Wednesday 1×04 “Woe What a Night” takes an ever so slight step away from the series’ central mystery to focus on some more personal dynamics. That’s not to say that the investigation is swept to the side completely. The episode opens with a delightfully urgent sequence, of Thing and Wednesday breaking into the Jericho morgue to look for evidence. Later, she discovers plenty of clues in Xavier’s private art studio, thus painting him as her prime suspect. And there’s that awful attack on poor, sweet Eugene at the end.
So, if you’re here for the mystery, it’s not like you’re going to leave this episode feeling unsatisfied. That part of the story simply winds up being more of a welcome backdrop to, and catalyst for, a lot of the social drama in this episode, though. In some ways, that’s true of the entire series, with how it sets our leading lady as the outcast among outcasts and follows her journey from there. But this fourth episode, in particular, really drives that framing home.
Because at the heart of “Woe What a Night,” it’s all about the Rave’N dance and what it exposes about the complicated social scene at Nevermore and the all-too-relatable difficulty of just trying to grow up.
Stumbling through, mistake after mistake
Wednesday 1×04 does a really good job of exposing how, while admirable in a lot of ways, Wednesday Addams’ single-mindedness can sometimes be a very big flaw. When she doesn’t stop to think, even for a second, about how others might feel, she causes a world of hurt. Honestly, it’s almost impressive just how well she leaves a string of heartbroken bodies in her wake…until you really think about how a lot of them are just trying to be her friends. (Or more.)
First, up, there’s Xavier Thorpe.
Wednesday has no desire, whatsoever to go to the Rave’N dance — much less take a date — until she sees the opportunity to spend more time with Xavier, who is her latest suspect.
“Would you…Would you possibly consider going to the Rave’N dance with a certain…wi-…would you go to the dance with me?”
But…It’s really not 100% manipulation — or at least, I’d claim it’s not. Whether it’s a fear of rejection from Xavier, specifically, or just a fear of rejection in general, there’s something very hesitant about the way Wednesday asks him to go with her to the dance. She may feel above it all (and in many ways, she is), but there’s something holding Wednesday back from just spitting out the request like she would anything else. It’s all there, in yet more great acting from Jenna Ortega, between the way she delivers the character’s request and even that deep breath before even trying to ask.
But, of course, Xavier does eventually learn Wednesday’s true motivations. And he is hurt, which he covers very well by just blowing up in rage. He yells at her about how unbelievable she is, and when she calls it “nothing personal,” he really goes off and, eventually, demands that she leave.
“No. It never is with you, is it? Do you even care about anyone, or anything at all? Wednesday?”
The whole argument is just one incredible masterclass from Ortega and Percy Hynes White. There’s the tiniest indication of Wednesday’s remorse from Ortega’s inability to meet Hynes White’s eyes for the briefest moment. And then, there’s Hynes White’s outpouring of emotion as Xavier confronts her…only for him to just show all that angst the second her back is to him. Later, at the dance itself, there’s so much hurt from Xavier (to the point of pouting in some places). Honestly, he’s allowed to feel the way he feels, and Wednesday needed to hear what he had to say…But then, there’s the part where he used Bianca and, in the process, hurt her in the same way Wednesday hurt him.
It’s…a lot. Especially since Xavier isn’t the only collateral damage in Wednesday’s mission in Wednesday 1×04. Which brings us to…
Tyler’s a difficult one to discuss…for reasons.
But, if we’re looking at face value here, Wednesday 1×04 also sees our girl getting a little talking-to from him. In that scene outside The Weathervane, he’s kind of awkwardly hinting at wanting Wednesday to go to the dance with him, and she’s utterly failing to understand it.
That lack of understanding, as Tyler tells her, is the problem. What makes this even worse is when he tries to explain that her inability (or lack of will, whichever) to see what’s going on here is upsetting, she puts the blame squarely back on him.
“It’s not my fault I can’t interpret your emotional morse code.”
Now, to be fair to Wednesday, it’s not entirely her fault that she doesn’t get it. Based on the characterization, she just is genuinely out of the loop when it comes to things like others’ emotions — and her own, as well. And Tyler does go more for beating around the bush than being clear. It’s just that Wednesday can’t always make conflicts everyone else’s fault.
“Then, let me spell it out: I thought we liked each other. But then you pull something like this, and I have no idea where I stand. Am I in the more than friend zone or just a pawn in some game you’re playing?”
Now, at this point in the story, we have no reason to believe that Tyler is anything other than interested in her. So, even when Thing smoothes it all over by inviting Tyler to the dance with that sweet and genuine card, there’s real hurt there from before. Granted, anyone who knows Wednesday Addams ought to know she didn’t write that note. Therefore, when she’s not ready for the dance by the time Tyler shows up, and when she doesn’t know how to take his compliment, we can say that’s not her fault.
