Wednesday’s Child is Not All Woe

In the latest portrayal of the Addams family, the focus is on their spooky daughter and her misadventures in a predictive yet wholly different setting.


Netflix poster

Mariana Quezada, Staff Writer

It’s definitely Tim Burton and it’s definitely Netflix. It’s also, definitely, Wednesday Addams, with a more modern twist. 

In October 2020, it was announced Burton was to create a TV adaptation about the Addams’s daughter, which was then picked up by the streaming giant Netflix. The show finds Wednesday recently expelled from an average high school and then sent to the odd Nevermore Academy, a school for outcasts just like her. 

Mystery unravels upon her arrival with strange deaths by an unknown killer, and she is thrust into detective mode to untangle the facade of her new school while trying to adapt to its assortment of quirky characters. The clever viewer will notice all episode titles include the word woe, an allusion to the protagonist’s name, coming from the line “Wednesday’s child is full of woe” from the nursery rhyme titled “Monday’s Child.” But the show, while sometimes too similar to supernatural teen dramas for my taste (see the infamous “Riverdale ” or “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”’), is not a woe at all.

Jenna Ortega, fresh from horror ventures such as “X” and “Scream” (both in 2022), is the perfect fit for this role. Her facial expressions, often scarce as natural for the character, drive entire scenes. Her mannerisms and stance are all-out Wednesday Addams. The one time we see her full smile is at the appearance of another Addams relative, Uncle Fester, played by a zesty Fred Armisen. (In fact, his appearance is worth smiling for. Fester helps his niece figure out the monster conundrum.) Moreover, the show plays homage to Gomez Addams’s heritage by casting Ortega, a Latina actress of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent. It truly is refreshing to see a Latina on screen playing outside conventional, stereotypical roles. 

The rest of the star-studded cast is equally fitting and outstanding. Morticia and Gomez Addams are played by Catherine Zeta-Jones and Luis Guzman respectively, yet are not so present in the show as originally in Charles Addams’s New Yorker comic strips – the show is only named “Wednesday,” ultimately. Gwendoline Christie is Principal Weems, who has a key role in guiding Wednesday on her turbulent first semester at Nevermore. But perhaps, the most prominent and driving role of the adult cast is that of Christina Ricci.

Christina Ricci is, as always, a gem. The iconic face of Wednesday in the two live movie adaptations: The Addams family (1991) and Addams Family Values (1993) is a welcome addition to the show. I can’t say anything bad about Ricci. Her dark-edge filmography speaks for itself. In this occasion, she plays Marilyn Thornhill, an eccentric botany teacher in Nevermore, who the audience gradually learns has secrets of her own.

From the youth cast, Emma Myers stands her ground against Ortega. Myers plays Wednesdays’ kooky roommate Enid Sinclair, a werewolf who still hasn’t had her first transformation. She is the much-needed comedic relief while still demonstrating her strength and chemistry in scenes with Ortega. The Enid-Wednesday duo might as well be the best part of the show. As a matter of fact, Ortega herself dubbed it “a sweet little relationship.” The roommates are indeed the heart of “Wednesday.” 

The plot seems intriguing but maybe too thick for some. It’s, after all, a mystery. Wednesday calls the seemingly never-ending connections a “spider’s web.” Names are thrown around like confetti, and there is a lot packed in the small season. The protagonist guides us throughout the 8 episodes as a disembodied voice in the background explaining each update on the case. The narration is helpful, but at some parts too archetypal, pushing the show towards the girl-detective, Veronica Mars-esque area. 

On the topic of tropes, it’s where the show can trail off for some viewers. The romantic interests here are completely unnecessary. The show had enough going on with town founder John Crackstone, the Gates, the friends, the foes, the teachers and the monster to add a love triangle. Especially when you can see Wednesday is as interested in the two boys as much as the audience. 

Not to say their performances are bad; Xavier Thorpe, Nevermore’s tortured artist, and a “normie” Tyler Galpin (it took me two hours to remember his name – gave up and Googled it) are found to be complex and vital characters. 

Side note: the word “normie” to refer to non-Nevermore outcasts? Nope. But, on the love triangle, the situation is formulaic. Let the girl live without a male love interest to prove she’s capable of meaningful relationships – Enid is right there.

It’s on the last episode where things ramp up quickly. The action is long-awaited and finely executed. The first season of “Wednesday” has a gutsy conclusion, with more twists and turns than previously envisioned. Burton plays with the phenomenal performance of Ortega, who effectively conveys the emotion needed when a relative is thought to be in danger. The show contains all the eccentric elements natural of a Burton adaptation, while still trying to keep the original, quirky, dramatic Addams essence. There actually is a needle-drop of Vivaldi’s Winter by Wednesday playing cello – it sets the tone. 

Overall, while some repetitive elements of the teen drama show don’t help, the performances are what drive, save, and elevate the show. It definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but then again it is not trying to be. Don’t be scared to watch and see for yourself. Rating: 4/5