Wednesday delivered the creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky aesthetic we’ve come to expect from an Addams Family spinoff. That was thanks in no small part to Tim Burton, who served as executive producer and directed the first half of the series. But in the back half, Wednesday morphed from witty downer to upstart teen detective, and that’s what made the show so good.
It may seem like it’s against the franchise’s ethos, but allowing Wednesday to have some non-Wednesday elements makes the series — and the character — far more memorable. It’s this counterintuitive approach that allowed Wednesday to garner the most hours viewed for a Netflix series in its opening week.
The Wednesday we meet in the first episode is the Wednesday who served as comic relief in previous Addams Family projects. She’s dour and morbid, she can speak many languages, and she loves casually threatening to murder those around her. Aside from that, there’s not much to her.
Jenna Ortega does everything she can to bring humanity to the character, but when every line is deadpan, that’s a very tall task. The one glimmer of depth we get is when Wednesday sits down to work on her novel. Finally, she has a purpose: She wants to craft an intriguing story.
That’s what the minds behind Wednesday want to do too, and with a mysterious demise that leads to a murder mystery with Wednesday at the center, they accomplish their goal. In episodes 5 through 8, Wednesday has a stark character change. As the mystery heats up, she experiences heartbreak, excitement, and betrayal. These are all tentpoles of a teen drama, but are unheard of in the Addams house.
This change allows Wednesday to grow from an amusing side character into a protagonist in her own right. It’s the path every spinoff must go down, from Gomer Pyle in Gomer Pyle, USMC to Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul. Helming your own series is a responsibility, and it takes Wednesday about half of her journey to shoulder it.
After the show adjusts, we see Wednesday as the protagonist she’s meant to be. Sure, she’s still quick with a comeback, but she genuinely cares about clearing her name and solving the mystery. She dances, she runs after criminals, she gathers clues. She does it all with a straight face, but she actually makes things happen instead of just letting things happen around her.
Being a protagonist isn’t for every character. They need to have depth, relatability, and wit. Many members of the Addams family have that potential, but Wednesday proves that the character who started off as a running gag about a little girl saying a scary thing is one of the most captivating characters of the year.
Wednesday is now streaming on Netflix.