…and…honestly, anyone who uses the phrase “friend zone” is a red flag and a wee bit manipulative.
The thought still stands, though, that whatever’s been going on here, Wednesday has been using Tyler for information all along. But she’s also been giving off vibes because, yes, she has some kind of interest. Whether she knows it or not.
And, of course, Enid and Eugene.
Enid is absolutely crushed when Wednesday tells her she has “more pressing issues than to worry about a stupid dress.” In the first place, it’s belittling the things that Enid gets excited about, even as she’s stood there and listened to all Wednesday’s ramblings about the murder. (To the point where she’s passed out — multiple times, if that “get the smelling salts. Again” comment is any indication.) Friends don’t have to love all the same things, but at least being supportive would’ve been nice.
Then, there’s that quiet, “I thought we were bonding,” comment from Enid. And it all shows, that much more, that Wednesday just is not there for her roommate.
Eugene is, quite possibly, the most tragic collateral damage of all. He goes into that cave to back Wednesday up, even after having just told her he’s claustrophobic. Then, she promises they’ll go back to the cave together since they’re both dateless for the Rave’N dance…and he shows up, all excited, only to see her ready for her date with Tyler. Regardless of Thing’s interference, Wednesday should’ve remembered her plans with Eugene, one way or another. Being honest with him and letting him down gently probably would’ve worked. Instead, she chose…to basically say nothing and just toss out there that they’d go out the following night.
Of course there won’t be a following night. Because, at the end of Wednesday 1×04, Eugene gets attacked. That shot of Wednesday, with her fake blood all over her party dress, while Eugene is covered in is own, real blood is certainly a statement. She’s mostly unscathed as everyone else keeps taking the fall.
None of this is to, in any way, paint a negative, selfish, or hateful picture of Wednesday Addams. She’s simply a flawed individual, just like everyone else. And she’s not beyond redemption either.
Far from it. It’s just that…sometimes, we don’t think. We unwillingly, and inadvertently, hurt others because of it. And for a character like Wednesday, who really is still trying to figure out how to even have feelings about others, there are definitely going to be times when she messes up. When she gets it wrong and just flat out doesn’t know what she’s doing to others until they have the chance to tell and/or show her.
But we know she cares, between Ortega’s performance and even just little lines here and there that matter.
“Honestly, I wish I cared a little more.”
…which brings us to the next big story of Wednesday 1×04.
The grass ain’t greener, folks.
Joy Sunday has been absolutely wonderful as “mean girl” Bianca Barclay, but she’s at her best in Wednesday 1×04. There is very real hurt and anger when Bianca confronts Xavier about asking her to use her powers to help him get over another girl. Imagine the very thing that made someone leave you being what they want to use you for now, when it comes to some other relationship. Sunday delivers every layer of emotion that goes along with that situation just before Bianca walks away from Xavier.
But then, there’s the even better portrayal of that resigned sadness of hers that comes later.
It’s equal parts baffling and exactly right that Bianca and Wednesday have their little chat. Baffling, because they’ve been enemies this whole time. Exactly right, because they’re both having a horribly difficult time with their emotions — and everyone else’s.
It’s also a moment that delivers on a really powerful message: You never know what someone else is struggling with. Bianca may be the beautiful and popular one, but that doesn’t mean she’s incapable of getting hurt. Xavier left her because he couldn’t trust her, and the worst part is, she can’t even trust him either. She can’t trust anyone’s feelings because…What if it’s all just because of her siren powers?
(Or, if you wanted to relate it more to a real-world phenomenon: How many people are friends with that popular and pretty girl because of what she offers them in terms of social clout — not because they actually care about her?)
But while Bianca believes it’s easier for Wednesday, with her (still, frankly, kickass) constant show of how much she does not care what people think about her, Wednesday’s fighting her own battles. It’s almost as if these two rivals are more alike than they ever knew. And that’s kind of the point.
Ok but let’s talk about those moves…
Wednesday 1×04 is not all painful relationship…stuff. We’ve already pointed out the leads in the case off the top, for starters. But there’s also the pure, unabashed “dance like no one is watching” joy in Wednesday Addams’ big dance scene.
There’s a lot to be said for that sequence, even on just a “meaning” level. As Ajax says when Wednesday makes her grand entrance, she’s “totally busted out of her cocoon.” And that is a big — huge, actually — deal. Thing got her the dress she not-so-secretly fell in love with in the Uriah’s Heap shop window. And she boldly, expressively showed everyone at Nevermore exactly who she is. No holding back, no hiding. Just this girl being her authentic self.
Dance has the power to transform. It has the power to educate people and enlighten them. And Wednesday’s big moment did all that — and more.
But as a dancer myself, I can not stress enough how insanely talented Jenna Ortega is…in yet another area. Just like her performance as Wednesday overall, she completely commits herself to this scene. To the movement, to all the awkward, odd angles and stiff, jerky movements. But to the moments of losing control and just giving in to the movement, too.
It takes quite a lot of control to manage the rigid quality of movement, but it actually takes even more control to successfully pull off those moments where Wednesday is just tossing her body about like some kind of rag doll. Ortega hits both notes, perfectly. On top of all that, she also incorporates just a plethora of styles, and levels, and so much more.
Basically, we do not deserve her. This had no business being this good. But here we are.
That she credits this performance to so many greats — including a personal favorite in Mr. Fosse — shows a certain combination of humility while making sure everyone knows she did her research and knows her stuff. (A queen.)
And the fact that she choreographed it herself but thinks it’s “very obvious” she’s “not a dancer or choreographer” is…totally unbelievable. Sometimes, not being overly “trained” creates magic. And this, in a word, was magic.
I could break down more of what this scene means to the narrative, or to the character, or whatever else…
…but it all boils down to this: Jenna Ortega is simply the best of the best.
More on Wednesday 1×04
- Wednesday Addams is even better at autopsies than Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully, M.D. Fight me.
- “Full rigor. You’ve been dead a while.” She’s an Addams. Of course.
- “Five more minutes. I was just getting comfortable.” And that grin.
- “Still not as creepy as your stuffed unicorn collection.” Too far, Wednesday. Too. Far. We do not disrespect unicorns!
- “I’d rather stick needles in my eyes. I’ll probably do that anyway.” Posted without comment…
- Sweetheart, you’re a bad liar.
- No but Xavier’s adorable expression while he waits for Wednesday to ask him out. Unfair.
- “Stand back, bitches. I have arrived!” Get you a friend like Enid. Seriously.
- Every time I see Galpin, my notes are just “HE SUCKS.” So, there’s that. God forbid we listen to the teen girl, huh?
- “Listen, Velma. Why don’t you and the Scooby Gang stick to your homework and leave the investigating to the professionals?” 1) Pretty sure they solved more crimes than your basic ass, Galpin. 2) Interesting choice of Velma. 3) You’ve clearly never seen Buffy. Loser.
- “I have a nose for gossip, and I follow your grade on TikTok. Oh, yeah! And my roommate kicked your butt. Twice.” Again, get you an Enid. She is so proud that Wednesday kicked Lucas’ ass, and she brings it up all excited-like, even after Wednesday ditched her. Again.
- The Enid/Lucas thing was completely heartbreaking. Here she thought she’d really been able to make friends with, and bond over hockey with, a normie. And for what. At least Ajax finally came clean about why he stood her up, though. I’ll take a happy ending.
- “Listen. People like me and you, we’re different. We’re original thinkers. Intrepid outliers in this vast cesspool of adolescence. We don’t need these inane rites of passage to validate who we are.” Wildly enough, I think this is Wednesday’s idea of protecting Eugene from getting crushed again. Aw?
- “If you hear me scream bloody murder, there’s a good chance I’m just enjoying myself.” Me when I’m watching my shows.
- “Neither am I, Sheriff.” Get him.
- “All I remember is disappointment. The boy I asked turned me down for another girl. Morticia Frump, in fact.” Weems and her grudge against Morticia is so interesting. I will never get enough.
- “Unrecognizable. Ridiculous. A classic example of female objectification for the male gaze.”
- “Xavier told me what you did last year, how you and your friends assaulted him and destroyed his mural on Outreach Day.” Stupid bullies, all of them.
- Given the whole “normies vs. outcasts” thing…It actually kind of bothers me that Wednesday says she doesn’t hold the bullying against Tyler. Forgiving people or deciding they can grow and change is one thing. This is…not that.
- Tag yourself. I’m Weems’ proud smile when Wednesday dances.
- “Whoever invented high heels clearly had a side hustle as a torturer.” (She is correct. that’s why I don’t wear them.)
- The way Gwendoline Christie’s face morphs during the big Carrie tribute…and the scream. We legitimately will never deserve her.
- “They couldn’t even spring for real pig’s blood. It’s only paint.” This child really grinned while everyone else was in chaos, then tasted the damned “blood.” All together ooky, if I do say so myself.
- Gorgeous shot of Wednesday running through the woods with that moonlight lighting her…
- It’s the dead stare from Wednesday to a conveniently-arrived Thornhill for me.
Thoughts on Wednesday 1×04 “Woe What a Night”? Leave us a comment!