Like many millennials, Barry Sonnenfeld’s Addams family films defined a lot of my interests. Humor, horror, and a gotch aesthetic that made standing on the outside just as great as being included by others, that’s what made me fall in love with the characters. More importantly, Wednesday’s unrelenting attitude made me want to be her so badly. I was a kid inspired by Wednesday to be my very best Latina goth self and now, Netflix Original Wednesday stands to do the same for a new generation.
A supernaturally infused mystery at its core, Wednesday Addams is the newest student at Nevermore Academy. Wednesday’s attempts to master her emerging psychic ability, thwart a monstrous killing spree that has terrorized the local town, solve the supernatural mystery that embroiled her parents 25 years ago, and of course navigate classroom politics too. Wendesday comes from showrunners Alfred Gough & Miles Millar and is directed and executively produced by Tim Burton and stars Jenna Ortega in the titular role.
Wednesday is weird. It’s a gothic chaos that thrives on using the Addams Family easter eggs while telling a story, unlike anything we’ve seen. Sure, this isn’t the Addams Family, or even the Wednesday that we grew up with, but Ortega and the story at Nevermore work in this new young adult fantasy space. There is a certain type of Latina goth chaos and magic that we see in Wednesday that works extremely well. And surprisingly, there is no question about if this Wednesday is Latina, particularly through music choices like “La Llorona” coloring how we view the type of macabre on display. The weirdness and darkness in this series capture a curiosity and aesthetic that honestly hits a spot similar to the old Beetlejuice animated series.
Sure, the series is more like Harry Potter than it isn’t, but there is nothing wrong with that. A tried and tested trope of a magical school with cliques and competition, Wednesday manages to be much of what we’ve seen before while also being weird enough to be original. In fact, the addition of mystery and sleuthing gives our titular star the ability to showcase her intelligence while also setting up an element of detective difference from others in this young adult genre. There are elements of horror, fantasy, and detective high-jinx that all just work. This blending of genre works not just because of direction or writing, but because of a charming cast of characters which allows Ortega to do more than carry every scene. Her monotone voice and expressionless facade never miss a comedic beat.
As the titular character, Ortega is cold, hilarious, and the right kind of tsundere. The balance between someone completely annoyed with the world and deeply connected to it is perfectly executed. Ortega is mean and she is also extremely empathetic for those who need her. In fact, the best connection in the entire series is the one between Wednesday and Eugene. While characters like Principal Weems played by Gwendoline Christie or Ms. Thornhill played by Christina Ricci hold your attention because of what they bring to the screen, Moosa Mostafa as Eugene has my whole heart. This series’ Pugsley for all intents and purposes, Eugene is the cinnamon roll that Wednesday protects, but also a friend that she grows to respect and treasure.
The rest of the Addamses are also fantastically brought to life. Pugsley is adorable and weird, Gomez is endearing and in love with his family more than anything, while not intimidating Morticia is regal and loving, and finally, Fester shines the brightest out of this cooky and crazy family. Armisen manages to match the energy and chaos that Christopher Lloyd made iconic in the 1990s. An absolutely hard feat to execute, but one he does wonderfully. Most importantly though, the Addamses capture the familial love and relationships that we’ve come to know them by, stronger together than separated and that helps ground a rebellious Wednesday at the same time.
That said, Wednesday, at times lets itself down with how large and vast the supernatural world on display is. Sirens, werewolves, gorgons, vampires, and more, the need to see more of the world sets up a runway for Season 2, but also makes some elements feel incomplete. Additionally, the main theme of the Outcasts being pitted against normies and the bigotry on display has the same issue with most fantasy explorations of bigotry: it doesn’t go far enough. This is particularly interesting given how diverse the series is, but more importantly how the bulk of the outcasts find themselves marginalized for other reasons outside the supernatural. That said, these critiques don’t weigh down the series too much. Instead, they leave it all open to be better in a second season.
Overall, Wednesday is weird, fun, and a whole lot of macabre fantasy that gives Netflix a stellar series for Young Adult audiences. While some purists may find themselves trying to find a different story, if you enter Wednesday with openness and wonder, it won’t let you down.
Wendesday is streaming exclusively on Netflix November 23, 2022.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.