Wednesday 1×01 “Wednesday’s Child is Full of Woe” does a fantastic job of setting up everything we need to know about the series. In just the opening couple of seconds, we get a perfect idea of just who Jenna Ortega’s version of Wednesday Addams is — just how much our “little black cloud” is unfazed by all the stares and judgment.
And then, of course, the bigger season-wide arc unfolds from there.
While it’s no surprise that the titular character just doesn’t fit in at her “normie” school, it’s every moment of her journey that comes after her big piranha stunt that really delivers the heart of this series. We hinted on this a little bit in our advance review, but we’re excited to have the chance to
gush much harder dive much deeper now that the series is finally streaming on Netflix.
It’s been a long, long wait for the Addams family’s child full of woe to get to step into the spotlight. (…or maybe the much cooler shadow the spotlight casts?) But the picture we get, in just the first episode of her series, is much more complicated, and more more important to examine, than meets the eye.
An outcast in a school full of outcasts
Wednesday just doesn’t fit in anywhere, not even with the rest of the Addams family. She doesn’t feel comfortable telling her brother about her visions, and she very much does not get her parents. (Who ever really does, especially at that age?)
Then, after incidents at eight (!!!) schools, she goes to Nevermore…and it’s more of the same. Wednesday stands out in a crowd, period. It might be a different type of standing out here, but she’s still not one of them — whoever “them” may be at the time.
She’s a lone wolf, so to speak…but that’s not to be confused with the very real possibility of Enid becoming a wolf without a pack. Wednesday can take care of herself and doesn’t need anyone at all. While she may try to make us believe she also doesn’t want anyone, it’s easy to see a much more complex picture, in all Ortega’s many subtle acting choices, if only we care to look.
Even so, Wednesday Addams has a remarkable, admirable sense of self that really can’t be praised enough. Whether she’s quipping about how she’s “not interested in participating in tribal adolescent cliches” or simply avoiding Xavier Thorpe’s attempts to be her friend, Wednesday 1×01 is all about establishing this young girl as her own person entirely. It’s such an important message, even if it’s one that has some unexpected parallels to…everyone else’s own personal journey, actually.
“I have no interest in following in your footsteps.”
For one thing, Wednesday is convinced she’s only at Nevermore because her parents want her to become just like them. And she’s not having it. It’s a very real, relatable feeling to have your parents put certain expectations on you to grow up like them. To love the same places they loved, take part in the same extracurriculars, and even wind up with the same kind of love story. But please don’t tell Wednesday she’s just like us in that way. She might find a way to make that doll guillotine into something more (un)friendly to humans.
And in case anyone was wondering: No, she does not, under any circumstances, care about typical teen drama.
Now, in the wrong hands, that whole “not like other girls” thing could get old. But it doesn’t here because it’s not like Wednesday is trying to stand out. She just does, and she’s completely fine with that. It really speaks to the character’s strength and individualism, both of which are excellent qualities…until they become someone’s only qualities. Which — again — in this character’s case, they definitely aren’t.
But the way Wednesday can’t even manage to be like everyone else at a place that’s specifically for society’s “freaks” is powerful in its own right. There’s no magic fix to being a so-called loner, and people aren’t going to want you to be “in” with them just because you happen to fit into a certain box that they’re also in. So, there’s this constant push and pull between really highlighting how unique the character is in a good way, while also making Wednesday’s situation instantly relatable for those of us who always were on the outside.
It’s in how different she is that she’s really just like everyone else, just struggling to find her place And it’s the way she carries herself, with all her known “otherness,” which makes her entire existence into a sort of triumph for anyone who’s ever felt awful about not quite finding our own place. (Hi. I wasn’t “cool” with the math nerds or the band geeks. And I sure as hell wasn’t in the inner circle with any other, more acceptable, group either.)
Between Ortega’s performance, and the little moments here and there where Wednesday does let herself be a bit more open — like that rooftop scene with Enid, for one — though, one can’t help but get the impression that, should the right set of circumstances arise, Wednesday wouldn’t be as opposed to making a new friend here or there as she may claim. She’s just not compromising who she is, or going out of her way in any way at all, to get there.
And that’s good!
But, even if Wednesday doesn’t want to be a part of those teen cliches, she still finds herself smack in the middle of a few. We’ve already talked about being at odds with her parents, but that’s not all. Nevermore Academy has itself a queen bee in the form of Bianca Barclay. And, in one of the best scenes in Wednesday 1×01, our girl becomes Bianca’s rival. Her target, perhaps. There’s also the issue of Tyler and Xavier. We’re sensing some kind of setup here…
…but it’s not like the Wednesday Addams would want us to dwell on that too long.
While Wednesday is artfully laying the groundwork for the tale of our beautifully independent young heroine, there’s also…something…else…happening. The scene with all the big warnings about all those outcasts at Nevermore is just over the top enough to make it entertaining but not quite so far over the top as to make it obnoxious. Then, of course, something gets our brave traveler.
And it is, uh, not pretty. To say the least. He’s all over, everywhere, and Sheriff Galpin wants to keep the locals in the dark. Just say there’s a bear or whatever. Sure, there have already been two other mysterious deaths, but nobody’s going to catch on. Right? Totally.
