“Wednesday” is a delicious modern take on the classic characters, with the Tim Burton flare we’ve come to know and love. Some storylines leave a bit more to be desired, but for where the plot falters, Jenna Ortega brilliantly makes up for it with her stunning performance as the titular character, every scene, line, and emotion perfectly portrayed.
From the very first moment Netflix posted its initial poster for the upcoming “Wednesday” series, helmed by Tim Burton himself, I was intrigued and cautiously optimistic. I have always adored the style Burton brings to his projects, from “Corpse Bride” to “Sweeny Todd”, something about his take on dark and gothic reels me in. And with source material like “The Addams Family”, wouldn’t that be a match made in heaven? But my hopes were kept in check, remembering how they were dashed when watching “Alice in Wonderland” (2010). And more importantly, who would play the titular character, and would they rise to the occasion or stand in the tall shadow of Christina Ricci?
The first trailer dropped; we see our Wednesday in action for but a few minutes.
My caution dropped slightly.
While my hype raised.
And now all eight episodes are streaming on Netflix. Conclusion: It was worth the wait.
We follow Wednesday as her latest revenge plot has gotten her expelled from her current school, thus her parents deciding to send her to their old school: Nevermore. The school is filled with outcasts, mysteries and of course, the occasional teenage drama. The story of “Wednesday” follows the titular character as she attempts to uncover the many dark truths and mysterious surrounding the school and the town, even solving an ongoing killing spree. Just as twisted as Wednesday is, the story twists in as many directions as well, some successful, while other roads should be less traveled.
Make no mistake, Wednesday is very much a teenage series, do not expect a deep dive into dark caves of horrifying rituals, gore, and emo heaven (although there is the occasional dip). There will be teenage drama and angst. Luckily, the show never lingers too long on these plot threads, merely acknowledging their existence from time to time. The main drive of the show, at least the second half, is uncovering the many hidden truths and revealing mysteries. Certain mysteries feel a bit underdeveloped, and certain discoveries get seemingly thrown aside the moment they’re revealed, undermining the interest I put in them initially. The climax of the series is also a bit underwhelming in comparison to what the show had been building up to. Don’t get me wrong, it works fine enough, but it felt undercooked when compared to the amazing build-up to that point. Yet the strongest part of the series is the second half where the action ramps up tremendously.
The set pieces of Wednesday and artistic direction is where the typical Burton magic comes through. Nevermore is a simple set, that Burton uses to the fullest, from the architectural structure that gets every squeeze of screentime without becoming overtly dull, to the distinctness of every room, my favorite being the dorm room of Wednesday and her roommate. Despite its lack of subtlety, it’s still a visual striking location, and most of others follow suit.
In my opinion, where “Wednesday” shines the most, is in its characters. The characterization of the Addams, and in particular Wednesday, is absolutely marvelous, pushing Wednesday’s character into new territory without feeling like it betrays her origins, her development occurring naturally with each story beat. Some characters that I though initially would become annoying or tedious, like her roommate Enid Sinclair, never overstay their welcome, and serve as successful sparing partners with Wednesday, either conflicting or complimenting her traits in an interesting way.
I cannot mention the characters without mentioning the stellar performances of the cast as a whole, with a standing ovation for Jenna Ortega’s breathtaking performance of Wednesday. There’s not a single frame in this series where she does not embody the being of the titular gothic girl, imbuing her with subtle quirks and emotions. Ortega had a tough job to keep up with Ricci’s performance from the 90s Addams films, but not only does she match her deadpan performance, Ortega even further develops the character, adding new layers I did not expect. It feels like a natural evolution of the character as she comes into her adolescent years.
“Wednesday” is nothing short of a success at bringing the Addams Family into a modern era (in live-action format). The cast is a superb all-around, with Jenna Ortega in the shining spotlight as Wednesday Addams. The story is a fun rollercoaster through with many hoops and loops, some plot threads being left untied and unsatisfied, while others feel thrown in simply to fill screentime, ending in a mediocre climax. Despite the gloomful ending, “Wednesday” manages to be an excellent series that is well worth the time, and I for one, look forward to a potential season 2!