DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Wednesday series premiere episode, “Wednesday’s Child Is Full of Woe,” contains spoilers. Proceed at your peril, normies.
Welcome, normies and outcasts! Tim Burton‘s Wednesday is finally here to deliver spooky, kooky, ooky and mysterious thrills (along with some chills). Danny Elfman‘s score is in top form (and Danny Elfman-ing), Burton’s trademark darkly comedic humor is in full force, and we’ve got a nuanced, morbid Goth gal in Jenna Ortega. Perhaps it’s the Burton/Elfman ’90s fan in me, but this series feels warmly nostalgic. Ortega is pitch-perfect as our titular creepy heroine. She has the deadpan deliveries down, but there’s more churning beneath the surface. She’s giving us a multifaceted, grounded Wednesday, and I’m here for it.
Ready to delve into “Wednesday’s Child Is Full of Woe”? Let’s get to it.
We open with Wednesday (Ortega) walking down her high school hallway. As we can see in an overhead shot, our protagonist is a bold black beam in a sea of vivid color. She finds her brother Pugsley (Isaac Ordonez) bound with an apple in his mouth in her locker. Suddenly, Wednesday has a vision wherein she sees who tortured Pugsley. Once she finds out a group of jocks from the swim team are behind this, she saunters into swim practice with two bags full of piranhas, which she promptly and nonchalantly unleashes on the culprits. Nobody picks on her brother except her.
Later, Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzmán) sing Roy Orbison to each other in the family car. Lurch (George Burcea) drives, Pugsley sits in the front passenger seat and Wednesday sulks in the backseat across from her parents. Oh, the innate teenage embarrassment. Gomez and Morticia are sending their daughter to the prestigious Nevermore Academy, their alma mater, much to Wednesday’s horror. Wednesday was expelled for her wicked prank with the piranhas.
Meanwhile, a lone hiker embarks on a jaunt through the woods near the Nevermore signage. As is with many solo excursions in fantasy/horror, he’s brutally killed. Next, Wednesday meets Principal Larissa Weems (Gwendoline Christie), who seamlessly runs Nevermore. Larissa is excited to get Wednesday onboard, especially since she comes from a family of Nevermore stock. Our girl meets her roommate, Enid (Emma Myers), a werewolf who’s a solar opposite in every way imaginable, down to the vibrantly-colored decorations on her side of the room.
Later, Enid gives Wednesday the grand tour while pointing out the main school cliques: Fangs, Furs, Stoners and Scales. Fangs are (obviously) vampires; Furs are werewolves; Stoners are gorgons and Scales are sirens. We glimpse poplar girl Bianca Barclay (Joy Sunday), a gorgeous siren, along with her ex-boyfriend Xavier Thorpe (Percy Hynes White), the academy’s “resident tortured artist.” We meet Ajax (Georgie Farmer), a gorgon with a slithering snake peering out from under his hat. Rumors are already swirling regarding our titular hero’s arrival — did she murder someone at her former school or consume them whole?
Next, Wednesday bids farewell to her family. Morticia reveals she has eyes everywhere should her daughter try to escape. She also gifts Wednesday with a beautiful necklace, mentioning its psychic history. After all, Wednesday is having visions more frequently. As the Addams family departs, Gomez releases Thing, who’s tasked with keeping watch over his child.
Sheriff Galpin (Jamie McShane) surveys the woods after the hiker dies. We see body parts all over the place. This grisly murder isn’t the first of its kind; two kills preceded it. Meanwhile, Wednesday and Enid clash over how best to divide the room. Marilyn Thornhill (Christina Ricci), a teacher and den mother at the academy, greets Wednesday with a black dahlia. Marilyn discloses the rules while Wednesday absorbs her new surroundings. The OG Wednesday (from the ’90s) is back, baby!
Then, Wednesday duels with Bianca in their fencing class the following day. After both fencers emerge tied, our girl suggests they remove their masks and fight until someone draws blood first. A brutal battle erupts, with Bianca slashing her cheek, much to the latter’s ire. While getting patched up in the infirmary, Wednesday meets Rowan (Calum Ross), who originally dueled Bianca. He considers himself to be the outcast of the outcasts. Our heroine departs the infirmary but is almost crushed to death by a stone gargoyle. Thankfully, Xavier swiftly pushes her out of the way.
Wednesday wakes again in the infirmary, with Xavier looming above her. She doesn’t have a concussion — this but a head bump. Xavier wonders whether she remembers him. They spent time together as kids at his godmother’s funeral. His godmother and her grandmother were best pals back in the day.
