DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Wednesday episode “Friend or Woe” contains spoilers. Proceed at your peril, normies.
Welcome back, normies and outcasts! “Friend or Woe” kicks the narrative pace up a notch, diving deeper into the connection between racist, colonizing pilgrim Joseph Crackstone and Wednesday herself. I love that the episode, namely our heroine, promptly decries our inexplicable reverence for the pilgrims when they committed ghastly, violent atrocities against the Indigenous community already living in America.
I could’ve done with less focus on the romantic subplot. As of this point in the season, it’s hard to maintain interest in any scene without Wednesday. However, I do find Larissa Weems and Marilyn Thornhill intriguing. There’s undoubtedly more to them than meets the eye. This outing is a step above episode two, so I believe we’re heading in the right direction.
Ready to delve into “Friend or Woe”? Let’s get to it.
We open where we left off, with Wednesday (Jenna Ortega) getting a sack over the head. She winds up surrounded by masked figures. As it turns out, The Nightshades aren’t as defunct as Marilyn claimed. Bianca (Joy Sunday), Xavier (Percy Hynes White), Yoko (Naomi J. Ogawa) and Ajax (Georgie Farmer) are among the members. We learn Rowan was kicked out of The Nightshades. Xavier urges Bianca to let Wednesday pledge to join the group. However, this ain’t her kind of party. She departs. Admittedly, this reveal was disappointing and resolved way too quickly for my liking.
Then, we see Principal Larissa Weems (Gwendoline Christie) announcing the annual Outreach Day, wherein Nevermore students mingle with the “normies” of Jericho by working alongside them at their establishments. There’s a joke about putting their best face forward, and the camera instantly pans to two students without faces. Get it? It’s because they don’t have faces. Larissa reveals she volunteered Wednesday to play cello with the Jericho high school marching band. Can she play Fleetwood Mac, though?
Later, our students arrive in town for the Outreach festivities. Wednesday shows Xavier the page Rowan’s mother drew. He reveals that the pilgrim she’s standing next to is Joseph Crackstone, Jericho’s founder. Oh, and he still believes Rowan is alive. We’ll see about that! Then, the mayor of Jericho, Noble Walker (Tommie Earl Jenkins), chats with Sheriff Galpin (Jamie McShane). He orders the sheriff to find the “bear” terrorizing and murdering Jericho citizens. Fun fact: Mayor Walker’s son is one of the bullies our Goth gal successfully defeated in combat.
Next, Wednesday persuades Enid (Emma Myers) to switch Outreach Day sites with her. Now, Enid will volunteer at the creepy antique shop with Ajax, and our protagonist will take on Pilgrim World. Enid is happy as a clam because she’s carrying a torch for Ajax. Wednesday reunites with Eugene (Moosa Mostafa) and the others while they learn the ins and outs of Pilgrim World from their guide, Arlene (Lisa O’Hare). Wednesday wishes to discover more about Joseph Crackstone and pinpoint her connection to him.
While Wednesday, Eugene, Bianca and the other students settle in to sell fudge under Arlene’s watchful eye, Enid and Ajax are thoroughly unsettled by the antique/taxidermy shop. The proprietor, Connie Jorgensen (Sophia Nomvete — Disa in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power), encourages the pair to brush out the tangles on the taxidermied rodents in their adorable finery. That’s okay; I’ll pass.
Then, Wednesday speaks German to, presumably, German tourists about the bloody, violent history behind Jericho and Joseph Crackstone. She mentions the abhorrently racist colonizers who violently slaughtered and stole from Indigenous people. Yes, girl! This is something ’90s Wednesday would do. I approve. Arlene isn’t a fan because our titular hero chased off potential customers.
Meanwhile, Eugene runs into the trio of bullies from the coffee shop in the pilot. They poke fun at him for eating fudge. They lock him in the stockade after he vomits fudge all over the ringleader. Thankfully, Wednesday swoops in to save the day, effectively putting the bullies in their place and protecting Eugene. Larissa chats with Mayor Walker at the Weathervane Cafe, and Marilyn (Christina Ricci) overhears that the Nevermore principal donated significantly to the mayor’s campaign. Larissa urges Marilyn to keep an eye on Wednesday, a.k.a. “the pigtailed upstart.”
Speaking of, our gal cleans up Eugene and reveals he reminds her of Pugsley. Well, sans repugnance. Eugene confesses he has no friends, but it seems he now has one in Wednesday. Aw, this is cute. Eugene helps Wednesday break into the Joseph Crackstone museum so she can look through the artifacts. She finds an intriguing book that’s, unfortunately, a prop from Etsy. Arlene catches her, reprimanding her and Eugene. Wednesday learns that another building Joseph met in is somewhere in the woods. The dilapidated remains, that is.
Enid beats around the romantic bush while at the antique shop. After Ajax repeatedly fails to read between the lines, Enid tells him point-blank she wants him to ask her on a date. Ajax asks her. Time to embark on a trip to Date City! If I’m being honest, I could’ve done without this subplot. It’s a little corny and lackluster for my taste.
Later, Xavier and Wednesday reunite at the coffee shop. The latter reveals she’s there to chat with Tyler, much to Xavier’s annoyance. Xavier warns her against hanging out with Tyler again. I want to know what beef lingers between these two dudes. Tyler (Hunter Doohan) emerges, and Wednesday asks about Joseph Crackstone’s grounds. He exercises caution, informing her about the drifters and addicts who regularly take up residence there.
Then, Wednesday and Thing run into a homeless man while at the dilapidated building in the woods. Thing lures the homeless man away while our Goth girl explores her surroundings. Suddenly, and without warning, Wednesday experiences a vision. This time, she travels 400 years into the past. We see the blonde girl she encountered in the previous episode’s vision — the one who looks like Wednesday in a wig. Joseph Crackstone (William Houston) looms menacingly above Goody Addams, a formidable figure compared to the small girl before him. Goody must be an ancestor of Wednesday’s.
Joseph accuses Goody of being a witch, condemning her to die in a barn stuffed with other accused folks, including her mother. They’re all bound. Joseph sets the barn ablaze. Goody tries to free her mom in vain, but it’s no use. Her mother encourages Goody to escape, so she flees via a trap door. Wednesday observes this in the barn with them. Next, Goody runs up to Wednesday and claims Joseph won’t cease his crusade until he’s killed them all. Joseph excitedly declares there’ll be no escape for our heroine.
Suddenly, Wednesday wakes after her lengthy vision. She relays what she saw to Thing. However, before they can dig too deeply into that, they spot the eye of the monster from the pilot. Wednesday runs into the rain after the feature. She notices the tracks morph from a beast’s to a man’s. Interesting. Xavier spots her in the rain, and the pair discuss her findings. Xavier believes Wednesday’s right about Rowan — something’s amiss there.
They talk about Wednesday’s burgeoning psychic abilities. Xavier’s famous father, Victor Thorpe, is also a psychic. He advises Wednesday not to solely trust what she sees. Visions are based on emotions, not logic. Later, everyone reunites in the town square for the unveiling of a new statue dedicated to Joseph Crackstone. Wednesday plays an instrumental version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” with the Jericho marching band while the mayor and Larissa announce said statue.
Then, Thing sets in motion a burning of the effigy. The bronze Joseph Crackstone becomes engulfed in flame as Wednesday busts out Vivaldi’s “Winter” on the cello. We see normies and outcasts alike running for the hills. It’s pretty damn epic—way to stick it to a colonizer.
Later, Larissa tears into Wednesday, scolding our girl even though she claims her hands are clean. Technically, only one hand was involved. Wednesday rebukes Larissa for refusing to acknowledge the bloody, racist truths on which Jericho was founded. Larissa reveals she doesn’t have enough evidence to pin the burning on our protagonist, but she’s watching Wednesday closely.
Enid prepares for her date with Ajax while Eugene does some snooping outside, and Marilyn two-snaps her way into The Nightshades’ secret lair. Oh, what is she hiding now? Ajax inadvertently turns himself into stone while showering — the towel he draped over the mirror slipped, and he caught sight of his reflection. Gorgons can only turn into stone temporarily, though. Admittedly, this scene made me chuckle a bit. Enid believes Ajax stood her up. Larissa throws a yearbook page featuring Morticia into the fire. So, that’s why she loathes Wednesday: she despises Morticia!
Dr. Valerie Kinbott (Riki Lindhome) fulfills her peculiar tastes by sewing clothes for taxidermied animals. Tyler lays at the bottom of a filled bathtub and screams, and Xavier emerges from a barn with curious scratch marks on his neck. Could he be the monster? Or did he come in contact with it? Sheriff Galpin and his crew arrive at dilapidated forest ruins to find the homeless man dead. The creature killed him. They discover footage on his camera that may reveal the culprit’s face.
After developing the photos, Galpin looks upon the face of the killer — a monster borne from nightmares.
The final few minutes of “Friend or Woe,” complemented beautifully by that gorgeous Apocalyptica cover of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters,” set the stage for a thrilling, engaging next phase in the evolution of this story. Hokey teen drama aside, we’re learning that many of these characters aren’t who they appear to be. Here’s hoping the series peels back these layers to uncover surprising and unexpected truths. There’s nothing I love more than a good character enigma.
Who do you think the monster is? Could the Xavier reveal be a red herring? Will Wednesday destroy Nevermore Academy? Let’s continue with our watch!
Wednesday Season 1 is now streaming on Netflix.
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