“Wednesday”: a “woe”-fully wonderful work

by Arhana Aatresh (’23) | February 3, 2023

Art by Kylie Tran (’25)

This article contains spoilers.

Netflix’s latest original show Wednesday, starring Jenna Ortega and largely directed by Tim Burton, is the streaming service’s latest hit. Breaking Stranger Things 4’s record of Netflix’s most-watched English language series, sparking viral TikTok trends, and inspiring people around the world to dress as the iconic Wednesday Addams, the show struck a chord with many viewers.

The series follows Wednesday, the oldest child of the Addams family, a fictional family originally created by American cartoonist Charles Addams and most famously adapted into the 1991 film The Addams Family. The Addamses satirize a typical American family by being the direct opposite: parents Morticia and Gomez are overly affectionate with each other, the family takes delight in the macabre, and none of them care about others’ perceptions of them. Wednesday features reimagined forms of these characters and centers on a teenage Wednesday facing unfamiliar problems, including a deadly murder plot with her at the center.

The story starts as Wednesday is forced to attend Nevermore Academy, a school for outcasts her parents also attended, after her expulsion from her previous school for intentionally setting piranhas on water polo players in the pool. She meets her polar opposite in the form of bubbly roommate Enid Sinclair, a werewolf who has not “wolfed out” yet. The two form an unlikely alliance while untangling a murder mystery involving psychic visions, a shapeshifting monster, and an extensive cover-up.

However, the mystery sloppily builds up to a somewhat coherent reveal that pulls from many threads but never fully resolves them. The show also falters in its introduction of a love triangle, a classic staple of any Netflix coming-of-age original. Enter Tyler Galpin, a “normie” and the son of the local town sheriff, and Xavier Thorpe, fellow outcast at Nevermore. But rather than being Team Tyler or Team Xavier, most fans are Team Wednesday because the love interests don’t bring much to the table. While the two boys are more than love interests, with a surprise twist in the seventh episode revealing one to be the monster targeting her and other Nevermore students, the situation feels out of place for a character who only begins making baby steps towards expressing affection for her friends during the show’s second half. Perhaps it’s the showrunners commenting that Wednesday is not immune to the agonizing woes of the teenage years despite living the antithesis of a conventional teenage life.

Regardless of her existence as a stark contrast to everyone around her, Wednesday never falls into the “not like other girls” trope—a popular strategy for authors and writers seeking to elevate their protagonists from mediocrity. Wednesday never disparages other girls for their interests but instead aggressively expresses that she has very different plans for her life. In fact, the show emphasizes that while she may have completely different interests and style, her passion for justice unites her with her classmates.

However, none of this nuance would have been conveyed without Ortega’s stellar performance. Her lack of blinking in shots and inventive choreography for the Rave’n dance scene as a non-dancer are just a few of many examples of her commitment to the role, but at the core of her performance is her character’s passionate, relentless pursuit of answers. Wednesday constantly endangers her friends’ lives without caring for their feelings, but Ortega brings heart to the determined teenager; subtle acting choices show that she cares deeply for those around her but struggles with prioritizing these feelings. She makes an otherwise unlikeable character worth rooting for, because she shows regret and capacity for growth when her actions’ consequences snowball into each other and her lack of affection hurts others.

Overall, Wednesday is an entertaining watch with a cohesive aesthetic and intriguing, albeit muddled, plot. Little treats, such as snaps placed throughout the series reminiscent of the original The Addams Family theme song and Wednesday’s actress from the 1991 film appearing in a major role, will delight long-time fans of the Addams Family, and new fans will be drawn into the riveting world of the Addamses. With a cliffhanger beautifully setting up a now-confirmed second season, fans can be sure to follow more of Wednesday’s adventures soon!

Categories: Entertainment

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