We begin with a twist: Rowan, the boy who you may recall was drawn and quartered and then ripped apart some more by an unidentified monster who, for reasons unclear, spared Wednesday’s life, is … missing! Wednesday is out here telling everybody she saw Rowan get slaughtered; meanwhile, the adults are singing no body, no crime. Principal Weems doesn’t seem all that bothered by Wednesday’s report and insists Rowan ran away. I find Weems’s lack of concern pretty concerning! Wednesday manages to get Sheriff Galpin alone so she can level with him: They both know there’s a monster out there. (I find it interesting that the sheriff is just taunting Wednesday — age: 16? — with a theory he can’t prove re: Gomez being a murderer.) But their conversation is cut short by the return of a totally unharmed Rowan.
Nevermore Academy is the alma mater of her mother, Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and father, Gomez (Luis Guzmán). Its curriculum is designed for outcasts, creeps and monsters, and the student body is filled with cliques of vampires, werewolves and sirens. But even they’re freaked out by Wednesday’s cadaver-white skin and all-black uniform. “Wednesday always looks half-dead,” explains Gomez. “Please excuse Wednesday. She’s allergic to color,” adds Morticia. The school’s suspiciously cheerful Principal Weems (Gwendoline Christie) has no intention of going easy on Wednesday.
Ortega kills as the gifted, nihilistic teen who’d rather hang out in a crypt than a club. She embodies Wednesday with her flat affectation and utter disdain for her peers. Her spasmodic, zombie-like moves at the school dance to the tune of the Cramps’ “Goo Goo Muck” — with a deadly straight face, no less — create one of the top television moments of the year.
Now that everybody at Nevermore has seen Rowan walking around being all not-dead, Wednesday’s classmates are more convinced than ever that she is fully deranged. Enid, area gossip expert, reports that Rowan’s whole deal was “being a weird loner” and that Xavier is his roommate. Then she explains that she’s prepping for the Poe Cup: Each dorm makes a canoe and costumes inspired by an Edgar Allan Poe poem (he’s an alum, naturally), races to an island, grabs a flag, and returns. There are NO RULES and Bianca wins every year.
Wednesday pops over to Weems’s office to find out that Rowan got expelled (!) and that Weems knows Wednesday had a psychic vision, just like Morticia did back in the day. Weems warns that Morticia’s visions were “notoriously unreliable and dangerous,” although so far Wednesday’s seem pretty on the money. Anyway, enough about the new student’s possible psychic break: Time for Wednesday to join an extracurricular activity! (I enjoyed Wednesday’s rejection of Weems’s suggestion that she try to be well-rounded: “I prefer to be sharp-edged.”)
This gives us a little tour of the Nevermore offerings, which are not as weird as you’d expect for a magic school; basically, the Sirens do choir (they sing scales about scales) and Xavier does archery and Eugene runs a one-man beekeeping club called the Hummers, and Wednesday is better at everything than everyone, except for maybe keeping bees, but we don’t really see her give that one the old college try. Through Xavier, she learns that Rowan, who has telekinesis (Did I mention that last time? That’s how he moved the gargoyle.), had been “more erratic” before his death-that-wasn’t. Xavier also reveals that he thinks Tyler and his friends are “jerks.” Wednesday retorts that Xavier is an elitist snob, I guess because he doesn’t have any normie friends from Plymouth Rock city or whatever.
Wednesday confronts Rowan for trying to kill her; Rowan denies it all, and Thornhill drives him to the train station. Thing is clinging to the bumper, though, to see what happens next. Unfortunately, all Thing sees is some fine fall foliage, because Rowan dips into the bathroom, transforms into a grown man, and then — well, what do we have here? Rowan is PRINCIPAL WEEMS. Hey, it’s not not what I suspected! But Thing doesn’t catch this last transfiguration, instead reporting back to Wednesday only that he lost Rowan in a windowless bathroom … very embarrassing stuff.
When it comes time to study carnivorous plants with Ms. Thornhill, Wednesday again crushes all her classmates. I wonder if this show will ever let Wednesday just … be bad at something? Besides the whole emotional-growth part. Like, she’s the best archer, the strongest fighter, the smartest student, etc., etc., etc. Isn’t it a little dull for her to never fail at anything? Her only struggles seem to be social. For instance, Enid has to tell her that Thing is mad at her (they do manis together, lol) for being so callous about his failure to tail Rowan. After some non-apology nonstarters, Wednesday admits to Thing that the picture from Rowan confirmed her greatest fear: that she will be responsible for something terrible, like, in a bad way and not a fun way. Having earned Enid’s assistance via accountability with Thing — she covers for Wednesday in the beekeeping shed — Wednesday is able to get back to the woods to find some evidence.
The blackhearted heroine is sadistic, fearless and full of fantastically sardonic one-liners. When describing how she’s plagued by visions, mommy’s little storm cloud says, “They come on without warning and feel like electroshock therapy, but without the satisfying afterburn.” She doesn’t have an Insta or TikTok account because she finds “social media to be a soul-sucking void of meaningless affirmation.” And when her hideously perky new roomie Enid (Emma Myers) gives her a tour of the school’s social scene, Wednesday makes it clear that she’s not interested in “tribal adolescent cliches.” (You will love Myers’ performance and character by the time the series is done.) Wednesday puts her inherent distrust of humankind to use when a mysterious creature with ties to the school starts killing off students and townsfolk. Like a gothic Nancy Drew, she relies on her powers of deduction — and the occasional torture session — to solve the mystery.
Thing, the disembodied hand that’s led a confined existence in past “Addams Family” productions, moves around freely now, thanks to the miracle of CGI. It’s Watson to Wednesday’s Sherlock, and Thing’s expressions of shame, alarm and dejection are a full-bodied performance. Wednesday interrogates Thing when she discovers it hiding in her dorm room on the first day of school. “Mother and Father sent you to spy on me, didn’t they?” He signals “no” with the wag of a digit. “I’m not above breaking a few fingers,” she warns. Thing quakes, then quickly explains in sign language that it’s there for her own good. “Oh, Thing, you poor, naive appendage,” she says mockingly.
Here watch the trailer: