Netflix's Wednesday Review - This Addams Family Spin-Off Is A Classic Burton Throw Back

  • First Released Nov 23, 2022
  • television

Jenna Ortega taking Netflix by storm on Wednesday. But is this Addams Family spin-off worth the time?

While you might have expected it to debut around Halloween, which would have been a far more logical move, Netflix is getting ready to drop Wednesday--an off-shoot of the Addams Family franchise--just in time for Thanksgiving. Why Thanksgiving? Either Netflix realized the traditional spooky season was busy this year or the release is a deep dive nod to 1993's Addams Family Values, which is technically a Thanksgiving movie. The reasoning doesn't matter, though, because Wednesday is finally here, and it was worth the wait.

Wednesday follows the titular eldest Addams child, played by Scream and X standout Jenna Ortega, as she gets shipped off to a boarding school for bizarre and/or supernaturally gifted teens and finds herself smack dab in the middle of a murder mystery where the culprit seems to be some kind of monster. More insidious than the bodies that pile up, though, is the prospect of people wanting to be Wednesday's friend. After all, she's never been much of a people person.

This is a beautiful show. That's clearly due, in no small part, to the involvement of director Tim Burton. If ever there was a tonal match, it's Burton's goth sensibilities and the Addams Family. Said sensibilities are on full display here, as we see the sort of dark humor expected from the Addams Family mixed with a wildly gothic setting. Nevermore is this massive, ancient-looking, very spooky institution populated by a student body filled with supernatural misfits.

Given that he directed the first four episodes of the series and serves as an executive producer, it's not a surprise that the series feels stepped in his aesthetic sensibilities. That said, it doesn't play like modern day Burton projects do. Instead, it feels like a throwback to classic movies like Edward Scissorhands and, in some ways, Ed Wood, more than it does Dumbo or Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. It seems like the sort of Addams Family project he would have made in the early '90s, rather than 2022. And it's the perfect way to approach a Wednesday Addams show.

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And thankfully, Ortega is a natural in the role. As a character, Wednesday is dark, matter of fact, and has the driest and most macabre deadpan sense of humor you could imagine--yet it's all very endearing. Ortega masterfully walks the line between Wednesday's inclination to be a loner and her utter astonishment that people want to talk to her.

She is also incredibly smart, powerful, and rather resourceful. And did we mention her supernatural abilities? Wednesday has visions of past events that will help her along the way. In addition to all of that, though, she's evolving. This is the first time we've seen her, more or less, grown up. She's resentful of her parents, even though she has more in common with them than she realizes, and she's eager to prove that she can take care of herself.

The other members of the Addams family--Gomez (Luis Guzmán), Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Pugsley (Isaac Ordonez), and Uncle Fester (Fred Armisen)--do appear in the show as occasional guest stars. They're all excellent in their roles, though here's hoping future seasons include even more Fester and Pugsley. Rather than basing the family on the '90s movies, these Addamses, which are portrayed by a Latinx cast, seem to be inspired by Charles Addams' original comic strips (Gomez was originally conceived to be of Spanish heritage).

Outside of the family, the closest things Wednesday has to a friend are her roommate Enid (Emma Myers) and Thing, the severed hand we all know and love from practically every incarnation of the Addams Family. Enid, like everyone at Nevermore, has a connection to the supernatural, though she's the exact opposite of Wednesday in every possible way. She's bright, colorful, cheery, and determined to be best friends with her frowning roommate. Myers is a natural in the role. Thing, on the other hand, is essentially Wednesday's second in command, helping her out with the mystery.

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Outside of these two, we run into one of the very few issues with the series. It's filled with so many other characters that, after a while, all seem to blend together. There are the various students at Nevermore, the adults of the show--Nevermore's dean, a teacher played by none other than Christina Ricci, a local therapist Wednesday must see, the town sheriff, the mayor--and even a boy she befriends in town. The show is stuffed to the gills with people you're supposed to remember, to the point that by the end, I would hear names and have to pause to figure out exactly who was being discussed.

The other sticking point in the series is it has a bit of trouble attempting to figure out what kind of Young Adult story it is. Make no mistake, this is a YA show--and it should be. However, as with practically any YA story, there's romance involved. It feels oddly forced here, though. Wednesday is more or less torn between two boys--a fellow student and a townie--and there's nothing particularly romantic about the scenes between any of them.

It's no secret that Gomez and Morticia are an overly-sexual couple. In fact, the '90s films are the horniest movies of all time that also happen to be aimed at a younger audience. That obsession with romance doesn't seem to be a trait Wednesday has developed at this point, though, so any scene in which she seems to be leaning in a romantic direction simply feels awkward.

Thankfully, though, that's not the point of the show. The matter at hand is to stop whoever (or whatever) is killing Nevermore students. As she dives deeper and deeper into the mystery, Wednesday uncovers all manner of secrets--about the school, about the town she now calls home, and even about her own family--that are begging for more exploration in potential future seasons. And all along, these discoveries are adding more and more lore to not just this show but the Addams Family as a whole.

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Should a second season come, here's hoping Wednesday focuses more on that aspect of the show, rather than trying to force a romance. And if the powers that be are dead set on introducing a romance, perhaps they can find a less clunky and awkward way to lean into it.

Wednesday may have some issues in its freshman year, but the show sets a very strong foundation for what could be a number of future seasons of quality programming. Even with the problems discussed above, it's still a stellar show that's more than worth your time. And with the long Thanksgiving weekend ahead, it's the perfect time to sit down and binge your way through the series, seeing if you can solve the mystery before Wednesday does. Then, when all is said and done, chances are you'll be ready for more.

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The Good

  • Jenna Ortega's Wednesday is perfection
  • Tim Burton's gothic sensibilities explode on screen
  • The mystery is an engaging one
  • Gomez, Morticia, Fester, and Pugsley are excellent, though they don't appear a lot

The Bad

  • The pseudo-romance presented in the show feels forced and awkward
  • There are arguably too many characters, leaving it easy to forget several of them

About the Author

GameSpot Entertainment Editor Chris E. Hayner loves all movies, but especially Jaws and Paddington 2. He was able to watch all of Wednesday Season 1, thanks to screeners provided by Netflix.