The Addams Family returns to the screen, focuses on daughter in Netflix series ‘Wednesday’

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Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Jenna Ortega arrives at the premiere of “Wednesday” on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2022, at Hollywood Legion Theater Post 43 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

By Caleb Johnson, News Reporter

A macabre and beloved family graces our screens once more. The Addams Family returns in Netflix’s original show, “Wednesday.” The show was created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar and boasts Tim Burton as executive producer and director of four out of the eight episodes. 

Murder, mayhem and mystery all around –an you expect anything less when Wednesday Addams makes an appearance? This new series focuses on the dark and dreary world of Wednesday Addams, played by Jenna Ortega. 

Returning to the franchise is Christina Ricci, the actor who played Wednesday in the previous two movies, “The Addams Family” in 1991 and “Addams Family Values” in 1993. In the Netflix adaptation, Ricci plays a teacher, Marilyn Thornhill, at Nevermore Academy. 

INITIAL REACTION 

Equal parts dark comedy and horror thriller, the Netflix series is reminiscent of shows like the CW’s “Riverdale” and “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.” 

Episode one, “Wednesday’s Child Is Full of Woe,” was directed by Tim Burton and is a delightful and darkly entertaining entry to the series. 

Wednesday is a difficult girl who has trouble fitting in at school. This leads to an incident in which Wednesday almost gets charged with attempted murder after releasing bags of piranhas in the school’s swimming pool during a water polo practice because the team had shoved her brother Pugsley, played by Isaac Ordonez, into a locker. 

Afterward, her parents Morticia Addams, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Gomez Addams, played by Luis Guzmán, decide to send her to a boarding school, Nevermore Academy; this school is where Wednesday’s parents met.

The school is looked down on by the local townspeople and the students and faculty are often harassed and mistreated. However, to keep up appearances, the mayor Noble Walker, played by Tommie Earl Jenkins, welcomes the school, most likely because of their money, and strives to maintain the peace.  

This is a school for outcasts, what our world calls supernatural creatures such as werewolves, vampires, sirens and witches. While on paper this magical twist is fun and exciting, we don’t really get to see the supernatural characters in action in the first episode. However, we do get to see psychic powers and a glimpse of a murderous monster in the woods. 

A positive note for the show is that visually the setting is stunning. Nevermore Academy’s architecture is very gothic and looks great. In line with many horror tropes, the school is surrounded by creepy woods, which are of course filled with monsters and deadly plants. 

In a delightful surprise, veteran “Game of Thrones” actor Gwendoline Christie, who played Brienne of Tarth, stars as Larissa Weems, the principal of Nevermore Academy and Morticia’s ex-roommate. 

FINAL THOUGHTS 

Costume-wise, the characters looked great. I love how the show both paid homage to the original characters, and managed to create something that felt modern and fresh. 

I also really enjoyed the way the actors portrayed the different characters. 

One of the highlights of the show was Ortega’s outstanding performance. In one scene she is seen beautifully playing the cello on the roof outside her room, in an apparent midnight serenade to no one in particular. This perfectly shows Wednesday’s melancholy and emotional state. 

During a video interview for Wired, Ortega revealed that she learned to play the cello specifically for the show. Ortega seems to be a fast learner as she handles the instrument like a professional. 

Zeta-Jones does a phenomenal job as Morticia as well, both in tone and inflection; she truly embodies the role well. I also love her chemistry with Gomez; their interactions and individual characters feel authentic to previous portrayals of the characters in film and television. The Addamses felt believable and are a wonderful addition to the franchise.  

I also like the way the show’s colors pop and contrast. In particular, I love how dark and dreary Wednesday is compared to her roommate Enid Sinclair, played by Emma Myers, who is a werewolf and very much full of color and whimsy, the exact opposite of Wednesday. I loved their dynamic and hope it continues growing throughout the season. 

Overall, I’m really pleased with the characters and casting choices. I love how they cast Hispanic actors for the Addams family as Gomez was shown to be Hispanic in previous iterations of the Addams family. 

With how well the show is performing on Netflix, there is hope that it will be renewed for a second season. Hopefully, in the rest of the season we get to see even more colorful characters make appearances from the original series, such as Uncle Fester or Cousin Itt.