Next, our fave Goth returns to her room to find Thing concealed underneath her blanket. She threatens to torture him for information; however, she quickly figures out that her parents sent Thing to spy on her. Wednesday orders Thing to swear fealty to her now, which he does. Later, Larissa drives her to her mandatory therapy session in Jericho, the small town outside of Nevermore. She meets her therapist, Dr. Valerie Kinbott (Riki Lindhome). Valerie tries to get her to open up. But, no dice.
Wednesday escapes through the bathroom, making a beeline for the local coffee shop. She encounters Tyler (Hunter Doohan), the sheriff’s son who’s also a barista at said coffee shop. Tyler’s experiencing some mechanical difficulties with the store’s espresso machine. The directions are inexplicably in Italian, but thankfully, Wednesday can read Italian! She fixes the device in exchange for Tyler driving her to the nearest bus stop. He agrees to do this if she waits for his shift to end.
Wednesday resigns herself to the waiting game. Suddenly, a trio of bullies donning pilgrim costumes approaches her. If this doesn’t remind you of that scene in Addams Family Values, I don’t know what to tell you. Anyway, Wednesday does the right thing and calls out the pilgrims for being racist, violent colonizers. She insults one of the guys’ dads, who works at Pilgrim World. Then, she lays the smackdown on all three bullies without so much as blinking an eye.
The sheriff and Larissa wander into the shop to find Wednesday’s destruction. Realizing Gomez is Wednesday’s dad, he lets slip that Gomez is a murderer. Huh? Larissa drives Wednesday back to the academy. She urges the teenager not to make life more difficult for either. They pass a terrible, fatal wreck on the way there. Our girl had a vision of the man who died in that crash earlier, and it came to fruition.
Meanwhile, Rowan gets his magic on, and Wednesday plays a haunting cover of “Paint It Black” on her cello. I’m obsessed! Wednesday confesses to Thing that something seems amiss at Nevermore. Enid joins her outside for a chat. She admits she’s not cavorting with the werewolves because she hasn’t fully transformed. She’s even visited a werewolf doctor. Our girl attempts to comfort Enid in her way, which is to say not at all. Hey, it’s not her forte.
Thing pops by Tyler’s room for a spell and asks him to call Wednesday. Wednesday loathes technology and despises social media, but she’ll utilize one or the other if she must. They video chat, and she asks Tyler to meet her at the Harvest Festival fair, and they’ll travel to the bus station from there. While at the fair, we see Larissa watching Wednesday like a hawk. Xavier chats it up with our Goth gal, but she claims she’s not interested. Tyler hands Wednesday Gomez’s file from when he was at Nevermore. Tyler calls her “kooky,” but Wednesday prefers “spooky.” Not “ooky,” though?
They almost escape together when Wednesday has another vision involving Rowan’s death by mauling. She tracks down Rowan to impart the news. However, Rowan uses his telekinesis to secure Wednesday high up on a tree. He reveals his mother, a powerful seer, envisioned Wednesday’s arrival at Nevermore 25 years ago. She even sketched Wednesday. Rowan procures the page in question. His mother claimed that our heroine would destroy Nevermore Academy.
Rowan doesn’t believe he’s in danger; instead, she’s in mortal peril. As he tries to kill her by choking her telekinetically, a massive monster swoops in to save the day, tearing Rowan apart. He perishes. Wednesday stands over Rowan’s body and nicks the illustration his mother purportedly drew of her.
Lastly, Wednesday chats with Morticia and Gomez via crystal ball while leafing through Gomez’s file. Her parents ask her how her first week went. Wednesday mentally composes a list of the atrocities that befell thus far. She tells her mother she loves Nevermore, and we see her grin from ear to ear. Creepy!
I love Zeta-Jones as Morticia and Guzmán as Gomez. They own these roles. They still rank under Raul Juliá and Anjelica Huston for me, but those performances are damn near impossible to top. That said, Zeta-Jones and Guzmán look fantastic and give us a taste of that macabre, passionate, undying love that Gomez and Morticia have for each other. “Wednesday’s Child Is Full of Woe” (named after a real nursery rhyme called “Monday’s Child,” first printed in 1838) is a fun entry into the Nevermore universe and a solid live-action reintroduction of our eponymous star.
Jenna Ortega steers this ship. While the premiere is far from perfect, it’s significantly bolstered by her performance. This outing establishes an intriguing mystery ripe for solving, and exciting worldbuilding concerning the Nevermore students. I can’t wait to see where this series takes us.
Wednesday Season 1 is now streaming on Netflix.