Admittedly, I was not on board with Wednesday when I saw the trailer for it.
I was still licking my wounds from the godawful CGI movie, so the trailer for this series was rubbing up against that recent memory, unfavorably.
Even after giving the initial episode a chance, being clouded by all that, it wasn’t quite working for me. Something felt off, and at that point, any hair out of place was going to be blown out of proportion. However, there was still a spark of something there, so I kept going.
That cloud quickly vanished by the second episode.
And I’m thrilled things went that way — not only has Wednesday been a complete joy in it’s own right, but it’s really expanded my perception of what The Addams Family CAN be. And that’s one hell of a lift for an often cynical, long-time die-hard fan like me. 🙂
Some quick observations:
- The Addams feel organic and real in this world. (More on that later.)
- Thing was just incredible. Burton’s disembodied hand from the 1990s films immediately became the de facto version of the character, superseding the original, more limited “arm in a box” version from the 1960s. And here, more than ever, it’s obvious this was the best way to go with him. It’s absolutely freakish how emotive and charming he is in this.
- It’s impressive that they’ve been able to keep all the Nevermore threads feeling serviced, full of character development, and just generally fulfilling. And most importantly, they never feel like they take away from the main story thread.
- That said, in retrospect I’m realizing some of them didn’t really go anywhere. For example, the siren Bianca is set up as a rival for Wednesday. At least, initially. And she serves that role quite well. As the show progresses, they pull back on that bit and we see she has her own problems, in the form of her cult-leader mother. This seems like it’s going to pay off later in the series but it never does.
- The cast is just incredible. Multiple times during this series, I thought to myself that every kid in this series is going on to do great things. Especially Jenna Ortega and Emma Myers, who have some insane chemistry together. Emma’s “Enid” is like the “anti-Wednesday”, but in a complementary, yin/yang completing each other kind of way. A real delight.
- I feel it necessary to call out how great the show looked. It didn’t overdo it with the color grading, which is usually what ruins a lot of these modern shows for me. There was a great deal of beauty in this very dreary-focused series. Not quite Better Call Saul levels of “every frame a painting”, but there was clearly a lot of effort put into the cinematography here, and I definitely noticed!
Some criticisms I’ve encountered so far are worth examining:
- Wednesday doing that dance at the Rave’N seemed more like a callback to that scene from the 1960s series where she was dancing with Lurch, more than an attempt at ‘going TikTok viral’. (Both situations can be true, I guess.)
- Why was Wednesday attending Nevermore when she had no powers to speak of, since the ‘visions’ were her secret?
Nevermore was more about being outcasts, which admittedly seemed to be more focused on ‘kids with monster powers’. Neither of which Gomez nor Morticia had at the time when they attended, nor in contemporary times. But an argument could be made that back in the 1990s, attendance was more diverse. And then as time went on, the school’s reputation attracted more monster-focused applicants. Wednesday, being the child of a 90s-era alumnus, was technically welcome, but would be a victim of the era — an outcast among outcasts. (Which she certainly was.)
- Many Addams Family interpretations, stepping beyond the simpler gag-focused 1960s sitcom and comic strip premise, have a problem where once you start injecting real crises into the plot, the concept breaks down. “I thought murder was good? Bad is good, right?”
Real stakes end up being at odds with their natural, comedic portrayal. Wednesday experiences this problem as well. At least, initially. But as the show progresses, and we start to see Wednesday break down her barriers a bit (a VERY little bit), it’s clear that while she definitely has the ultimate dark, macabre, loner streak — she’s an Addams after all — it’s also a bit of a front. At least in this version of the character. There’s a middle-ground deep inside her, closer to her parents. Somewhere in there. Thankfully, Wednesday’s glacial character growth feels believable. She’s complex.
Indeed, the Addams clan themselves ultimately end up being more more grounded in general, by necessity of this longer-form series, without losing any their kooky charm.
- And yes, admittedly, Wednesday is a mediocre, if incredibly intimidating detective. She not only falsely accused several people of being behind the murders, but she didn’t even really ‘solve’ the mystery until she thought it was over, received a spoiler-filled vision with the answer, and the Hyde just up and confessed in the police station.
The ‘visions’, in retrospect, kind of sucked. They felt more like a writer’s crutch to move the plot along, rather than a skill Wednesday could learn to wield.
Which is just as well. The core mystery wasn’t really the most compelling part of the show. It was more the interactions with Wednesday and the people of Jericho. So this is a fair point.
- Finally, Crackstone’s resurrection, in the finale, is tougher to explain. I suspect his radical shift from firebrand puritan willing to torch an entire barn full of ‘outcasts’, and into being a magic-wielding supernatural being is a side effect of being dead for hundreds of years, existing in hell (presumably, or whatever afterlife), and the preternatural manner in which he was resurrected. But I don’t recall anything about that being touched on in the story, so… yeah, it’s just weird.
- Almost as weird as Goody being an Addams and not a Frump, since she’s from Morticia’s side. 😉
These are all minor things — it was so much fun that even the criticisms that have some merit aren’t show-stoppers by any stretch.
One MAJOR nitpick though… a real problem…
Not enough Fester! A terrific tribute to Jackie Coogan’s version of the character while being his own thing. Leaps and bounds better than Christopher Lloyd’s bizarrely gravely-voiced evergreen victim in both of Burton’s prior films.
I would never in a million years considered Fred Armisen as a good choice for the role, but now I can’t imagine him NOT playing him. He’s genuinely a real treat who’s presence is far too fleeting.
Bring on Season 2!