Wednesday Addams returns to the screen for the first live-action adaptation since the 1998 straight-to-video feature “Addams Family Reunion.” In very capable hands, “Wednesday” arrives with raven’s wings on Netflix and sees cinematic visionary Tim Burton returning to the director’s chair. With a body of work that includes “Beetlejuice,” “Edward Scissorhands,” and “Corpse Bride,” Burton has the pedigree to tackle the beloved franchise. Cartoonist Charles Addams’ creepy clan first appeared in the pages of The New Yorker in 1938. Over the next several decades, 149 more panels appeared that led to a sitcom in the 1960s, a 1970s Saturday morning cartoon series, two outstanding ’90s feature films, a 1992 animated series, another live-action series in 1999, and an animated theatrical reboot in 2019. You could say Burton had his work cut out for him.
Somehow the popularity of the Addamses has never waned. Audiences flock to this creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky family like maggots to a dead carcass time and again. In this latest iteration, Jenna Ortega (“X,” “The Fallout,” “Scream”) stars as Wednesday Addams, and she’s joined by Catherine Zeta-Jones (Morticia), Luis Guzmán (Gomez), and Isaac Ordonez (Pugsley) as well as a slew of Nevermore Academy students. Next to the visuals (thanks to cinematographers David Lanzenberg and Stephan Pehrsson), the cast of characters is the strongest aspect of the series. Here, we list the main characters, from insufferable dudebros to charmingly goofy sidekicks and smarmy teaching staff. Take a seat by the fireplace and get ready for an altogether ooky list.
Xavier Thorpe’s (Percy Hynes White) emotions swing like a pendulum, and perhaps there’s a good reason for that. He fails to decipher his friendship or relationship status with Wednesday, and that supplies the series with plenty of friction and love triangle drama. At its core, the show is a coming-of-age tale for the titular character 一 and Xavier is simply a cog in a larger machine.
When he’s not running hot and cold in his love for Wednesday, he upholds the classic red herring trope. He’s sly as a fox and holds others at arm’s length. As Enid (Emma Myers) tells Wednesday, he’s a “tortured artist” type and transforms an abandoned garage into a makeshift art studio. There, he draws monstrous depictions of the Hyde lurking in the woods around Nevermore Academy and has a gift for bringing his creations to life. What’s more, he’s plagued by nightmares, signaling that his mental health is not in a great place.
Xavier is also a bit shady. He frequently appears after a Hyde attack without explanation. So if you believe him to be the twisted creature, those assumptions are not unfounded. His sometimes cold disposition is off-putting, and he has no real redeeming qualities to speak of. He’s just the worst.
Sheriff Donovan Galpin
We’ve come to expect cops to be inept and useless in horror, except for maybe Dewey (David Arquette) in “Scream.” He at least has good intentions. As far as Sheriff Donovan Galpin (Jamie McShane) goes, he’s reactionary. He relies on his emotions and fears that his son Tyler (Hunter Doohan) has inherited his wife’s illness of turning into a Hyde, so his detective work is suspicious at best. It’s hard to dismiss him totally for his feelings, as they are justified, but his disdain for the outcasts at Nevermore is worthy of subtracting points.
He wants to do right by Tyler. He guards his son and watches over his every move. When he forbids Tyler from seeing or speaking with Wednesday, Tyler doesn’t listen. This causes Sheriff Donavon to fume and spiral out. He goes off half-cocked. Still, he retains the ability to do his job. After several mutilated bodies are discovered in the woods, his instincts lead him to believe that a human couldn’t possibly commit such horrific crimes. It has to be a monster. For that, he’s at least attempting to give the victims a modicum of justice.
Reluctantly, he begins working with Wednesday to figure out what’s going on. He’s a tough nut to crack, and when he sets his mind on something, even if he’s clearly in the wrong, he follows through to the end. He’s a man of the law through and through, and I suppose you do need a deeply flawed villain type to balance things out.
