Netflix’s Wednesday finally allows us to see how Tim Burton imagined the Addams family, but the show just isn’t kooky or spooky enough.
As soon as it was announced that Tim Burton was on board to give Wednesday Addams her own Netflix series, the fans were delighted. It’s a well-known fact that Burton has wanted to bring the kooky family to the silver screen for a long time, and Wednesday seems like the perfect opportunity for that.
The series focuses solely on Wednesday Addams, played here by Jenna Ortega. Her parents, Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzman), are forced to send her to Nevermore, a special school for ‘outcasts’ after Wednesday unleashed piranhas into the pool at her old school.
Wednesday arrives at Nevermore full of contempt and disdain – she is Wednesday Addams, after all – but it doesn’t take long for her to be embroiled in a mystery involving a strange beast that keeps killing students. It doesn’t help that Wednesday keeps getting bizarre visions that she cannot understand or control.
Burton directs four episodes out of eight and serves as an executive producer for the series. Wednesday is full of Burton-ness, but, surprisingly, the series works better after Burton moves aside. The series gets better as it goes on even if Wednesday often feels like a collection of borrowed ideas.
Ortega is perfectly cast as Wednesday. She nails the character’s deadpan line delivery, but every now and then, is allowed to deepen our understanding of Wednesday’s mentality and her inner life. An interesting theme of Wednesday fearing life under her mother’s shadow in Nevermore runs throughout the show, but it’s often buried under the central mystery and its twists and turns.
That being said, the mystery itself isn’t very mysterious. It doesn’t take very long to piece together the pieces of this lacklustre puzzle; you can figure it out within the first episode, even if the more minute details don’t come into play until later.
At least the monster design is on point in Wednesday. While we only glimpse the creature responsible for some truly grizzly deaths, you can see Tim Burton’s touch all over it. In an age where most films and TV shows attempt to create hyperrealistic monsters, Wednesday is wonderfully old school and leans into the fantasy elements.
It’s a shame Wednesday isn’t quite as memorable as it could have been. It’s not violent or scary enough to be a full-blooded horror show, but it’s also not that weird or singular for a show seemingly about outcasts. Wednesday lacks the edginess of Burton’s earlier work and the heart of his later films.
It seems that Netflix is now recycling the same plot and aesthetic over and over again; Wednesday seemingly replicates the plot of the first season of Hemlock Grove, while also aggressively borrowing from Riverdale and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. The supporting characters come and go; while Wednesday’s roommate Enid grows into a compelling character, the popular girl Bianca remains one-dimensional. Both male leads lack individuality, and Wednesday also includes a frustrating, needless love triangle between Wednesday, Xavier and Tyler.
Yet, the finale is, without a doubt, exhilarating. It sets up consequent seasons well, and I wouldn’t be mad if there were more of Wednesday on the horizon, but I also won’t miss it in the meantime. Wednesday never reaches its full potential, but thanks to Ortega’s pitch-perfect performance, there’s plenty to enjoy here still.
Wednesday is streaming now on Netflix.