TV Review: Jenna Ortega’s ‘Wednesday’ is a Nostalgic but Modern Protagonist in Netflix’s ‘Addams Family’ Spin-off Series

TV Review: Jenna Ortega’s ‘Wednesday’ is a Nostalgic but Modern Protagonist in Netflix’s ‘Addams Family’ Spin-off Series

Refusing to live up to anyone else’s standards is a perfect guide to become a meaningful and memorable leader. Jenna Ortega is proving just that with her unique portrayal of Wednesday Addams, the iconic anti-heroine from the celebrate Addams Family franchise.

The actress stepped into the role of the titular independent protagonist for the new Netflix television series, Wednesday, after Christina Ricci famously played the character in the 1991 Addams Family film and its 1993 sequel. Ortega infused her version of the character with a unique, unparalleled sense of tenacity and independence as she chased her dreams, which prove to be society’s nightmares.

The coming-of-age supernatural horror comedy’s first season features eight hour-long episodes. Four out of the eight episodes were directed by Tim Burton, who also served as an executive producer on the season.

The show begins with Wednesday as she learns that her brother, Pugsley (Isaac Ordonez), is being bullied at their public school. Being an outcast and loner, the eponymous character decides to responds with a potentially deadly prank against the popular athletes on the water polo team who she discovers were the culprits of the prank.

As punishment for her payback, Wednesday is expelled from the public school and sent to attend the private Nevermore Academy, a rural Vermont school for the unusually gifted, including vampires, werewolves and sirens. Wednesday, who begins having visions that she can’t interpret or control, isn’t happy about being forced to live, and fit in, with her new peers.

However, the teen girl’s parents, Gomez (Luis Guzmán) and Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), are overjoyed that their daughter is now attending their beloved alma mater. They hope that Nevermore will be as good for Wednesday as it was for them. But their optimism doesn’t stop them from sending one of their family’s servants, disembodied hand Thing (Victor Dorobantu), to the school to spy on their daughter.

Once she arrives at Nevermore, Wednesday is warned to control her antisocial behavior by headmistress Larissa Weems (Gwendoline Christie), Morticia’s former roommate at the school. Wednesday is also quickly required to attend counseling sessions with therapist Dr. Valerie Kinbott (Riki Lindhome) in the nearby town of Jericho, which Wednesday isn’t happy about doing.

The titular character also isn’t initially eager to befriend her peppy new roommate, Enid (Emma Myers), but she soon realizes there are benefits to finding an ally at her new school. Wednesday also soon begins to connect with her new dorm mom and botanical sciences teacher, Marilyn Thornhill (Ricci), who’s the only staff member at Nevermore who doesn’t have a supernatural gift.

inadvertently bond with popular – but brooding –  school jock Xavier (Percy Hynes White) and overwhelmingly normal townie Tyler (Hunter Doohan). He happens to be the son of the town Sheriff Donovan Galpin (Jamie McShane), one of many authority figures who isn’t an instant fan of Nevermore’s newest student.

Ortega, who has has garnered widespread attention in the horror space this year by starring in such acclaimed movies as Scream, X and Studio 666, is continuing her success in the genre by portraying the eponymous anti-heroine on Netflix’s new television series. The MTV Movie & TV Award-winning performer effortlessly infused Wednesday with her signature curiosity, fierce intelligence and cynicism of the world around her.

The actress presents her character to be so determined to defend what she believes in, including declaring war on injustice and seeking retribution when Pugsley and other outcasts are in trouble, that she ultimately proves to be an admirable role model.

Ortega’s emotional performance is enhanced by the visual elements the crew infused into the comedy. Wednesday always stands out visually, as the hair, makeup and costume departments balanced staying true to her iconic style while also giving her an updated, more contemporary look, including bangs and extensions in her hair.

Wednesday‘s costume designer, Colleen Atwood also only dressed Ortega in the titular character’s black and white clothing on each episode, while the other characters around her are only dressed in color. This allows the actress to visually stand out in every scene.

Similarly, the show’s production designer, Mark Scruton, also visually emphasizes the striking differences between the property of Nevermore with the town of Jericho. Nevermore is entrenched in dark shadows, while Jericho is only bathed in bright colors.

Scruton also thrived in making Nevermore look like an ominous, archetypal New England gothic mansion that was inspired by Bucharest’s signature architecture. The production design team built the entire town of Jericho on location in Romania, and many of the location shots for Nevermore were filmed at Cantacuzino Castle in the country’s Carpathian Mountains.

Both Wednesday’s school and the town of Jericho are just as visually stunning as her costumes, especially since everything was practically built and minimal CGI enhancements were used. Nevermore features eclectic architecture with Renaissance and Ottoman influences, which reflects how it’s a haven of acceptance for the many different types of outcasts who attend school there.

Wednesday is an emotional and visually stunning entry in The Addams Family franchise that’s perfectly modernized for contemporary society. Ortega pays tribute to the series’ titular character in the new television show by emphasizes her curiosity, intelligence, cynicism and most importantly, independence. Wednesday also proves that no matter what obstacles they face, everyone can be a hero if they pursue the journey that truly intrigues them.

All eight episodes of Wednesday‘s first season are now streaming on Netflix.

Grade: A-

Check out more of Karen Benardello’s articles.

Here’s the trailer of the series.


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