In the epic scene where Wednesday rocks out to “Paint It Black” on her cello, though, we learn there’s maybe more than one mystery here. Or, perhaps they’re all tied up together, which is why the mysterious drawing, Gomez’s file, and Galpin’s murder board all make appearances during the same sequence. That’s left up to the viewer to decide for now.
(But we’re all intelligent viewers here, right? Right.)
Then…there’s the end. Or, well. The end of Rowan, at least. It turns out that this outcast among outcasts tried to kill our outcast among outcasts because of a warning from his now-dead mother. Something to do with the picture he ripped out of that book. But just as he’s about to fulfill his destiny to kill Wednesday and save the school, something gets him.
Obviously, there’s a lot more to this story than meets the eye. And obviously, we’re with Wednesday — it’s worth sticking around for.
More on Wednesday 1×01
- “I’m not sure whose twisted idea it was…to put hundreds of adolescents in underfunded schools, run by people whose dreams were crushed years ago. But I admire the sadism.” The timing on this voiceover, with all those pauses for effect, hooked me.
- Or, rather, even just the score hooked me from minute one. But the voiceover made it that much better.
- “…emotion equals weakness.”
- Isaac Ordonez is adorable as Pugsley, and his reaction to Wednesday having her first vision is the definition of pure shock and confusion.
- That look over her shoulder before “what I do best.” Girl, yes.
- Tag yourself. Can’t decide if I’m Wednesday’s side-eye or Pugsley’s eyeroll while the parents are so obsessed with each other, they don’t even notice birds going splat on the hearse.
- All I can say about Gwendoline Christie as Larissa Weems is just…delicious. What else is there to say?
- Enid is such a cute little werewolf and the perfect opposite for Wednesday. All that color against all that darkness…Such a great shot of the split room when they argued, too.
- “…to turn me into a version of themselves.” We all worry about that, kiddo. Seriously.
- Even the outcasts have a rumor mill, huh?
- “The whole snarky goth girl thing might have worked at normie school? But here, things are different.” Except they’re not.
- Enid Sinclair is the only Gossip Girl I will ever accept. Jot that down.
- “I find social media to be a soul-sucking void of meaningless affirmation.” Y’all can @ me next time.
- So, another really fabulous thing about Ortega’s performance…She has all these little emotions while being “emotionless” Wednesday Addams. She’s a totally different kind of “sullen” when Gomez is being overly affectionate than when she’s, say, trying to get out of therapy. And let’s not even get into how she sizes Tyler up, trying to figure out if she can trust him or not.
- “Silence would be appreciated. This is my writing time.” Me, trying to avoid twitter dot com when I’m writing. (And usually failing.)
- “I’ve read serial killer diaries with better punctuation.” The way this applies to certain “better” than me people at a certain place where I’ve wasted almost 10 years…
- Of course Enid even has rainbowy claws.
- It’s the “great talk” and giggle on Thornhill’s way out the door for me. Basically, what I’m saying is I love Christina Ricci. Forever!
- The choreography on that fencing scene was lights out, and Joy Sunday is nuts good as mean girl Bianca. Right down to that head tilt and smirk before she starts being all condescending about Wednesday being “the new psychopath they let in.”
- The umbrella shot: also gorgeous.
- “I would’ve rather saved myself.” Wednesday Addams is no damsel.
- …but look at that pure delight in her eyes when she remembers Xavier. Again, I will not be able to stress it enough: Brilliant work from Jenna Ortega throughout.
- “I see the world as a place that must be endured.” Same.
- “Viper is smart, perceptive, chronically misunderstood…” …a self-portrait by Wednesday, for Wednesday…
- Secret agent woman!
- “But drip is for people who hate themselves and know their lives have no real purpose or meaning.” No but I really do love how I was like “Wednesday Addams is me” in the ’90s, and I’m like…nothing has changed in 2022.
- The pilgrims are the bullies. Spot. On.
- “It takes a special kind of stupid to devote an entire theme park to zealots responsible for mass genocide.” Same goes with holidays, but I guess that’s none of my business.
- “…this little thing took down three boys?” She sure did. A hero.
- “We all die alone, Enid.” I—.
- But notice how she does share her own pain with Enid and does listen. Wednesday’s even the one who started the whole conversation by asking Enid about wolfing out, actually. She cares; she just doesn’t know how to show it or where to put it.
- “I cried my little black heart out. But tears don’t fix anything. So, I vowed to never do it again.” That story about the pet…and little baby Wednesday being so adorable…I, too, cried my little black heart out.
- Thing giving Tyler the finger for asking if he’s Wednesday’s pet. A classic.
- “I’m not used to people engaging with me. Most see me coming and cross the street.” “You’re not scary. You’re just kinda…kooky.” “I prefer spooky.” I love her.
- Her shock over the entire Rowan thing…utter perfection. (And, again, same.)
- That ending shot is…a lot.
Thoughts on Wednesday 1×01 “Wednesday’s Child is Full of Woe”? Leave us a comment!
Wednesday is now streaming on Netflix.