From the macabre family associated with an infamously recognizable theme song etched into minds across the world with only four notes and two finger snaps, Wednesday Addams has returned in all of her desaturated and pessimistic glory. Her latest arrival is in the form of Wednesday, a live-action Netflix series created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, with none other than the extremely fitting Tim Burton at the helm as director for the first half of episodes. When you throw in new haunting theme music from legendary composer Danny Elfman, all the pieces fall into the right place to make Wednesday a fitting coming-of-age, dark fantasy/horror tale that lives up to the iconic Addams Family name.
Jenna Ortega, our latest young Scream Queen in the making thanks to her roles in Scream (2022) and Ti West’s X, takes on the role of the cello-wielding Wednesday Addams as she’s forced by her enamored parents Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzmán) to attend Nevermore Academy just like her mother once did years before. Throughout the 8 episodes of this first season, the troubled teen must navigate growing pains from family-related mysteries to love interests to pesky roommates. While Wednesday often follows the seemingly formulaic high school drama beats reminiscent of other Netflix originals like Fear Street and Do Revenge, the story is intriguing enough to keep things moving at a lively pace.
Not long after begrudgingly arriving at Nevermore Academy, Wednesday discovers that everyone’s favorite re-animated severed hand, Thing (Victor Dorobantu), has followed her to campus on what she assumes to be an assignment from Gomez and Morticia to keep tabs on her. Wednesday and Thing eventually shape their own buddy-buddy dynamic which is arguably one of the most endearing aspects of the entire show. The two help each other with hijinks, crime-solving, and keeping one another in check. Goes without saying that long-time fans of The Addams Family are sure to appreciate the relationship between these two and the spotlight it deservedly earns this season.
It’s important to note what type of school Nevermore is, in that all of its students are labeled as outcasts. This includes werewolves, sirens, gorgons, and those with telekinetic or psychic abilities similar to Wednesday, who is only starting to grapple with controlling her new unprecedented visions. She is paired with roommate Enid Sinclair (Emma Myers), a colorful and chipper werewolf who turns out to be a bit of a late bloomer in the sense that she hasn’t “wolfed out” yet. The two are an amusing contrast in both their shared dorm and their personalities, but grow quite fond of one another, albeit in their own ways. Enid is just one of the many students that find themselves tangled with Wednesday as she actively investigates a brutal string of crimes in the area and tries to uncover the truths that the school and its staff are hiding.
As previously mentioned, Wednesday tends to follow some pretty familiar coming-of-age beats that can lean towards being predictable at times. Episodes ebb and flow in quality due to this predictability. The blame can’t really be solely pinned on Tim Burton or latter-half directors Gandja Monteiro (Brand New Cherry Flavor) and James Marshall (Smallville), it’s all in the script. This debut season is trying to both set itself apart from anything in the Addams Family franchise as a solo series and find enough familiarity to all but guarantee its success. This may come off as playing it too safe, however, Wednesday is still elevated enough by its performances and visual flair to overlook most of these fumbles for an otherwise charming first season.
Speaking of performances, the cast of Wednesday on Netflix pays admirable tribute to the original aesthetics of creator and cartoonist Charles Addams. Jenna Ortega fully commits to the role of Wednesday as she expertly balances the dry humor and intoxicating pessimism of the character in such a way that she is still someone to root for in the end, even when only breaking into a hint of a smile less than a handful of times the entire season.
Riki Lindhome plays a fantastic Dr. Valerie Kinbott, a school counselor that takes on the task of slowly prying the emotionally cold crypt that is Wednesday Addams open. Of course, the great Gwendoline Christie is enrapturing as the mysterious headmaster of Nevermore Academy, Larissa Weems. Christina Ricci, the original Wednesday Addams many grew to know from the Barry Sonnenfeld films, leaves quite the impression as the eclectic teacher Marilyn Thornhill. Isaac Ordonez makes the most out of his brief appearances as Pugsley, including one touching scene with his sister, grenade-fishing side by side. The highlight of the season, though, is the hilarious guest appearance of Fred Armisen as Uncle Fester, who gets to cause some much-welcomed chaos with his niece.
This Netflix series is impressively eye-catching with its lovely set design; it’s apparent that Wednesday was shot on location in Romania as the grand architecture and magnificent sets feel as important to the characters themselves. The cinematography shines through in some particular episodes, often beautifully illustrating the hilarity of Wednesday’s monochrome lifestyle in comparison to her rainbow-loving roommate’s saturated side of the room, with their dorm split right down the middle and the two silhouetted in front of their stained glass spider web window that overlooks the Nevermore campus and the city of Jericho. Based on visual storytelling alone, Netflix has managed to capture the true atmosphere of the Addams Family better than some previous adaptations.
Wednesday isn’t necessarily a groundbreaking Netflix original or even inherently deep by any means, yet it boasts utterly entertaining performances, brings back to life some lovably nostalgic characters with posh, and has an intriguing enough plot that should keep audiences hooked till the end of its eight-episode run. The narrative brings forth commentary on warm-hearted life lessons such as being accepted for who you are, finding yourself, and juggling love interests while showcasing notable character development that wraps up in a surprisingly emotional ending. That being said, this debut season with a monster of a cliffhanger, but it wouldn’t quite be Wednesday Addams without it.