Wednesday Netflix Review: The Addams Family revivified

We were tentatively excited when gothic film auteur Tim Burton was revealed to be using his necromantic powers to return the Addams Family IP back from its grave of irrelevancy.

It was even featured in our most anticipated November releases edition of the Africast.

The project that would eventually become Wednesday languished in pre-production limbo since 2013 when Burton was set to produce, write and direct a now-cancelled stop-motion Addams Family animated feature.

A live-action TV series was then announced as an unnamed series in October 2020, before the show was snapped up by Netflix and 8 episodes were ordered for an initial one-season run.

Burton said that he became immediately interested in Wednesday as soon as he read the script and was determined to make his first foray into television to bring his own spin on the beloved characters to life.

Being the first live-action Addams Family media since The New Addams Family sitcom which aired in 1998, Wednesday marks a modern reincarnation of the IP and the series is dripping with flecks of Gen-Z humour, but more mature viewers need not fear.

Wednesday takes a violent, dark, time-tested whodunnit story and adapts it to fit into a universe where the Addams Family isn’t so much the centre of everything but instead exists as a piece. Albeit a very vital one.

This universe parallels our own but supernatural events and monsters like werewolves and vampires are common. Think X-files but with the tone of the later Harry Potter films.

It is all wrapped up in high-quality filmmaking, with a striking frame every now and then, cleverly employed CGI, and a unique score that takes inspiration from the opening theme of the original Addams Family series and Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

Wednesday Addams, now 15 years old, has been expelled from every “normie” high school she has ever been at. Her parents Gomez and Morticia, the heads of the Addams clan, played by Luis Guzman and Catherine Zeta-Jones, respectively, have no choice but to send Wednesday away to the boarding school where they met in their youth.

Called the Nevermore Academy, which looks like it has been pulled straight out of the works of Edgar Allen Poe with dark, misty forests and hidden chambers a la Hogwarts, this high school is the principal location of the series.

Nearby is the town of Jericho, where all the “normal” non-supernatural people live. The sheriff of Jericho suspects that a recent string of unexplainable murders is somehow linked to the monstrous students of Nevermore, which includes werewolves, vampires, mermaids and anyone else who has weird and wacky powers.

Despite a varied cast, the show makes no qualms about who the focus is and the entire plot is based on the titular character, played by Jenna Ortega, of Disney Channel sitcom fame (Stuck in the Middle).

Ortega’s take on the previously one-dimensional Wednesday is far more nuanced. This Wednesday maintains the antisocial personality tropes of her previous iterations, once famously portrayed by Christina Ricci (who returns here as Nevermore teacher Ms Thornhill), but through Ortega she is awakened into a real, breathing person.

Sarcastic and cruel, Wednesday belittles and pushes away everyone, including her mother Morticia, as she believes that showing emotions is a sign of weakness.

Ortega manages to capture Wednesday’s most minute emotional responses and by the end of the series every almost-smile from the character means a crucial explosion of character development.

Watching Wednesday be confronted by and have to deal with relatable teenage situations is sick, twisted fun (a certain dance scene comes to mind). Especially as she brings most of her own problems upon herself. But her growth throughout the season pays off because of the tight scriptwriting from showrunners Alfred Gough and Miles Millar.

Wednesday’s sharp dialogue and witty quips are a highlight of the show, but this presents an issue because other recurring characters – like Joy Sunday’s Bianca Barclay, Nevermore’s most popular student trope – fall flat when not interacting with Wednesday.

Basically, whenever Wednesday isn’t on the screen, everyone should be asking where Wednesday is. That is not to say that the show is bereft of interesting characters and it is a delight when Addams Family regulars like Pugsley, Lurch, Gomez and Morticia are on screen for three of the eight episodes. Pure serotonin.

Burton, who directed the first four episodes, said that the Wednesday script “gave the Addams Family a different kind of reality,” and that it was a unique take on the characters, which were honestly no more than caricatures originally. The show also leans heavily on the Gomez character’s Spanish roots and transforms the Addamses into an ethnically Mexican family.

The care the writers took to conserve the “feel” of the original characters, however, is commendable. The casting is mostly a slam dunk in terms of aesthetics, but some of the line delivery could be cleaner, especially in terms of Guzman. In our opinion, he just isn’t animated enough to portray the endlessly optimistic Gomez.

Zeta-Jones’ Morticia on the other hand is probably the most complete and compelling version of the character to date in our book. Netflix’ Morticia serves a rich concoction of goth drama queen and doting mother. The exploration of her relationship with the angsty stormcloud Wednesday is a major plot point throughout the season.

The show’s most memorable character though is the Addams Family’s disembodied hand servant, Thing. Portrayed by Victor Dorobantu’s actual hand, Thing is incredible in this show.

From punching mermen in the face to being part of one of the season’s most heart-wrenching moments. It is downright shocking how much one can grow to love a weird hand-monster and how much personality smart writing and a careful performance can innervate into a single appendage.

Wednesday’s noir-flavoured detective story climaxes to a comfortable, satisfying ending that makes good on most of the foreshadowing committed to throughout the season. The mystery itself is solid, but attentive viewers should be able to pick out the main villain in the first few episodes even though the writers try to obfuscate this several times.

Netflix launched the series on 23rd November and now nearly a week later, it seems the streaming giant may have found in it one of its biggest hits to date.

With throngs of fans clamouring for the show to be renewed for a new season, and with plotholes left open for certain Addams Family members, psychic artist heartthrobs and sirens, we think Wednesday Season 2 is more of a question of when than if.

We would definitely tune in for more.

Wednesday on Netflix: Verdict

Wednesday is a smartly-written, lovingly crafted revival of the Addams Family characters, which first emerged as a comic strip in 1938. It takes these characters into the 2020s and continues their once-stuck-in-time storylines. Fans of the characters will find everything they wanted and more.

However, its murder mystery plot is easily unravelled by attentive viewers and the show is weighed down by the occasional lifeless side character and rare spots of less-than-great acting.

[Image – Netflix]


About Author


Related News