By Pen Fang
Disclaimer: I have not seen any of the previous Addams Family media. (I apologize.) This review also contains major spoilers. Proceed with caution.
Our introduction to Wednesday (Jenna Ortega) begins with revenge: upon finding out her brother is being bullied by students, she dramatically slips piranhas into the bullies’ pool — and gets expelled. This sets up her transfer to Nevermore Academy, a school for “outcasts,” where she has to navigate not only the qualms of a new school, but also the murders that have been terrorizing the town and psychic visions that keep plaguing her.
At Nevermore, she meets her roommate, Enid Sinclair (Emma Myers). The two get along like night and day: not quite, but they make it work. Other characters include siren and popular girl Bianca Barclay (Joy Sunday), psychic artist Xavier Thorpe (Percy Hynes), and “normie” barista Tyler Galpin (Hunter Doohan). Thing (Victor Dorobantu), a disembodied hand that ultimately aids Wednesday on her adventures is also a fun addition. Christina Ricci, the actress who played Wednesday in The Addams Family and Addams Family Values features as Ms. Thornhill.
The plot has been described as something akin to a CW show — which I can agree with on the surface. The show has its moments of cliquey high school drama, love triangles with not much chemistry, and questionable plot devices. But in its defense, the show does quite a good job of diverting audience attention and subverting audience expectation in regards to the main plot points. Like any good murder mystery, Wednesday allows viewers to follow the characters along as they try to piece together what happens. We slowly get bits and pieces, from the Pilgrim village to Uncle Fester’s appearance, and rush headfirst along with Wednesday as she tries to make sense of things. The Thornhill reveal in particular was one of my favorite moments. The entire scene was just so well executed, from the twist of Principal Weems being Tyler via some good old shapeshifting to Thornhill’s reaction. It was like the final piece in a puzzle, the connection of all the storylines.
Jenna Ortega’s performance is one of the highlights. She’s captivating and delivers lines with a sardonic wit. There are so many good moments. The cello performances are some of my favorites, especially as she delivers Vivaldi’s “Winter” whilst the fountain dedicated to Joseph Crackstone explodes in the background. Ortega really is an amazing actress — take the scene where Thing gets stabbed for example, where she displays a new level of vulnerability. Wednesday’s dance sequence to “Goo Goo Muck” by The Cramps at the Nevermore dance has gone viral, even reaching the likes of Lady Gaga, for good reason. The scene encapsulates what makes Ortega’s performance so wonderful; she manages to provide just the right amount of seriousness and slight awkwardness while staying true to the character she’s established throughout the show so far. And to cap it all off, she choreographed the dance herself.
The show’s cinematography is also a key player. There are many stunning camera shots and unique angles. For one, Enid and Wednesday’s room, specifically their stained-glass window, provides a stunning backdrop for many of the show’s moments.
Overall, Wednesday is a strong entry in Netflix’s catalog, with loveable characters and a captivating plot. It’s a wickedly fun ride with loads of twists and turns, and maybe even some monsters lurking in the closet.