Netflix’s WEDNESDAY imagines a teenage Wednesday Addams attending a special school for kids with paranormal abilities. It does YA the right way while doing justice to the Addams Family, resulting in a very entertaining show that is easy to binge. I liked it, with a few reservations.
The Addams Family is still gothically weird, and now Wednesday is a teenager about to turn sixteen. Kicked out of public school, she is finally sent where she belongs–Nevermore Academy, a special school for “outcasts,” or kids with paranormal abilities–werewolves, shapeshifters, vampires, sirens, and the like. An outcast among outcasts, Wednesday battles with her principal and the local sheriff, makes friends, and gains the romantic interest of two young men while trying to solve a series of murders that threatens the existence of the entire school.
When I’d heard Tim Burton was involved, I was happy and a little nervous, as while I love Burton’s twisty aesthetic, I haven’t enjoyed a single movie of his since EDWARD SCISSORHANDS. [ducks tomatoes] It turns out he directs eight of the episodes, and the best of him is on display in the sets, costumes, and overall aesthetic of the show. Danny Elfman brought his usual excellence to the score, and the soundtrack otherwise has some cool tunes.
The casting is absolutely terrific across the board, with excellent performances in particular by Jenna Ortega as Wednesday, Gwendoline Christie as the principal, Christina Ricci as a teacher, Emma Myers as Wednesday’s roommate, Luis Guzmán and Catherine Zeta Jones as Gomez and Morticia, and more. Ortega in particular is practically magnetic as Wednesday, almost never blinking or smiling and doing all the emotional lifting with her eyes and body instead of her face.
As to the overall show, I liked it because of Wednesday and also despite her. Most of the characters are more or less likeable, Thing is used in a terrific way, and the pacing sings while the plot keeps you guessing. It’s a fun show for pretty much all ages, and it builds on the Addams Family legend in way that is respectful while feeling original.
That being said, I have to point out a downside is that Wednesday is, well, not super likeable. She’s smart, singular, doesn’t care what people think, was raised with all sorts of talents and skills, and has a penchant for protecting the weak, but she’s by her own admission a psychopath, and she often comes across not as cool but just, well, mean, not exactly someone one would look up to or emotionally trust. I wouldn’t mind this so much if everyone weren’t always assuming she’s actually lovable and loving only to be bitterly disappointed that she’s exactly what she presents. She makes up for it at the end, but it’s a long, dark journey to get there.
Despite that, I liked this one a lot for its overall chemistry and high fun factor, a true “turn off your brain and enjoy it” type of show. Sometimes, I watch stuff and it’s easy to pick out one thing that put it over the top for me. With WEDNESDAY, it’s really the whole, the way it all came together so nicely and poured into my brain without any fuss.