Jenna Ortega in 'Wednesday' surrounded by popcorn
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I Like ‘Wednesday’… But I Don’t Love It

The instantly iconic show is not without it's problems. Here's what worked - and what didn't - with 'Wednesday.'
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Netflix’s Wednesday has taken the Internet by storm! Even I am not free from the grasp that this show has on pop culture. I have already written not one but two articles on the show because I like it that much!

But just because I like it doesn’t mean that the show is without its problems. And while the show has many strengths, it has a few weaknesses that we should talk about.

Audiences Will Love The Main Character…

Jenna Ortega does a phenomenal job of making the character of Wednesday her own. In interviews, Ortega has stated that she took special care not to discuss the character with co-star and Addams Family alum Christina Ricci because she didn’t want to be influenced by someone else’s interpretation.

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Though the actress succeeds in making the character her own, she does pay homage to previous Wednesdays in fun and cheeky ways. She dons pilgrim garb and delivers a scathing monologue as a send-up to Ricci’s iconic “Do not trust the pilgrims” monologue from the 1993 film Addams Family Values. And she incorporates certain dance moves into her Raven’s Ball choreography that Lisa Loring made famous when she played Wednesday in the original 1964 series.

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Ortega’s Wednesday is smart, funny, and quirky. And despite her oppositional nature, audiences will find her charming and relatable. You can really tell that Ortega loves the character and the source material. 

But speaking of the source material…

Hard-Core ‘Addams Family’ Fans May Be A Little Disappointed

The Addams Family was originally created as a cartoon for The New Yorker by Charles Addams. The family was supposed to be a satirical take on the ideal postwar American middle-class nuclear family. And in almost every iteration of the source material, the Addams’ subvert the expectations of what a proper American family should be. The 1964 television show not only subverted the expectations of the modern American family, but it also turned the wholesome family sitcom on its head!

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If you’re Gen x or a millennial like me, the Barry Sonnenfeld adaptations from the early 90s are your favorite version of The Addams Family. Now, this may be because the dialogue and the performances are iconic – which they are. But the success of the Sonnenfeld films relies on the fact that the films truly understood the satirical and subversive nature of the family. 

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In the films, the family was independently wealthy, like many postwar middle-class families strived to be. But they were frivolous rather than hard-working. Family sitcoms often portrayed spouses as two volatile people locked in an eternal battle of the sexes. Some sitcoms, like The Honeymooners, even had the husband “playfully” joke about beating his wife. But in the Sonnenfeld films, Gomez and Morticia are overcome with genuine love and insatiable lust for one another. Wednesday, Pugsley, and Pubert represented the ideal 2.5 children, but they were always trying to kill each other. And despite being so dark and dreary, they were a genuinely happy family. They were like the Cleavers…with cleavers.

But Wednesday doesn’t quite understand the importance of subversion. Since this show is about Wednesday and not the family as a whole, we can forgive that it doesn’t have the same satirical takes on modern family dynamics and sitcoms. But it would’ve been nice to see how the show could have retained a bit of that subversive nature by making it a parody of modern teen dramas rather than just another teen drama. Putting an outsider like Wednesday in a school of outsiders and then making her even more of an outsider doesn’t really make sense. I know the show was trying to push the message that she is so different and broody that even the outcasts don’t want anything to do with her. But the writing fails to deliver that message in a clear and concise way.

But we will talk about the strengths and weaknesses of the writing later. Now, let’s talk about the performances.

Most Of The Performances Are Great…

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I absolutely adored all of the teenage performances in this show, and I loved most of the adult performances in the show. The two main love interests, Tyler and Xavier, played by Hunter Doohan and Percy Hynes White, respectively, are both charming, and it’s easy to understand why Wednesday would be interested in both of them. 

Emma Myers is so lovable and sympathetic in her role as technicolor werewolf Enid Sinclair that it is easy to understand why she has become a fan favorite. The only characters who are more wholesome than Enid are Ajax, her love interest, and Eugene, a sweet little beekeeper. 

Though all of the actors shine in their own secular way, the standout performance in the show belongs to Joy Sunday for her portrayal of the siren, Bianca Barclay. She brings so much heart and depth to this capable yet vulnerable character, and I am excited to see what the show does with her character in the second season. 

