Jenna Ortega terrifies, thrills in Netflix’s ‘Wednesday’

Mimi Calzada, Senior Life & Arts Reporter

After decades of adaptations and spin-offs stemming from the original 1964 sitcom, the newest addition to the Addams Family canon comes in the form of Netflix’s “Wednesday,” an eight-episode miniseries from the mind of Tim Burton (“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” “Beetlejuice”).

The show follows the cynical Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) as she navigates her new life at Nevermore Academy, a school for outcasts. Her parents Gomez (Luis Guzmán) and Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) previously attended the school and made their own murderous mark on the institution. Recently plagued by alarming psychic visions, Wednesday tasks herself with solving all the mysteries Nevermore offers.

Wednesday possesses her famously prickly personality, regularly displaying a lack of empathy for her peers and little interest in forming connections with her classmates. Despite this, and to the show’s detriment, classmate Xavier (Percy Hynes White) and Tyler (Hunter Doohan), a citizen of the neighboring town Jericho, both take a special liking to her — one that seems forced for the sake of incorporating a love triangle. Despite Wednesday’s blatant hesitance to be involved with either of them, the pair still insist on fighting over her, making for an under-developed and irritating subplot.

Unnecessary romantic interests aside, Ortega portrays the titular character brilliantly. While adopting mannerisms from past portrayals of Wednesday, Ortega still manages to put her own spin on the character, most noticeably in her infrequent blinking, which adds a deeply unsettling feeling every second Ortega occupies the screen. 

Unfortunately, detailed characterization doesn’t save the series from bigger issues, such as a failure to maintain a balance between 21st-century technology and the classic, gothic Addams Family aesthetics of previous iterations. While Wednesday harbors an aversion to technology and therefore refuses to own a cell phone or laptop, instead opting for a crystal ball and typewriter, the rest of her classmates have no problem using their iPhones and Macbooks. The jarring and clunky intermingling of the two worlds leaves viewers confused in deciphering the show’s desired setting. 

While “Wednesday” benefits mostly from Ortega’s performance and recognizable Tim Burton set and costume designs, the show feels otherwise hollow and uninspired. The series relies too heavily on nostalgia and intriguing character introductions instead of constructing satisfying character arcs and an intriguing mystery. 

2 ½ black wardrobes out of 5