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Friday, November 18, 2022

“Wednesday” Review – Tim Burton’s Netflix Series Is Not Quite Mysterious or Spooky Enough

Netflix’s “Wednesday” singles out the most morose member of the altogether ooky Addams Family to give its eponymous character a coming-of-age story centered around a murder mystery. Despite a compelling portrayal of the macabre teen by Jenna Ortega, a whodunnit with sharp teeth, and executive producer Tim Burton helming half of the episodes, “Wednesday” never gets mysterious or spooky enough to reinvigorate the YA formula.

Wednesday Addams gets expelled from yet another high school after getting brutal revenge on Pugsley’s (Isaac Ordonez) tormenters. Parents Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzmán) then ship her off to their alma mater, Nevermore Academy, hoping she’ll fit in more in a school that accepts societal outcasts of the supernatural sort. Wednesday’s standoffish nature already puts her at odds with the faculty and student body, but that’s before her burgeoning psychic abilities, a 25-year-old murder mystery involving her parents, and a monstrous killing spree affecting the nearby town complicates everything.

Series creators/showrunners Alfred Gough & Miles Millar use the present slayings as the narrative thrust. Wednesday establishes herself as an unrelenting sleuth, determined to uncover the truth no matter the cost. Her unyielding persistence and disregard for rules or others put her at odds with Principal Weems (Gwendoline Christie), therapist Dr. Kinbott (Riki Lindhome), and local Sheriff Galpin (Jamie McShane). It creates friction with the school’s popular student Bianca (Joy Sunday) and roommate Enid (Emma Myers). And it introduces an unexpected and often awkward love triangle between Wednesday, the Sheriff’s son Tyler (Hunter Doohan), and classmate Xavier (Percy Hynes White).

Wednesday review tim burton

Wednesday. (L to R) Emma Myers as Enid Sinclair, Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams in episode 101 of Wednesday. Cr. Vlad Cioplea/Netflix © 2022

The series emphasizes Wednesday and her relationships over worldbuilding. Trying to straddle the two worlds at the center of the whodunnit – the normie town and the unwanted school for the supernaturally inclined- “Wednesday” only skims the surface of both, robbing either of personality. Through the ornery and mistrustful Sheriff, we get a stronger sense of the town’s prejudice against Nevermore. It’s through Weems that we infer pieces of the academy’s history. The supernatural elements mainly serve as metaphors to bolster character arcs. Enid, for example, is a bubbly teen girl eager to make fast friends with even the acerbic Wednesday. She becomes downtrodden when her mom laments over her delayed transition into wolfhood, a supernatural stand-in for puberty.

The threadbare worldbuilding makes it easier to discern the clues from the red herrings and friends from foes. Who, or what, is behind the recent string of bloody slayings and attacks won’t surprise anyone with passing familiarity with Scooby-Doo, but Wednesday’s dogged pursuit of the truth at least keeps it interesting. “Wednesday” isn’t afraid to let its heroine get it wrong over and over again, constantly threatening to unravel her investigation in the process.

Jenna Ortega’s portrayal of the iconic character makes for a fascinating case study of the unlikable protagonist. This version of Wednesday is outwardly callous, unfriendly, and brash. She’s quick to dismiss and mistrust those most eager for her friendship, even when they’ve proven loyal. This is a Wednesday resentful of living in her mother’s shadow and even more rueful of authority. It’s a Wednesday with no qualms about torture if it means getting what she wants. All qualities that alienate her would render other characters irredeemable. Yet Ortega injects complex pathos beneath the stoicism and dry line delivery. Wednesday may be matter-of-fact and straight-faced in demeanor, but her eyes convey her emotional truth. And the truth is that no matter how weird, abrasive, or quirky she may be, she’s an average teen girl beneath it all. 

Wednesday. (L to R) Jenna Ortega as Wednesday Addams, Hunter Doohan as Tyler Galpin in episode 104 of Wednesday. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2022

That speaks to the series at large. Affable performances and genre stylings keep it breezy and entertaining, with Ortega doing just enough to ensure you’d like to see where it goes next. Otherwise, “Wednesday” makes for a rather vanilla introduction to the character. For all its eccentricities, supernatural elements, oddball characters, and minor Addams Family tie-ins, it’s a rather generic Young Adult murder mystery at its core.

Netflix premieres “Wednesday” on November 23, 2022.

The post “Wednesday” Review – Tim Burton’s Netflix Series Is Not Quite Mysterious or Spooky Enough appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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