Days before Thanksgiving 1993, in The Addams Family Values, Wednesday Addams decided to go off-script during her summer camp’s Thanksgiving pageant. Now, 29 years later, a new generation can see her do pretty much the same thing in Netflix’s mysterious and spooky new series, Wednesday.
The 1993 scene is by far the most memorable from the film: Dressed as Pocahontas, Christina Ricci’s Wednesday Addams tells her bubbly pilgrim scene partner, “You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now, my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans and drink highballs.”
She continues: “We will sell our bracelets by the roadsides. You will play golf and enjoy hot hors d’oeuvres. My people will have 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 your village to the ground.”
Everything goes up in flames from there.
The new series attempts to recapture that magic in its third episode, “Friend or Woe,” which finds Wednesday and her supernatural classmates from Nevermore Academy volunteering at “Outreach Day.” The episode, like the series that contains it, often feels like something we’ve seen before. In the end, it’s betting on the big showstopper, when Wednesday blows up white patriarchy by exploding a bronze memorial statue of a colonist.
The annual fete 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 a bit clairvoyant—Wednesday takes a post at the historical amusement park Pilgrim World.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Wednesday’s supervisors at Ye Olde Fudgery, one of whom calls herself an “OC” (“original colonist”), are less than pleased with her performance. Neither is her principal, Gwendoline Christie’s Larissa Weems.
While handing out samples to a crowd of German tourists, Wednesday tells them (in German): “Enjoy your ‘authentic’ pilgrim fudge made with cacao beans procured by the oppressed indigenous people of the Amazon. All proceeds go to uphold this pathetic whitewashing of American history. Also, fudge wasn’t invented for another 258 years. Any takers?”
And that’s before she wanders off, has a vision at the ruins of Jericho’s original meeting house, and decides to set the whole place ablaze.
The broad strokes of that vision? Wednesday’s got a 400-year-old ancestor, Goody Addams, who just escaped being burned alive in the town meeting house with all the other “outcasts” Crackstone managed to round up—including her mother. Goody happens to look just like Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday, but in a blonde wig.
“You have stolen the land,” Goody tells Crackstone as he prepares to lock her up. “You have slaughtered the innocent. You have robbed us of our peaceful spirit. You are the true monster—all of you.”
Crackstone’s response? It’s about what you’d expect from a colonial witch hunter: “You are abominations in the devil’s grip!” he says. “I will not stop until I’ve expunged this new world of every outcast. Godless creatures!” (Subtle!)
Wednesday might not have been the biggest player in the original Addams Family series, in which she’s actually the younger sibling. But the passage of time, a handful of adaptations, and most importantly, the sheer power of Christina Ricci have transformed the pigtailed weirdo into an icon for outcasts. At least, that’s certainly the idea Netflix’s new series seems to be predicated on. One of her favorite hobbies in this new show is standing up for the little guy—a nice quality, but also one that seems a bit earnest for the campy Addams brand.
Setting Crackstone’s new fountain on fire, however? That’s very on brand for Wednesday. Staring up at a statue of Crackstone, whose unveiling she must serenade with a Fleetwood Mac song on cello, Wednesday gripes, “I’ve never faced an adversary cast in bronze.”
Cue one of Wednesday’s many elaborately planned ruses. At first, it seems like everything’s going to plan. Wednesday plays the song, there’s a speech… And then Thing shows up to ignite a line of explosive powder that leads straight to the monument. Wednesday takes the opportunity to switch over to what the show calls “an intense arrangement of Vivaldi’s ‘Winter”—and just like that, intergenerational vengeance is served cold.
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