The decision to transfer the school of 15-year old Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) to the alma mater of her parents isn't really going well. She released piranhas in the swimming pool of her old school that chewed off a testicle of a bully and as a result, she got expelled. At Nevermore, she is the 'outcast' among 'outcasts'. But as Wednesday will soon realize, this place might just be as weird as she is.
But at Nevermore, things do not get any easier with someone trying to kill her. For creators Milles Miller and Alfred Gough, this sparks enough intrigue to re-imagine the source material- Charles Addams' The Addams Family Cartoons first published in 1938 in The New Yorker- in an eight episode arc. With Tim Burton helming the equal share of episodes, Wednesday has all the elements of that eccentric new pop-culture obsession that Netflix is clearly aiming at. If only, the show remembered that adding suspense isn't enough to carry this supernatural teen drama forward.
The original worked best because it placed the gothic and the weird against normal surroundings, but here at Nevermore the mystery really begins at the expense of resident werewolves, monsters and other creatures that are clearly reassembled to encourage an interest into the absurdism of the backdrop. Production designer Mark Scruton re-imagines Nevermore to be an amplified version of a colour-coded and sinister institution that should surely make Wednesday feel at ease. It does not result in building intrigue, but dampening it in the process of unraveling the central mystery. The history of Wednesday's parents, with the attention to Addams Gomez (Luiz Guzmán) and Morticia Gomez (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and the implications of discrimination they faced during their time at Nevermore is cleverly contextualized into the release of the show before Thanksgiving. Yet as the mystery behind Nevermore's history unfolds, matters become less intriguing and more rushed to pack a punch.
The several subplots and stock-in characters almost dampen the central conflict in Wednesday as it takes far too many thematic leaps in the process. The eight hour-long episodes gradually become a begrudging mess of dark family secrets, nefarious monsters and grisly murders. The original goth girl Christina Ricci (who played Wednesday in the 90s films) returns as Miss Thornhill, with barely any bite. Every character seems to be ready with witty, sarcastic one-liners, with Wednesday quipping, "I find social media to be a soul-sucking void of meaningless affirmation," even as she wards off her cheerful roommate Enid (Emma Myers). Yet the next second she uses social media to get help, rightfully confronted with her point. Jenna Ortega tries her best to give Wednesday the dismissive thrill of anti-hero sarcasm with an inner turmoil to lead the viewers through, but the show stretches past the intrigue as it deliberately holds on to the annoyingly chaotic mesh of intrigue and antics. Take for instance the exhausting conflict created with the two boys who get into an uncomfortable love triangle of sorts with Wednesday. Or her troubled relationship with her mother Morticia that takes a lifetime to unpack and then thrown into the narrative swing of bigger plotlines. Reminders of Sex Education's Maeve Wiley and Stranger Things' Eleven are quite the kick in the expanding catalogue of Netflix's morbid, sarcastic female protagonists. But Wednesday neither registers in half the warmth nor the shrewdness required to carry the show forward.
There's a lot going on in Wednesday as the unblinking eye of the deadly calm lead notices, yet of little significance in its stylistically expansive world of mythical creatures and supernatural intrigue. Just as one feels closer to a resolve, the show diverts into a different voyage and hints that there is more to come. It doesn't help that the climax feels like a disappointing mess of unspecific tail-ends, hinting at a Season 2. With everything Tim Burton does, Wednesday still feels distinctly specific and watchable. Yet, is it promising enough to lead us for more?