same time though, it would not be going against book canon if Nancy dated other guys. Not at all. But I feel like Her has dug themselves into a hole.
It’s like… they have kept Ned and Nancy as a couple for so long that it would be weird if Nancy just started things with another dude. If Her wanted Nancy to explore any other dating scenarios, they would have to actually break Nedcy up and I don’t know if they are willing to do that. I think most of the fandom ships the two of them together and if they actually ended things, there would be outrage and rioting, etc etc.
What I’m kind of concerned about is why they are devoting so much attention to their relationship now. The Nedcy arc in SEA was a pretty decent slice of the game, all things considered. I guess I can finally talk about this now. Maybe you thought it was cute. I was profoundly uncomfortable. I think maybe the dysfunction in Nancy and Ned’s relationship is meant to be humorous, but I am always left feeling awful about them. Ned calls Nancy thinking they are about to meet up for an anniversary dinner and she literally forgot. Had no idea it even was their anniversary. She got the call to go to Iceland and left without telling him. If I were dating someone for years and they did this to me, I would be shell shocked, honestly. I would probably need to hang up on them and cry. Missing an anniversary, I can understand, but only if they told me about it in advance. And if I found out–at any point in time, let alone on our anniversary–that my long-term partner had left the country without bothering to tell me about it, I would feel betrayed and unimportant and unloved. That’s so fucked up. I get that it’s a running gag, but… the rest of Ned’s storyline in SEA is (I think) meant to be taken pretty seriously! He calls Nancy repeatedly and is genuinely panicked about talking to her and then gives this huge speech about being in love with her. Everyone who has played the game thought he was going to propose to her.
What the fuck??? Honestly??????
I have so many issues with this entire situation. First of all, Ned is getting hurt by Nancy and he represses it. He brushes it off like it’s no big deal. It is a big deal, Ned. In SPY, Nancy asks him if she’s ever missed a date. He responds, “yes all the time.” (again, oh ha ha ha Nancy is a flaky gf, how funny.) Then she asks “how about something really important to you,” and he says “no.” To me, Nancy has crossed that line now. This was obviously important to Ned and he just pretends it wasn’t. Maybe he was even lying about his answer back in SPY, who knows. Nancy has really fucked up her trust with Ned but he doesn’t really get upset with her. Instead, he does the exact opposite and tries to move their relationship a step forward. This is awkward and sloppy to me. It’s incongruous. And because of that, it doesn’t feel genuine. It doesn’t feel like it’s for the right reasons.
Ned’s speech to Nancy is this painful leap of desperation. It’s like Ned is trying to cover up Nancy’s huge misstep by just HURLING himself over this gap in their relationship and hoping he lands on the other side, effectively covering it all up and putting it behind them. But it doesn’t really work that way. There are so many wrong things about the way Ned interacted with Nancy in this game. He calls her completely on edge and then hangs up on her and won’t answer her when she tries to call him back. Nancy literally thinks someone is threatening him or trying to hurt him. Scaring her and then ignoring her is so manipulative and rude. I’m so angry that he did that to Nancy. He doesn’t even text her something like “I’m fine. Will call later.” When he finally does call her back, then he piles on this huge gesture about how he loves her?
It… I… what…? To me, it felt like he was cornering Nancy into the relationship. Like he experienced a flash of fear that he might be losing her and then felt like he needed to sink his claws into it. I think someone else (Basia maybe?) pointed out that the speech itself was actually pretty sweet, but the circumstances soured it a lot. I agree–I read the stuff he said out of context after I had finished the game, and I didn’t even recognize it. The words themselves were pretty lovely. But I wasn’t paying attention to the dialogue because it was such a weird and painful situation. The way Ned led up to this speech was wrong. The fact that he did this over the phone while Nancy was in another country away was massively wrong. (I’m not even going to go into the fact that they have used the L-word with each other before in other games and that if this is meant to be the first time Ned’s saying this to her, it should have happened probably years ago and in person. This has been discussed by other people. But yeah.
Here’s what I find interesting though– Nancy has the option to tell Ned she doesn’t know how she feels about him. This intrigues me. I’m wondering if maybe in the future, we’re going to have similar options?? Maybe in an upcoming game, we can call Ned and have decision to go on a break with him. Nedcy shippers can happily choose not to. But the rest of us could actually explore what it would be like for Nancy to admit to having feelings for another person. For Nancy to tell Dave “no I don’t have a steady back home,” for her to say “sure, Grigor, I’d be open to more than friendship.” The freedom for Nancy to have flirty banter with whomever she pleases? The option for Nancy to just be single and focus on her cases without romantic attachment whatsoever??!!? I would be so down for that.
Otherwise, I don’t know where Her is going with this. We’re stuck in this perpetual state of either getting a boring, stagnant relationship, or this new trend of having Nancy and Ned actually experience some sort of conflict and resolution–which, let’s be real, would also get tedious. I don’t foresee either lending themselves positively to the plot of the games. There is honestly not much more development they can give Nedcy and I’m confused about why they are starting to pay so much attention to adding forced plotlines of their relationship to the games. If they do decide to have Ned propose like we all thought he was doing, I will probably have to hurl myself into the void. I know couples who have been together since high school and have since grown too-comfortable and unconsciously disenchanted with their relationship. Those people don’t compel me in real life and they don’t compel me when it’s Ned and Nancy.