“Jauntily macabre music playing” declares the first subtitle line of 2022 Netflix series ‘Wednesday’. Hilarious! What follows is a deliciously dark gothic toned series about the young Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) who enjoys torturing people and has changed seven schools in five years. When she is admitted to ‘Nevermore Academy’ mid-session, a boarding school for outcasts where her parents first met, Wednesday is determined to escape. But when someone attempts to murder the new girl within the first week of her arrival and a beastly serial-killer rescues Wednesday just in time, she decides to stay back and solve the mystery.
Created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, ‘Wednesday’ is spread over eight episodes, four of which have been directed by Tim Burton, two each by James Marshall and Gandja Monteiro. The show is kind of like ‘Gothic Horror’ meets ‘Harry Potter’ – it’s dark, mildly gory and scary, but also conjures up a teen-school-fantasy setting, complete with witches, werewolves, vampires, sirens and whatnot, studying in a school for misfits, where sporting competitions and rivalries are order of the day.
Episode One titled ‘Wednesday’s Child is Full of Woe’ is an incredibly entertaining opener that introduces almost all crucial members of the Addams family. I had my doubts about Catherine Zeta Jones & Luis Guzman playing the iconic Addams couple, but they were splendid as the kookie parents of a problem child. Jenna Ortega is wicked, wacky and wry as the titular Wednesday, who gets the best lines and delivers them with deadpan perfection. Emma Myers adds a dash of color to the story as Enid Sinclair, Wednesday’s new roommate, a werewolf who is the only adorable optimistic fur-ball in this black-flavored tale. Interestingly, the first four episodes directed by Burton were a lot more crisp, intriguing, with the right amount of humor. Episode 4 ends with a hilarious nod to the iconic Prom scene from Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’. The plot isn’t as swift episode five onward, but continues to be engaging. At some point, Wednesday refers to Agatha Christie, and even her case turns out to be a typical Christie mystery, full off potential suspects and multiple red herrings.
The primary theme for this season (hoping there are more to come) is ‘outcasts’ vs ‘normies’. The town where ‘Nevermore’ is located has a dark history of persecuting witches and maintaining truce between the two worlds has its own costs. Gwendoline Christies plays Principal Larissa Weems, who keeps up the quid pro quo and is delightfully intimidating as the headmistress handling teen delinquents; a lot like her character from ‘Sandman’, if ‘Nevermore’ were to be equated with hell, she’s its Lucifer. Christina Ricci who was iconic as Wednesday as a child star, was unrecognizable as Marilyn Thornhill in this show, a sweet ‘normie’ teacher who teaches botany. Visually, for me, Ricci is still the most morbid and devious Wednesday, but Jenna Ortega does rise to the challenge of making the role her own. Percy Hynes White and Hunter Doohan play Xavier Thorpe and Tyler Galphin respectively, the former is a rich popular legacy student at Nevermore while the latter is a regular townie with a cop dad, and both play potential romantic leads against Ortega.
A major highlight of the show is the background music, most fans would be glad at how the creators incorporate slivers of the classic Addams Family theme song in this spinoff and even weave in the signature finger-snaps as part of the story. The climax was interesting, it uses some cliched tropes but ends with a satisfying dramatic flourish. I was expecting some more violence/gore, I mean the lead is a legendary ‘homicidal maniac after-all, but overall, the show was surprisingly wholesome and doesn’t disappoint.
‘Wednesday’ combines elements of some of my favorite genres – horror/mystery/fantasy/teen-drama – and delivers a binge-worthy season one. It’s a 8.5/10 from me.
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