Wednesday from director Tim Burton could not look any more Tim Burtonish unless he hand drew every frame. This live action series about Wednesday Addams is about as close to perfect as a TV series can get.
Jenna Ortega plays Wednesday Addams. She’s brilliant at the deadpan delivery, the quick macabre comebacks, the conversations with Thing (Victor Dorobantu’s right hand), and the relentless girl detective plotline about old and new murder cases.
Wednesday is sent to the Nevermore Academy by her parents Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzmán). They went there themselves. Nevermore Academy is full of outcasts. There are werewolves, sirens, and others. Teen Wednesday is just coming into her psychic powers and struggling to control them.
Much of the story is murder mystery with Wednesday as the one solving the crimes. Her newfound psychic visions help her with the detective work. Plus she’s genius level smart, brilliant on the cello, a champ at everything, and determinedly dark.
In the 8 episodes of the series there are several important characters. Principal Weems (Gwendoline Christie) both hurts and helps with solving the various crimes. I loved every visual of Gwendoline Christie standing side by side with Jenna Ortega. Christie is all glam, resplendent in a gorgeous tight outfit with high heels making her even taller, while Ortega is this tiny, black-swathed human next to her. They are hilarious without even trying to do anything funny.
There is so much humor in this dark fantasy series. A tip from a close caption user: the descriptions of the music provided via close captions are a whole comedy experience in themselves. “Jaunty macabre music plays,” for example.
Other adults include the therapist Dr. Kinbott (Riki Lindhome), the newest faculty member Marilyn Thornhill (Christina Ricci), and Sheriff Galpin (Jamie McShane).
Wednesday has never had friends. She doesn’t know what to do with her brightly colored roommate Enid (Emma Myers) who wants to hug her all the time. Two boys seem to have crushes on her – something she’s not prepared to deal with. Tyler (Hunter Doohan) is the sheriff’s son and works in the coffee shop. Xavier (Percy Hynes White) is another student. Bianca (Joy Sunday) starts out as a rival for Wednesday in school achievement, but they soon learn to respect each other.
Having a roommate who looks out for her and two boys who actually like her as well as assorted other affirmations that she is a worthwhile person bring out a character arc in Wednesday. She warms up, just a little. She smiles once, just a little. She kisses a boy for the first time. It’s a tiny arc, but it’s an arc.
Wednesday sets out to solve several mysteries. One involved her father who was arrested (and cleared) of killing someone with a sword. The real killer has never been found. In the current timeline, there’s a monster in the woods with GREAT BIG ENORMOUS TERRIBLE TEETH who is tearing students and townspeople to shreds and stealing parts of their bodies.
Then there’s a timeline of distant past crimes involving the ancestors of people still involved in the story. Wednesday meets up with ghostly Goody Addams in her visions. Goody helps her a great deal and even saves her life at one point. She fills in many details about ancient history that are affecting the school today.
Everybody is a suspect. Everybody looks guilty in one episode or the next. Red herrings, anyone?
The ending suggests that there could be more seasons in the future. I would be enthusiastic about that. This season was a delight from beginning to end. So well written and directed. Jenna Ortega was magnificent. It’s on Netflix. Watch it.