Episodes reviewed: 1 to 7
Coming to Netflix on November 23rd, Wednesday is an eight-part series which focuses on The Addams Family daughter as she moves away to attend a boarding school for the gifted. Created and written by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar, the series is also directed and executive produced by Tim Burton, so you’ll have a pretty good idea upfront of what to expect from the style and tone of the show. And it doesn’t disappoint.
After being excluded from yet another public school, due to an ‘incident’ involving some piranha fish in the school swimming pool, Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) is now being sent to Nevermore Academy, a boarding school founded in 1791 to provide education for the supernaturally gifted Outcasts of the world. The school is home to a mixture of werewolves, vampires, sirens, gorgons and more and is named after its most famous graduate, Edgar Allan Poe. Escorting Wednesday to begin life at her new school are father Gomez (Luis Guzmán), mother Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and brother Pugsley (Isaac Ordonez), but this is only one of a handful of occasions throughout the series where we see the rest of the family, the focus of the show being primarily on Wednesday. Her parents both attended Nevermore when they were younger, where they were classmates with the now principal of the school, Larissa Weems (Gwendoline Christie), so they are naturally excited for their daughter to follow in their footsteps and experience all that Nevermore has to offer.
Wednesday’s new roommate at Nevermore is Enid Sinclair (Emma Myers), an overly bubbly werewolf with an obsession for all things colourful. Colour-phobic Wednesday immediately sets about transforming her half of the room with a more black-and-white colour palette. Her “dorm mom” is Miss Thornhill (previous Wednesday actress Christina Ricci), the school’s first and only “Normie” teacher, meaning she does not have any supernatural powers, and she immediately takes a shine to Wednesday. The same cannot be said for the rest of the students though and Wednesday certainly doesn’t make new friends easily, with her sour face and better-than-everyone-else attitude, immediately becoming rivals with Bianca (Joy Sunday), a siren who is able to compel anyone with her voice. And, coincidentally, she’s also the most popular girl in school.
But there’s something far more serious to contend with than making new friends. Nevermore is nestled in some secluded woods, not far from the picturesque town of Jericho, an original Pilgrim settlement, and Sheriff Donovan Galpin (Jamie McShane) is currently investigating a number of unexplained and brutal animal attacks that have occurred out in the woods. Local residents are naturally wary of the Nevermore students but when Wednesday witnesses a large monster attacking one of her fellow students she decides to do some investigating of her own. And when she discovers a drawing in one of the library books which seems to depict her destroying the school, it looks like there’s an even bigger mystery to solve.
Aiding Wednesday in her investigation is Thing, the disembodied hand who lives in the Addams’ house. Initially sent by Gomez to spy on Wednesday, Thing is quickly discovered by Wednesday and becomes crucial in helping her work out what’s going on. Wednesday also learns that she is a Raven like her mother, which means that she can unexpectedly experience intense visions depicting past or future events, and this becomes key in helping her to uncover the truth. For us as viewers, just when you think you’ve sussed out who’s behind the killings, another character shows up looking suspicious and unable to verify their whereabouts. It’s like a big Scooby Doo mystery, with Wednesday in the role of Velma. At any moment I was half expecting a big reveal, followed by angry cries of “I would have gotten away with it too…” from the perpetrator.
On top of the monster on a killing spree mystery, there’s also a plot involving the unsolved murder mystery surrounding the death of a student that took place 25 years ago, while Morticia and Gomez were at Nevermore, along with another thread concerning the founder of Jericho, a Pilgrim named Joseph Crackstone. There’s a lot going on, and a lot of characters and complex relationships to juggle, but thankfully the show just about manages to hold it all together. It’s great to see Wednesday as the main focus of the show too, not just delivering occasional, dark, sarcastic one-liners (which thankfully, she still does!) but becoming a fully fleshed-out teenage character and Jenna Ortega seems born to play the role. It’s also a joy to have Thing featured more prominently, rather than just being “on hand” for comic relief. There’s even a brief but welcome appearance from Uncle Fester (Fred Armisen). The show really has assembled an incredible cast.
Very early on in the series, I felt reminded of Harry Potter – the impressive boarding school, home to supernatural or mystical teens and rivalries and mysteries abundant within its historic walls. With that in mind, I can easily see Wednesday running for many more seasons as it draws upon the lives and abilities of its teachers and students.
Web developer by day, with a movie and TV watchlist that continues to grow as much as my spare time reduces! My favourite movie is Inception and, despite what everyone says, I do not have a man-crush on Tom Cruise.