Wednesday Series-Premiere Recap: I Myself am Strange and Unusual
Snap twice and wipe that smile off your face: Wednesday Addams has graduated from precociously gloomy child to full-on moody teen, and to mark the occasion she has her own Netflix show. I am very excited to move just a few blocks down from one haunted Westfield home to another. (Exciting Jersey trivia: The creator of the Addams family was from Westfield, and the house that inspired the Addams family’s gothic mansion is a five-minute drive from the Watcher house.) Among the many inexplicable business decisions made over at Netflix HQ — the cancellation of The Baby-Sitters Club AND Teenage Bounty Hunters … unforgivable! — the call to release Wednesday about three weeks after Halloween rather than in the spooky season lead-up is an especially mystifying one. But let’s not let these baffling scheduling choices stand between us and our new series.
When we meet Wednesday, she is attending Nancy Reagan High School (lol), but not for long! (Readers who hang around in my extended recap universe probably recognize our star, Jenna Ortega, as the balcony sprite from season two of You.) When letter-jacket-wearing pricks bully Wednesday’s brother Pugsley by tying him up, gagging him, and shoving him in his sister’s locker — a kind of violent and also retro method of harassment — she avenges him. Wednesday’s introduction of piranhas into the pool cuts their swim practice short, to say the least. Threatened with attempted-murder charges from the boy who lost a testicle, Wednesday is expelled — her eighth school in five years. Impressive commitment to the bit!
Fun fact about Wednesday: She’s recently been plagued by visions, an inheritance from her mother, and she is dealing with them in a totally fine and productive way (by ignoring them/pretending they aren’t really happening.) She is also tormented by the vision literally in front of her: the sight of her parents, Gomez (Luis Guzman) and Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), making out in the backseat as their driver, Lurch, schleps the family to Nevermore, her parents’ alma mater and Wednesday’s last hope for an education.
The one thing I’m finding a little hard to buy here is that it took so long for Wednesday’s parents to ship her off to Nevermore. Why didn’t they just send her there in the first place? And why is Wednesday so adamant about not going? I get that her whole thing is that she refuses to be like her parents — even though, I mean, her mom is a smokeshow who is madly in love and seems to be living her best life! Sure, teens are gonna teen, and nobody says you have to join the seance society even though it sounds very fun and Dickinson-esque — but does she think there’s some other school out there that would be better suited to her temperament and abilities? Wouldn’t she rather run around with a bunch of vampires, werewolves, and assorted power-goths than the civilians she’s been stuck with to date? If her big dream is to not be, as she accuses her mother of being, a “housewife,” doesn’t she think she ought to finish 12th grade?
Anyway, Nevermore is on the outskirts of a town called Jericho, one of these stuck-in-the-1950s Americana-type places like Sabrina’s Greendale. They’re obsessed with pilgrims, which is honestly hilarious. As you might expect, people in Jericho are not very into the freaks down the street. Personally, if I lived within striking distance of a pack of hormonal teens with superpowers, I would not deliberately antagonize them. But the normies of Jericho have other plans. First we see a doomed mortal boy get dropped off on the side of the road right next to a sign that basically says LITERAL VAMPIRES GO TO SCHOOL HERE, MAYBE KEEP IT MOVING??? (paraphrasing, as is my right as a recapper). He just peacefully sets up camp in what is so obviously a haunted forest I’m surprised he doesn’t hear the ghosts in the trees going wooOOooOOOOOooo before he gets mauled to death. The sheriff will later report that this is the third murder of this kind and that while he knows it’s not a bear, the town can’t know it’s not a bear. So they’re just going to say it was a bear attack while they find the freaks who did this.
Wednesday’s new principal, Larissa Weems (Gwendoline Christie), was Morticia’s roommate back in the day, and we will be continuing a classic, Wicked-style trope where a peppy blonde and brooding brunette are forced to dwell in such close proximity that they have no choice but to start as enemies and work their way toward begrudging respect. The young blonde is Enid Sinclair (Emma Myers), whose preferred aesthetic is “Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper.” She has a gossip vlog and skips a lot and, I think, surprises Wednesday a bit by not being immediately and totally terrified of her. She takes it upon herself to give Wednesday the lowdown, even though Wednesday claims to have no interest in your standard-issue tour of the cafeteria: We have Fangs (vampires), Furs (werewolves), Stoners (Gorgons and/or people who get high a lot), and Scales (sirens). I did laugh out loud when Enid said some of the vampires had been at Nevermore for decades. Enid is a werewolf with cute retractable claws. Other important classmates: Bianca Barclay, “Nevermore royalty”; “tortured artist” Xavier Thorpe; and Ajax, a Gorgon who has already heard rumors that Wednesday committed multiple homicides before arriving here.
As a farewell, Morticia warns her daughter not to try to run away and gives her a little obsidian charm with a W that flips upside down to be an M. It conjures visions and encapsulates their special bond! This is very sweet, IMO, but Wednesday is unmoved. Although her parents can’t call her until next Sunday, Gomez lets Thing out of the car to spy on his daughter.