Dr. Valerie Kinbott
Part of Wednesday’s punishment for nearly killing another kid is mandatory therapy. Presided over by Dr. Valerie Kinbott (Riki Lindhome), the sessions serve as a way to peel back Wednesday’s layers in an attempt to understand why she is the way she is. Kinbott is overeager and sunny, and that greatly annoys Wednesday. As another red herring, Kinbott exudes warmth and charm. She’s the antithesis of her wonderfully dark and brooding patient.
However, her role doesn’t go much further. There’s very little depth to the character, so her efforts to really dig deep into Wednesday’s psyche seem wasted. There are glimpses of insight in a few of their sessions but nothing particularly illuminating. She offers words of encouragement when the conversation warrants it, and she says and does all the right things as a therapist. It’s too bad there’s not much else there for the audience to connect with.
Completing the love triangle with Wednesday, Tyler Galpin (Hunter Doohan) has a big heart and is unafraid to show his emotions. When he’s jilted by Wednesday, the hurt stings deeply. He’s also seeing Dr. Kinbott for emotional and psychological trauma stemming from his mother’s tragic death. He’s haunted by her memory and has deeper wounds than even Kinbott anticipated.
Then, there’s the matter of him being the Hyde that’s been terrorizing Nevermore Academy and the community at large. While kissing him in the coffee shop Weathervane, Wednesday has a vision that he’s been the killer all along. It’s a twist you could probably deduce by the simple process of elimination, but it further contextualizes his character. His mother was also a Hyde, and his father, Sheriff Galpin always feared his son would turn out the same. However, unlike his mother, Tyler is an outright villain.
He’s disarming and sneaks his way into Wednesday’s life in such a way that she can’t see the forest for the trees. He tangles her in charm and wit, always pouring it on too thick. And he plays it all so well. After an unfortunate attack while breaking into the Gates mansion, Tyler even gives himself a few scratches as a way to misdirect Wednesday into believing he is just another victim. He fools the audience, too, until the last possible second.
Principal Larissa Weems
Gwendoline Christie plays Principal Larissa Weems of Nevermore Academy. She’s a commanding presence and a fashion icon. Strict about adhering to rules, she is lenient if a situation requires it and often gives Wednesday multiple chances before expelling her. She suffers no fools, but even with her hard exterior, she means well.
Beneath her perfectly-applied makeup and coiffed ‘do, she harbors her own misery. During her youth at Nevermore, she had a crush on Garett Gates (Lewis Hayes), but he didn’t reciprocate her feelings. Instead, he went after Morticia (the younger version is played by Gwen Jones) and failed to drive a wedge between her and Gomez (played by Lucius Hoyos in flashbacks). Weems’ resentment towards Morticia for stealing her lover’s heart spills over into her relationship with Wednesday.
When push comes to shove, she is likely to protect her interests and the school’s reputation. In the case of murdered student Rowan (Calum Ross), his father thinks it best to cover up the whole mess. Weems then uses her shape-shifting abilities to pretend to be Rowan, disproving Wednesday’s claims that she witnessed his murder in the process. She is nothing if not faithful to her convictions, even when she’s dead wrong.
Every teen horror drama needs a good antagonist. Bianca Barclay (Joy Sunday) fills every room she graces. Her power is the siren’s song, the ability to influence one’s emotions and actions. So she wears a medallion to squelch her powers in her day-to-day life. She was once the girlfriend of Xavier Thorpe, but the two split when he accuses her of using her siren’s song to manipulate him.
Yet, she doesn’t seem too broken up about it. She has enough to deal with living in the shadow of her mother, who created a self-help app that’s far more exploitative than helpful. Bianca came to Nevermore to escape. Inside the hallowed walls, she finds strength and community with the other sirens. When she meets Wednesday, they are immediately at odds and engage in a competitive fencing match. Wednesday wins the first round and then suggests a more deadly approach: no tips on their blades and no masks for protection. All bets are off, and Bianca comes out on top. She’s a worthy adversary indeed.
Bianca overcompensates as a coping mechanism to deal with her past. When her mother pays a visit on parent’s day, the audience gets a few glimpses behind the facade and sees a real human being just trying to get by. The only downside is there are not nearly enough vulnerable moments to endear her to the viewer. She still slays at fencing, though.
