Days Before Thanksgiving 1993, in The Values of the Addams Family, Wednesday Addams decided to go off-script during her summer camp’s Thanksgiving pageant. Now, 29 years later, a new generation sees her do much the same in Netflix’s mysterious and spooky new series, Wednesday.
The 1993 scene is by far the most memorable of the film: Christina Ricci’s Wednesday Addams, dressed as Pocahontas, tells her sparkling partner in the Pilgrim scene, “You have taken the land that is rightfully ours. Years from now, my people will be forced to live in mobile homes by reservation. Your people will wear vests and drink highballs.
She continues: “We will be selling our bracelets on the roadside. You play golf and enjoy hot hors d’oeuvres. My people will suffer pain and degradation. Your people will have stick shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. … And for all these reasons I have decided to scalp you and burn down your village.”
From there everything goes up in flames.
The new series tries to recapture that magic in the third episode, “Friend or Woe,” in which Wednesday and her supernatural classmates from Nevermore Academy volunteer on “Outreach Day.” The episode, like the series that includes it, often feels like something we’ve seen before. In the end, it’s betting on the big showstopper, when Wednesday blows up the white patriarchy by exploding a bronze memorial statue of a settler.
The annual celebration is apparently designed to ease tensions between the “outcasts” and the “normies” – who live in Jericho, founded by early settler Joseph Crackstone. Convinced that Crackstone is connected to a series of visions she’s been having — this Wednesday, Addams is also slightly clairvoyant — Wednesday takes a post at the historic Pilgrim World amusement park.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Wednesday’s supervisors at Ye Olde Fudgery, one of whom calls himself an “OC” (“original settler”), aren’t exactly pleased with her performance. Nor is her headmistress, Gwendoline Christie’s Larissa Weems.
While handing out samples to a crowd of German tourists, Wednesday tells them (in German): “Enjoy your ‘authentic’ pilgrim fabrics made with cocoa beans obtained by the downtrodden indigenous people of the Amazon. All proceeds go towards preserving this pathetic whitewash of American history. Also, fudge was not invented for another 258 years. Are there buyers?”
And that’s before she wanders off, has a vision at the ruins of Jericho’s original meeting house, and decides to burn the whole place down.
The main lines of that vision? Wednesday has a 400-year-old ancestor, Goody Addams, who just escaped being burned alive at the town’s meeting house, along with all the other “outcasts” Crackstone managed to round up, including her mother. Goody looks just like Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday, but with a blonde wig.
“You stole the country,” Goody tells Crackstone as he prepares to lock her up. “You slaughtered the innocent. You have robbed us of our peaceful mind. You are the real monster – all of you.’
Crackstone’s response? It’s about what you’d expect from a colonial witch hunter: “You are abominations in the grip of the devil!” he says. “I will not stop until I have cleared this new world of every outcast. Wicked creatures!” (Subtle!)
Wednesday may not have been the biggest player in the original Addams family series, in which she is actually the younger sibling. But the passage of time, a handful of tweaks, and above all, Christina Ricci’s sheer strength have transformed the pigtailed madman into an icon for the outcasts. At least that’s certainly the idea that Netflix’s new series appears to be based on. One of her favorite hobbies on this new show is sticking up for the little guy — a lovely trait, but also one that seems a little serious for the campy Addams brand.
But setting Crackstone’s new fountain on fire? That’s very on-brand for Wednesday. Staring at a statue of Crackstone, whose unveiling she must serenade with a song by Fleetwood Mac on cello, Wednesday laments, “I’ve never seen an adversary cast in bronze.”
Cue one of Wednesday‘s many elaborately planned wiles. At first it seems that everything is going according to plan. On Wednesday, the song plays, there’s a speech… And then Thing appears to ignite a line of explosive powder that leads straight to the monument. Wednesday takes the opportunity to switch to what the show calls “an intense arrangement of Vivaldi’s ‘Winter’ – and thus intergenerational revenge is served coldly.