by Randall Hatfield, staff writer
This review contains spoilers for episodes 1-8 of Wednesday.
JANUARY 2022 — Netflix’s “Wednesday” takes a fresh spin on the Addams Family, but its conventional plot and contradictory messaging hinder its potential to be a great horror comedy.
The show is an eight-episode spin off of the popular Addams Family franchise, focusing on the life of the family’s daughter, Wednesday Addams, and her misadventures at a school for outcasts, Nevermore Academy.
Since its Nov. 23 release, “Wednesday” skyrocketed in popularity, ultimately becoming the 2nd most viewed Netflix show in the platform’s history.
The show takes liberties in deviating from past incarnations of the Addams Family. The show has a promising cast, starring Jenna Ortega as Wednesday alongside Emma Myers as Enid Sinclair, Percy Hynes White as Xavier Thorpe, and Joy Sunday as Bianca Barclay. Christina Ricci, who played Wednesday in the 1991 Addams Family film, as well as the 1993 sequel, “Addams Family Values” also returns to play Marylin Thornhill, a teacher at Wednesday’s school.
In the show’s world, “outcast” is used to describe any kind of inhuman individual. Werewolves, vampires, and all kinds of spooky individuals exist as a social minority. They are sent to specialized schools, and regarded with fear and unease from human society at large.
People fear the outcasts, because they don’t understand them.
Another change setting “Wednesday” apart from its predecessors is Wednesday’s Latina heritage. In other Addams media, her father Gomez had been from the Castilla region of Spain, but this show strongly implies that he instead has Mexican roots. In one scene, Wednesday references her family celebrating the Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos, and Ortega — who has Mexican and Puerto-Rican ancestry herself — stated in a behind-the-scenes interview that she intended to represent the Latinx community with her character.
Gomez (Luis Guzmán) and Wednesday’s brother Pugsley (Isaac Ordonez) are also played by Latino actors. The cast’s added representation, though rarely mentioned, helps to give viewers a brief glimpse into the Addams family tree and the culture of its members.
However, not every change “Wednesday” makes is a welcome one. One notable difference from past Addams Family media is the more strained relationship between Wednesday and her parents. The show opts to go for a more edgy and “rebellious teen” avenue with this part of her character. Interactions between Wednesday and Morticia are filled with verbal venom, and her parents feel the need to send her to boarding school altogether.
Comparing this to Morticia and Gomez from 1991’s “The Addams Family” reveals just how much these characters have changed. In that film, they were proud of their defiance of social norms and accepting of their children and their quirks, provided their mischief did not put them in danger.
In “Wednesday,” it feels like this charm of the Addams family has been lost. Moreover, because there are now so many outcasts in the show, it makes the family stand out less.
In fairness, however, this show isn’t the 1991 film. The family’s new personality does not detract from “Wednesday” for the most part, and their limited presence allows viewers to pay closer attention to Wednesday and learn more about who she is.
Wednesday’s character seems to have remained relatively the same as in her other iterations. She is still dark, dreary, and monotone. She relishes death and all things grim, and she is a lone wolf. Wolves are better in packs, though, and Wednesday begins gathering her own, beginning with her arrival at Nevermore. Her most compelling friendship is the one she shares with her werewolf roommate and character foil, Enid Sinclair. A common trope with upbeat characters is for their positivity to be their only personality trait, but Enid subverts this. She is willing to stand up for herself when Wednesday is rude to her during their first weeks together.
Opposites tend to attract, and over the course of the show, Wednesday and Enid are able to become close friends. As the show progresses, Wednesday opens herself up, making it clear that they have rubbed off on one another.
Wednesday is not the easiest person to be friends with, however. Her manipulative nature often leads to those around her getting hurt. As the show goes on, it can be challenging to keep rooting for her to succeed while so many people are caught in the crossfire.
For example, in the sixth episode, Wednesday tricks both Enid and her love interest, Tyler Galpin (Hunter Doohan) into exploring a dangerous abandoned house. Not only does she lie to them about where they are going, but she puts their lives at risk when a monster arrives at the house while they are still inside.
In another scene, believing that her classmate Xavier Thorpe is the murderous monster terrorizing the town, she plants evidence from the monster’s real victims in his studio. This is used as evidence by the police, who then chain him up and lock him in a cell for some time.
Wednesday’s lack of apologies to the people she hurts makes her resolutions with friends feel hollow, and makes these scenes feel more frustrating as a result.
“Wednesday’s” resolution may be its weakest aspect. The last two episodes of the show carry nearly half of the show’s narrative, leading to a dramatic but somewhat unsatisfying ending.
The show’s climax has particularly noteworthy CGI, though not for the right reasons. The Hyde, the monster causing all of the show’s murders, is computer-animated, and its bizarre appearance clashes with the dark tone of the scenes it is in.
The show’s heroes, unfortunately, were not spared the CGI treatment either. Enid transforms into a werewolf for the first time to protect Wednesday from the Hyde, and her new appearance rides an uncanny line between the real and the animated.
“Wednesday” does successfully relay its message. Its theme of accepting each other’s differences comes across in the ways that the titular character grows and becomes closer with the different types of people around her. The show’s take on real-world prejudice could be improved, though. The division of outcasts and humans is done relatively surface-level in the show. Outcast dynamics outside of Jericho are not explored, and the show’s in-universe othering doesn’t dive into nor comment on the intricacies of actual discrimination.
The show’s many lacking themes may be further explored in Season 2, which was officially confirmed by Netflix Jan. 6.
Though little about its plot is known, hopefully the next part of Wednesday’s story improves on its strengths and abandons its weaknesses, giving us a ghoulish new chapter that shines brighter than the first.