Catherine Zeta-Jones takes an elegant turn as Morticia Addams. She dotes on her husband Gomez (Luis Guzmán) and their marriage is as hot-blooded as when they were young Nevermore students. They love deeply Wednesday and only want what’s best for her. Initially, Morticia plays only a minor role, appearing only in the first episode and final episodes. However, she and Gomez are given a hefty storyline in Episode 5.
During parent’s day, a revelation comes to light about Gomez being previously charged with murder. Thirty-two years prior, Morticia found herself in a love triangle with Gomez and another classmate named Garett Gates. Gates fell head over heels for Morticia. On the ill-fated night in question, Garett attacked Gomez. In their tussle, Gomez accidentally killed Garett with a saber. Well, that’s what the show teases at first, but the truth of the matter is it was Morticia who punctured Garett’s stomach, leading him to tumble over a second-floor balcony to his death.
Morticia has carried this burden around with her for decades. When Wednesday confronts her parents about the tragedy, Morticia reveals the truth, and the two finally bond in a powerful way. Morticia may be a secondary character, but her tortured past serves as significant motivation for her sometimes tenuous relationship with her daughter.
Much like Joel Glicker (David Krumholtz) in 1993’s “Addams Family Values,” Eugene Otinger (Moosa Mostafa) serves as Wednesday’s trusty sidekick. When tasked with signing up for an extracurricular activity, Wednesday decides to join Eugene’s Nevermore Hummers (a beekeeping club) as its only other member. Eugene and Wednesday are immediate friends, bonding over their roles as outcasts in a sea of outcasts. With the gift of telekinesis, Eugene is sweet and awkward and tries too hard to gain Enid’s affection. Yet, he counterbalances Wednesday’s cold disposition nicely. They are an unlikely pair, but it works.
What makes Eugene such an important character is his loyalty. He doesn’t have many friends, so when he invites you into his friend circle, you can be assured he’ll always have your back. After Wednesday decides to attend the dance with Tyler, he forges ahead with their plans to stake out the Hyde’s lair on his own. It’s against his better judgment, but he sure is a brave MVP. While out scouting the location, he is wounded by the creature but manages to somehow survive. He’s sent to the hospital, where his two moms come to visit.
When the chips are down, he comes to help despite being greatly injured. He’s the show’s secret weapon and a darn good addition to the cast.
Christina Ricci’s return to the kooky world of the Addams family is long overdue. Having played Wednesday in “The Addams Family” and “Addams Family Values,” it’s fitting that she dons the villain’s cloak this time around. As the first normie on staff at Nevermore Academy, professor Marilyn Thornhill teaches a course on carnivorous plants and has a particular fascination with the Venus fly trap. When new girl students arrive, she presents them with a personally picked plant to welcome them. She gives a black dahlia to Wednesday.
Behind her cat-eye glasses, she is actually Laurel Gates, Garett’s brother. In the aftermath of his death, both their parents died, and Laurel, now an orphan, was sent overseas. Allegedly, she drowned, but her body was never recovered. Thirty years later, she resurrects Jericho town founder Joseph Crackstone so he can slaughter the entire school. Thornhill will do anything to avenge her brother’s death.
Ricci delivers a magnetic and sometimes terrifying performance. When she takes Wednesday hostage, she performs a ritual to resurrect Crackstone. She hooks up various jars containing body parts with electrodes and utters an incantation, triggering the process. With a storm roaring overhead, Crackstone’s vault lifts into the air in an obvious nod to the iconic scene in “Frankenstein.”
Gomez Addams is a family man. He’s jovial, splendidly disturbed, and forever committed to Morticia — so much so, he took the blame for Garett Gates’ death and was fully prepared to go to prison for it. In Episode 5, the show dives into the past and explores what led to the catastrophic night that forever changed their lives. Of course, we learn it was not Gomez who accidentally stabbed Garett but Morticia. He didn’t have to protect her, but that’s just the kind of guy he is. We all need a man as loyal as Gomez.
