The Addams Family has always been a franchise that I’ve been aware of but not necessarily a huge fan of, with my main means of familiarity with them being the ’90s live action films. Last year, Netflix’s Wednesday Addams show took the internet by storm, so I decided to give it a try.
The show follows Wednesday (Jenna Ortega) after she is expelled from public school for attempted murder and sent to Nevermore Academy for supernatural creatures, as well as strange people like her parents, Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzman). Almost immediately, people start turning up dead in the town, and the sheriff, Donovan Galpin (Jamie McShane), tells the public that it is a bear attack, but he suspects that it’s the work of one of the supernatural children attending Nevermore.
Wednesday is then introduced to a colorful cast of characters including her roommate, Enid Sinclair (Emma Myers), who is a werewolf that is unable too go full wolf and loves girlish colors that Wednesday hates; Bianca Barclay (Joy Sunday), a siren who sees Wednesday as a rival; Xavier Thorpe (Percy Hynes White), an artist who has supernatural powers; Eugene Ottinger (Moosa Mostafa), the nerdy president of the school’s beekeeping club; Marilyn Thornhill (Christina Ricci), a teacher at Nevermore; and Larissa Weems (Gwendoline Christie), the principal of Nevermore, who is also a shapeshifter. In town, Wednesday also befriends Tyler Galpin (Hunter Doohan), who is the son of the sheriff and whom she develops a romantic bond with. Also with her is Thing, the detached hand mascot of the show.
Wednesday and Enid have trouble fitting into the oddball school, but the murderer plot soon takes over the show, as the killer comes into their orbit. Wednesday has visions of the killer, which are unreliable, but offer partial truths that aid in her slowly uncovering who they are and what they want.
We do get a brief cameo from Wednesday’s Uncle Fester (Fred Armisen), as well as occasional visits from her parents, but for the most part, it’s Wednesday on her own with her new friends, which is perhaps why this show doesn’t quite work as an entry into the Addams Family franchise. The family is strange and bizarre, constantly trying to kill each other in all forms of media the franchise appears in, but the central thesis of most of those stories is that the family sticks together when faced with adversity — they are united by a sort of macabre love. With Wednesday separated from her family for most of the show, there isn’t a way for it to deliver on any of that — it feels like “Wednesday” was originally written to be another show, but it was changed to take advantage of the Addams Family brand name.
Ortega does a fine job as Wednesday and her performance makes the show work. In fact, all of the casting for the Addams Family members is wonderful — they ought to make a film in the franchise with them all. But the show struggles to stick to find ways to develop Wednesday without completely changing who she is as a character, and it is sort of successful, though I admit its central premise — Wednesday investigating a murder — does not work. I just couldn’t understand how a character that revels and take pride in the idea of murder in Episode 1 would care enough to foil a murderer by the end of it.
“Wednesday” applies the same treatment Netflix gave Sabrina in “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (take a character everyone knows and send them to a high school for teenagers just like them) to the Addams Family, with middling results. If you’re a teenager, you might like this show. If you’re an fan of The Addams Family, I think you have a 50-50 chance of liking this. However, this just wasn’t the show for me.
“Wednesday” Season 1 (2022) gets a 6/10
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