Deputy Editor Isobel Radakovic praises the first season of Wednesday, despite it not living up to the standards of the originals
The world of The Addams Family is one filled with childhood nostalgia for me, spending many Halloweens watching the two films with my family and revelling in the oddities of the Addams’. After the huge disappointment that was the recent animated reboot, I went into Wednesday feeling hopeful but apprehensive at how this newest iteration would play out. The teen audience that Wednesday is mainly catering for brings The Addams Family to a new generation of audiences that I hope will appreciate them as much as I do.
With each episode title featuring ‘woe’ in some way (for ‘Wednesday’s child is full of woe’), Wednesday finely balances retaining the essence of the 90s films while also breathing new life into the classic characters. Tim Burton being one of the writers and producers of the show feels apt, but his work in the last decade hasn’t been his best, so I was glad to see that the show wasn’t overshadowed by his presence, but in bringing with him staples like Danny Elfman for the soundtrack worked perfectly.
The casting of Wednesday (Jenna Ortega) and Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) in particular were great, and I felt they really portrayed what I had envisioned for this new version, but neither Gomez (Luis Guzmán) nor Pugsley (Isaac Ordobez) really left much of an impact on me. Their characters weren’t developed nearly as much, but I also felt they didn’t do a huge amount with what they were given, either.
Ortega as Wednesday put on a standout performance in the titular role, displaying depth and character growth throughout the series that hasn’t been shown by previous actresses in the same role. Small choices like rarely blinking or smiling not only show Ortega’s commitment to the role but also the impact of her performance and her ability to add to the overall atmosphere of the TV show, fully encompassing the role and everything it represents.
The mother-daughter dynamic between Morticia and Wednesday intrigued me from the start, and is constantly teased but never fully expanded on. As the two strongest displays of acting on the show, I would’ve loved to have seen these two interact more, with their tension palpable through the screen at times, but hopefully this is something that’s explored in a second season.
The plot branches out from the more simple school-based storylines to the at-times far-fetched murder mystery of the Garrett family, while also reckoning with the town’s pilgrim heritage and the Addams family’s place in all of it. Towards the end I definitely started to feel that too much ground was trying to be covered, and would be better served being spread across to further seasons. It came at a cost, as some of the more interesting aspects of the series felt lost amongst the action, like Xavier (Percy Hynes White) and Wednesday’s budding relationship. Having too many plotlines also led to some unsatisfying endings, as I felt at times that everything was tied up a bit too neatly for my liking, and certainly for Wednesday Addams.
The setting of Nevermore Academy and its supernatural students really appealed to me as a lover of a boarding school environment in TV, as did the hints of adolescent issues mixed with paranormal tinges, of werewolves struggling to ‘wolf out’ and gorgons accidentally stoning themselves. These elements didn’t take away from the main story, but added a lighter side to the show that felt much-needed when considering the heavier murder-mystery storyline that also occurs in Wednesday.
Some of my favourite moments came from the interactions between Wednesday and her roommate Enid (Emma Myers); these two polar opposite girls truly brought out the best in one another and represented the best parts of female friendship while still allowing them their own unique personalities.
Maybe I’m a bit too much of an Addams Family purist (the Barry Sonnenfold films, at least) to fully embrace this reincarnation of Wednesday and her family, but it certainly did a good job in bringing these characters back to life and introducing them to a whole new audience. I would’ve loved to have seen some more of the larger family dynamics at play, although I did love that Thing finally got a starring role, so maybe I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed for Season Two.
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