Back in the room, Wednesday meets her dorm mom, Ms. Thornhill, (played by our ’90s Wednesday, Christina Ricci!). Thornhill knows what’s what — she has a black dahlia for her new charge, who is suitably impressed — and tells the girls they can never have boys over, which is interesting to me because am I to believe that exactly zero students at Nevermore are gay? Like, yes there are Gorgons, but there is not same-sex hookuppery? Doubtful!
Even though Wednesday is not going to be like her mother, who was amazing at fencing, she can’t not also try to be amazing at fencing. (Don’t fight your destiny, Wednesday!) She does her damndest to show up Bianca but loses in the end. Classmate Rowan, who is never not sucking down on his inhaler, tells Wednesday he is excited to be given a run for his money as the biggest weirdo around. “An outcast in a school of outcasts.” And then Wednesday is nearly killed by a falling gargoyle. Who saves her? You know it’s gonna be the tortured artist! Turns out Xavier and Wednesday know each other because years ago, before he got hot, she saved him from being accidentally incinerated in a crematorium (as one does). But as we know, Wednesday has sworn she will not fall in love (if Mom did it, it must be terrible) so this meet-cute can go no further … for now.
Wednesday returns to her room to discover Thing, who she interrogates under her desk lamp (this scene was very cute). She demands and receives Thing’s undying loyalty and remains hellbent on escape. Her first opportunity is a court-mandated therapy session with Dr. Kinbott (Riki Lindhome), who wears neutrals and talks about creating a “sanctuary” for Wednesday to “learn to deal with her emotions.” It sounds like Wednesday is not going to be able to talk about herself, so instead we will see her work through her issues under the very thin veil of her novels about Viper the teen detective — which were rejected by editors and publishers who deemed the work “gratuitously morbid.”
I thought Dr. Kinbott seemed like a smart cookie, but she falls for the oldest trick in the book and lets Wednesday use the bathroom through which she will obviously escape. I guess we can only have one subversively intelligent blonde, and Enid’s already claimed the spot? Wednesday’s efforts are thwarted by a busted espresso machine and a rule-following normie, Tyler, who will not accept bribes in exchange for blowing off the rest of his shift. (I love that she can fix the espresso machine in part because she’s able to read the instructions, which are in Italian. Why wouldn’t she learn “the native tongue of Machiavelli”?) He swears he’ll drive her to Burlington later, and here Wednesday makes a very dumb choice, which is to sit right in front of a giant window where she will clearly be spotted. First she gets attacked by a trio of dudes in their Pilgrim World outfits, which, again, if I had a job where I dressed like I popped off the Quaker Oats box, I would not go around bullying anyone in literally any other kind of outfit, and I sure as hell wouldn’t be antagonizing people with actual superpowers, but these boys have other ideas. Wednesday knows kung fu, so the boys lose that battle, and meanwhile Tyler’s dad — twist, he’s the sheriff! — shows up to tell his son to stay away from that girl: Wednesday’s dad, he says, “belongs behind bars for murder.” Dun dun DUNNNN.
On the drive home, another one of Wednesday’s visions comes true. I could’ve done without a lingering shot of that driver’s broken neck. Maybe chalk it up again to Netflix wanting to make 55-minute episodes happen when a tight 47 would suffice. As this occurs, Wednesday toys with the charm from her mother, which she is wearing because you knew she would be, didn’t you?
Wednesday plays the cello, but it does not soothe her addled mind. Enid confesses that she can’t do the full wolf — her claws are all she has, and she might never wolf out for real, in which case she’ll be all alone forever. Wednesday says this sounds like a dream, and I say, “For somebody who wants nothing to do with her family you sure put on that necklace from your mom real quick!” Taking her principal’s excellent advice (stop making enemies, start making friends), Wednesday enlists Enid’s help to contact Tyler. Although Wednesday does not have a phone or computer — she won’t be a slave to technology, natch — she sends Thing to Tyler’s place so he can call her on Enid’s laptop. They devise an escape plan using the Harvest Festival (attendance: mandatory) as a cover. Tyler also dreams of getting out of this hellhole.
At the festival, Tyler gives Wednesday the police file on Gomez, which he swiped from his own dad. Very useful. Way to contribute, Tyler! Yet again we have a bunch of bullies, this time with baseball bats. It’s getting a little tired, if you ask me. Wednesday has another vision that seems to tell her Rowan will go into the woods and die there in a very bloody fashion. Which is what happens, but not quite as she expects: First he tries to kill her, because his mom had a vision and according to Rowan’s interpretation of this one picture of hers, Wednesday will destroy Nevermore (?) so he has no choice but to murder. He’s the one who tried to assassinate her via falling gargoyle, like a Looney Tune–style anvil. Before either of these crazy kids can kill each other, this crazy-looking monster shows up, fulfilling Wednesday’s prophecy and giving us a look at the wild not-a-bear that’s been ripping normies to pieces in these woods. (My first guess: Do we think it could be Principal Larissa Weems?)
It’s not a great look for Wednesday, already suspected of serial killing, but it appears nobody is blaming her for Rowan’s death (yet). When her parents make their crystal ball call to see how she’s settling in, Wednesday admits that, surrounded as she is by havoc and carnage, she thinks she’s going to love it here.