My two favorite adult characters in this show were Marilyn Thornhill and Larissa Weems. I was happy to see that Christina Ricci got to play a compellingly dualistic teacher throughout the entire show rather than just a cameo to hook fans of the Sonnenfeld films. 

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Gwendoline Christie really enjoyed playing Principal Weems, and it shows. I found myself more intrigued with her more than any other character in the show. My only problem with her character was that I didn’t quite understand her relationship with Wednesday. I couldn’t tell if she was hard on her because she saw her potential or because she wanted to direct her resentment for Morticia at her daughter. And speaking of her beef with Morticia, I didn’t understand why she hated her so much. Maybe it will be explained more thoroughly in the second season. Thankfully, Christie’s characterization was able to shine past the confusing writing.

…But Some Performances Fall Flat

I really only had a problem with two characters in the show: Dr. Valerie Kinbott and Morticia Addams. I was excited to see Rikki Lindhome playing the role of Wednesday’s therapist because I have always been a fan of her comedy duo with Kate Micucci, Garfunkel and Oats. But I wasn’t a fan of this character. Kinbott was not a particularly empathetic therapist, and Lindhome hardly got to use any of her comedic talents. This isn’t really Lindhome’s fault. She was set up to fail because the show really wanted her to serve as a red herring.

I have always been a fan of Catherine Zeta-Jones. I love how she is able to bring her natural exuberance to any role. Sadly that exuberance is lacking in her role as the iconic character Morticia. She certainly tries to make the character her own, and you can see her effort in her mannerisms. When the family drops Wednesday off at school, her father and brother hug her tightly, even though it is quite obvious that she doesn’t like to be touched.

Zeta-Jones brilliantly portrays Morticia as being the only family member that understands Wednesday by showing her affection without touching her. But her perfect physical mannerisms can’t make up for the fact that her dialogue and delivery leave much to be desired. Like with Gwendoline Christie and Rikki Lindhome, I don’t think this is necessarily Zeta-Jones’ fault. The writers don’t know whether to make Morticia an overbearing perfectionist or an emotionally supportive matriarch, and that would be a hard line for any actor to navigate.

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Since I’ve spent this entire article dancing around the subject, I may as well talk about the writing.

The Story Is Engaging…

At its core, this show is about outcasts looking for a sense of belonging. Despite her protests, we do get a sense that Wednesday does yearn for friends and family who understand her. Enid wants to be accepted by her werewolf family. Eugene simply wants a friend whom he can rely on. And Bianca wants to be free of her toxic family and feel safe at Nevermore.

These characters also want to be understood. This show could’ve been a character study where we dive deep into the backstory of each person, and it would have been even stronger. When the show focuses on the animosity between the outcasts and the normies, the audience feels more invested in the reconciliation between the two groups.

Unfortunately, the show decided to focus on another aspect.

…But The Writing Leaves Much To Be Desired

The mystery aspect of this show is simply not good. While it may not be obvious who the villainous mastermind is at first, it is very obvious who the mastermind isn’t. The writers want us to believe that the psychic wunderkind Wednesday would get the mystery completely wrong, and frankly, that is a little insulting to the viewers. 

This show didn’t really need to be a mystery. The audience would’ve been just as engaged if it was a horror/comedy with an emphasis on the characters rather than a hackneyed whodunnit. I get the sense that the show only took the mystery route because of the success of Riverdale… and I use the term “success” loosely. To Wednesday’s credit, the mystery was never quite as convoluted as the mysteries in Riverdale. But it was rather boring. I was much more concerned with whether or not Wednesday would stop shutting out the people who care about her.

That being said, the show did set up an interesting plot concerning the MorningSong cult for season two, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

In Conclusion

Wednesday’s show may be full of woe, but it does have far to go. Though the writers don’t really know what they want to do with the characters, it is clear that the actors really love being a part of this show, and they are having a lot of fun with their performances. 

Anyone can find this show enjoyable if they don’t get hung up on how dull the mystery is or how different the Addams Family’s dynamic is from the source material.