Wednesday presents a deviously charming world. This has much to do with its source material – Charles Addams’ The Addams Family cartoons, which were first published in the New Yorker in 1938. The comics revolve around the spooky Addams family, who delight in everything macabre, oblivious to other people’s discomfort around their kooky way of living. It comes as no surprise then that Wednesday – named after, and focusing on the family’s daughter – bristles with originality, comfortably settling into its witty and bizarre universe. We begin with Wednesday’s transfer to Nevermore Academy after an incident involving certain swim team bullies and piranhas. Nevermore, the school Wednesday’s parents once attended, houses all flavours of ‘outcasts’: werewolves, vampires, gorgons and more. The school establishes a pulsating world of possibilities – of love triangles, shapeshifting teachers, deadly no-holds-barred competitions and of course, attempts at murder. Add to this the legacy of director Tim Burton and an impassive Wednesday (Jenna Ortega), brimming with sharp wit and cynicism, and you have the beginnings of a binge-worthy show.
The Addams Family has always had a strong pop-culture association with Halloween, but Wednesday, which was released on Netflix a day before Thanksgiving, centers the largely invisibilised and painful history between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. This came naturally to creators Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, who took much inspiration from in the 1993 film Addams Family Values. The Addams Family has always represented ‘otherness’ (and the consequent discrimination associated with it) but Wednesday digs its heels in further by contextualising it against the history of Thanksgiving. While Wednesday’s father, Gomez, was always implied to be a Mexican immigrant, the show introduces us to his ancestor Goody Addams, an outcast who began a society in the 1600s to protect her people from the bigotry perpetuated by Pilgrim leader, Joseph Crackstone (William Houston). Crackstone founded Jericho, the fictional town that now sits adjacent to Nevermore Academy. The passing of time might have afforded the town a thin veil of tolerance but discrimination against outcasts is still rampant. When an unknown monster begins murdering them, Wednesday’s awareness of her past, and the resulting sense of duty she feels, fuels her to become a detective.
Wednesday has eight hour-long episodes over which it attempts to unravel multiple mysteries. Apart from the murderous monster, there is the issue of Wednesday’s repeated visions (of the past and the future) and the dark secret her parents seem to be hiding. Wednesday dedicates much of its energy towards keeping its suspense intact and while this might leave viewers guessing until the last episode, the lack of engagement looms large over the series.