When he’s not making out with Morticia (seriously, they need to get a room), he’s guiding Wednesday with sage tidbits of advice about her new life at Nevermore Academy. He also endearingly calls Wednesday a slew of cute little nicknames like “my little storm cloud.” During parent’s day, Principal Weems suggests the family take part in a group therapy session with Dr. Kinbott. He’s reluctant at first, mistaking head-shrinking in the literal sense, but soon admits that it could be good for the family to open up and deal with their emotions. Gomez plays only a small role in the story, but he unmistakably stands out as one of the best characters. He’s a good egg and deserves his No. 4 slot.
Enid Sinclair loves rainbows, candy-coated pop music, and all things colorful. She could not be more different from Wednesday. It’s probably not good for them to be roommates, but their friendship is one of the best parts of the show. They balance each other out. And like Eugene, she’s a good, loyal friend who would walk through fire for Wednesday.
A werewolf, Enid has yet to “wolf out” as it’s called. That is, she has yet to transform fully into a werewolf at the beginning of the season. Her only gift is retracting her colorful claws. Frustrated and dismayed, her parents consider sending their daughter to conversion therapy for the summer. When handed a stack of pamphlets, Enid pushes back, saying, “If I’m meant to wolf out, I’m going to do it on my own timeline, not yours. I just hope one day you’ll be able to accept me for what I am.” Many have cited how werewolf lore is similar to the LGBTQ+ experience. Pair that with Enid’s colorful hair that looks quite similar to the trans flag, and you’ve got queer subtext.
Even with her over-the-top personality, Enid has a way of charming her way into your heart. She’s fiercely dedicated to her friends and trepidatiously follows where Wednesday leads. When she does wolf out, it’s well worth the wait. All in all, she’s more than earned her top-tier ranking.
From a character standpoint, Thing’s (Victor Dorobantu) dynamic with Wednesday is among the best parts of the show. In the beginning, Thing is tasked with spying on Wednesday and reporting back to her parents but is quickly discovered under her bedclothes. Wednesday then threatens to lock him inside her desk for the entire semester, or he can submit to her will and be her lackey. He chooses the latter. Even under such circumstances, he proves himself to be loyal to her and does her bidding.
Loyalty is a throughline in the show that’s displayed in every relationship Wednesday has. Whatever she asks, Thing does. From trailing Rowan to spying on Xavier, Thing commits and does a bang-up job in his detective work. As things escalate and draw closer to the big Thornhill reveal, Thing goes under the knife — literally. Wednesday discovers Thing has been stabbed, and his fate hangs precariously in the balance, but he won’t go down that way. Thing is strong, determined, and resilient. He eventually comes back to life much to the relief of Wednesday and Uncle Fester (Fred Armisen).
Although he’s just a disembodied hand, Thing is the real heart of the show. “Wednesday” would not be the same without him. Additionally, he has some terrific gags throughout the season, including a hilarious scene with Fester. Thing is delightful, and there’s no way he deserves any lower ranking.
2022 is the year of Jenna Ortega. That distinction is solidified with her performance as Wednesday Addams. She studied fencing and cello and honed in on nailing the physicality, imbuing her own energy into the role. After nearly killing another student at Nancy Reagan High, Wednesday is sent off to Nevermore Academy. Not only must she learn how to work with others, she feels the pressure to live up to Gomez and Morticia’s expectations, as both previously attended the academy. She’s even assigned to the same dormitory (Ophelia Hall) where Morticia once lived.
Wednesday is a tough nut to crack, but she does eventually let her guard down. The most important scene for the character comes after Thing is stabbed. Fester uses his electrified fingertips as defibrillators to resuscitate him. Each failed attempt pierces Wednesday’s heart. Her goth-girl exterior slips, and she is on the verge of tears. Thing means the world to her. At this moment, Wednesday demonstrates that she does have a heart.
With a talent for visions, Wednesday pieces together clues to track down the Hyde and the mastermind behind the bloody plot. She might be wrong from time to time, but she owns her mistakes. In the final confrontation with Joseph Crackstone, Wednesday wields a saber and defeats the villainous patriarch by stabbing him through his black heart. It’s a victorious moment to close the season, and Wednesday merits a standing ovation as the best character in the series.
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Author: Bee Scott
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November 23, 2022