Beautifully updated for the TikTok age, Wednesday feels modern and yet appropriately faithful to the source material. Tim Burton works his magic once again, creating a gripping, iconic leading lady out of Wednesday, one that Jenna Ortega entirely makes her own, while introducing us to an exciting, supernatural world and a murder mystery begging to be solved.
We recap the Netflix series Wednesday season 1, episode 1, “Wednesday’s Child is Full of Woe,” which contains spoilers.
Director Tim Burton and the Addams Family franchise seem like a marriage made in heaven or, it’s probably more appropriate to say, a marriage made in hell. The spooky auteur has made a career out of the macabre, outcasts, and iconic characters of modern-day horror. So this feels like a no-brainer really, and the idea of setting this supernatural series in a high school is even more of an obvious choice, what with the current success of the teenage drama. Honestly, how can this series fail?
Wednesday season 1, episode 1 recap
Burton directs the opening installment of this new Netflix original about the titular, Wednesday Addams, made famous by Christina Ricci’s performance in the early nineties movies. Episode one, “Wednesday’s Child is Full of Woe”, perfectly sets up this coming-of-age tale, as the psychopathic teen finds herself shipped off to a new school, Nevermore Academy, a place home to outcasts and monsters alike.
The reason for Wednesday’s educational detour is explained in the opening scene. Wednesday (Jenna Ortega) is seen striding down the colorful corridors of Nancy Reagan High School, dressed in her iconic black and white clothing. She ignores the mocking laughs as she walks over to her graffiti-covered locker. Inside she finds brother Pugsley all tied up, with an apple in his mouth. Coming into contact with her brother causes Wednesday to have a vision, something that continues to happen throughout the premiere. In this vision, she pinpoints the culprits and heads over to the swimming pool with two bags full of piranhas at the ready. The deadly fish are let loose and chase after the bullies. Wednesday’s deadpan stare turns to a smirk as one of the bullies is attacked. Welcome to Wednesday’s world.
Luckily, Wednesday isn’t charged for this attempted murder but is expelled instead. Her parents escort her to her new home for the year, their old stomping ground, Nevermore, where Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzman) first fell in love. At the Academy, they are met by the suspicious Principal Larissa Weems (Gwendoline Christie), Morticia’s old roommate no less. Weems is impressed by Wednesday’s perfect grades and the family’s long history at the school. She is quickly accepted at the Academy, even though she has been to eight schools in the last five years.
New roommate Enid Sinclair provides Wednesday with a tour of the boarding school, introducing the many cliques and the promising ethos of the place. Nevermore is a place for outcasts and freaks. There are vampires (fangs), werewolves (furs), stoners, and sirens (scales). Enid points out the head girl Bianca Barclay and her ex-boyfriend Xavier. Unfortunately, the rumors have already spread about Wednesday’s murderous antics and she is once again, the outcast of her given school.
Morticia leaves with a parting gift, presenting Wednesday with a necklace made of obsidian and a crystal ball to contact her on. Gomez’s parting gift is hidden from view but is equally as valuable, he drops off the infamous animated hand, Thing, to spy on her. While Wednesday settles in, a hiker in the nearby woods is mauled to death by an unknown attacker and Sheriff Donovan Galpin is hot on the case.
Almost instantly, Wednesday argues with roomie Enid, who is vibrant and outgoing in contrast to the gothic girl’s black and white palette and somber tones. Enid talks about her vlog and emojis, then dances to some generic pop music. Wednesday orders her to turn it off immediately and Enid retaliates by flashing her werewolf claws. Dorm mom and normie teacher Marilyn Thornhill (Christina Ricci) split up this fight, then dole out the house rules.
The next day, Wednesday quickly makes enemies, fencing with Bianca and then narrowly avoiding her own death when a falling gargoyle nearly hits her from a great height. Clearly, someone is trying to kill her. She befriends outcast Rowan, who has telekinetic abilities, and Xavier, who she happens to know from years previous. Later, Wednesday finds Thing hiding under her covers and makes the hand pledge their loyalty to her.
She is then whisked off to therapy with Dr. Valerie Kinbott (Riki Lindhome), where she puts into practice her plans of escape, taking a drainpipe down to the ground floor. Without any form of transport to escape in, she asks Weathervane barista Tyler for his help in driving her away from this awful town. Tyler agrees to drive her once he’s finished his shift, which leaves just enough time for her to fend off a gang of bullies, who work at Pilgrim World. She defends herself with expert martial arts skills taught by her Uncle. Tyler’s father and the town Sheriff appears in the aftermath of this battle, warning Wednesday to stay out of trouble. He adds that he knew her father well and practically labels the man as a murderer.
Wednesday season 1, episode 1 ending
Burton then throws in a nice little montage segment, scored to a cello version of Paint It Black (of course), played by Wednesday herself. In this sequence, Rowan shows off his magical powers, Tyler searches out Gomez’s old file down at the station, the Sheriff looks over his murder investigation on a chalkboard and Marilyn feeds her Venus-fly traps some worms. Lovely stuff. Then, Enid is introduced to Thing and she explains how she is actually a late-blooming werewolf, who currently only has little baby claws and nothing else to show for it.
At the Harvest Festival fair, Wednesday plans her escape, asking Tyler for that all-important lift. Tyler passes her Gomez’s police report and she flees from Principal Weem’s watchful gaze. The Pilgrim World thugs appear with baseball bats, ready to finish off what they started earlier. Wednesday runs away but accidentally bumps into Rowan. This connection causes another vision and she has a premonition about his death. Wednesday chases after Rowan to warn him, but he attacks her first, pinning the teen to a nearby tree with his powers. Rowan reveals that he was the one who tried to kill her with the gargoyle, he is the one who must protect Nevermore. Rowan shows her an old drawing that foreshadows the coming of a terrible entity and the woman in the drawing looks a lot like Wednesday.
Before Rowan can finish off the job though, that pesky monster appears again, mauling poor Rowan to death. Wednesday picks up Rowan’s drawing and pockets it. The opening episode ends with Wednesday’s parents contacting her via the crystal ball for an update. The daughter talks of narrowly avoiding death on two separate occasions, finding out that her father may be a murderer, uncovering the fact that she could be the one to destroy the school, and realizing that a homicidal monster actually saved her life. All in all, she thinks she’ll grow to love it here.
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