“Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
As an introvert, I spend a lot of time by myself. At least, I try to do that. I love people. I love being around people. But people wear me out. That’s just how God built me. The safety and familiarity of home with my family or my office are restorative to me. Because I’m built the way I am, a new streaming series about someone even more painfully introverted than I am was an immediate draw. That it happened to be produced by one of my absolute favorite directors didn’t hurt. Having finally finished watching it, this morning, let’s talk about the recent Netflix series, Wednesday.
Pop culture fans will immediately recognize that title not as a day of the week, but as the name of the oldest daughter of Gomez and Morticia Addams. As we finally learn in the first episode, her name comes from an old nursery rhyme, “Monday’s Child,” in which the child born on Wednesday is full of woe. The Netflix series bearing her name is the latest in a long history of tales of the macabre family that everyone knows as creepy and kooky (snap! snap!). Instead of focusing on the whole family and their various misadventures, this series—as the name implies—focuses in on the title character in what turns out to be a delightful coming of age story.
Wednesday opens on a scene inside her exceedingly normal suburban California high school where she discovers that her brother has been bullied by some members of the school’s water polo team. Insisting that she is the only one who has the privilege of tormenting her brother, she promptly retaliates against the mean jocks by dropping a bag filled with hungry piranhas into the pool as they are practicing.
Her potentially deadly response, while celebrated by her family, understandably results in her being expelled from school and brought up on assault charges whose punishment will depend on the report of the therapist she will be seeing in the town in Vermont where she will be attending a new boarding school called The Nevermore Academy. Founded by Edgar Allen Poe (which should help the name make more sense), the school turns out to be the much beloved school where her parents both attended, met, and fell in love. Both of them, but especially her mother, left some pretty big shoes to fill on their departure.
The series itself turns out to be a mystery revolving around the identity of a local monster with a growing list of victims along with Wednesday’s navigating the trials and tribulations of being the new kid in a school with a well-established social structure.
Nevermore itself is a school for “outcasts” set in an otherwise quiet town full of “normies.” In the context of the series, all manner of mythological creatures and monsters are simply a part of the world. Vampires, werewolves, gorgons, sirens (which make up the four major social groups at the school) and the like all not only exist, but have long been living among the rest of us as simply another social group in our melting pot society. Along the way, we are also introduced to shapeshifters, telekinetics, telepaths, and people who have visions that mystically give them insight and information into events of the past, present, and future. Ironically, other than having these visions, Wednesday turns out to be one of the most normal kids in the school.
Wednesday is played by Jenna Ortega who absolutely nails the role. She delivers all of her lines with the character’s traditional deadpan tone and facial expressions. She maintains that look so well throughout the series that the few times she actually shows emotion on her face are tremendously rewarding for the viewers. She manages to convey a whole world of emotion and range through her eyes.
The real challenge for Wednesday through the series (other than solving the increasingly dangerous and threatening mystery) is the fact that she isn’t very good with people or relationships. She is unfailingly bluntly honest without apparent thought of how her words will impact the other person. She’s short to the point of being rude in most cases. She despises overt expressions of emotion as weakness. She feels the same about relying on other people. In spite of this, her willingness to confidently stand firm in who she is proves attractive to other students and she soon has a troupe around her who consider her a friend.
Now, normally, I would unpack a great deal more of the plot of a series I am reviewing, but honestly, I don’t want to spoil the mystery for you. Suffice to say now: it will probably keep you guessing all the way to the last episode. Because the series is from Netflix, the production values are high. Making it even more endearing for me was the ability to see Tim Burton’s fingerprints all over it. The quirky, dark, macabre, and spooky elements that are so much a part of his style make for a wonderfully fun setting throughout. There is almost no sexual content in the series at all beyond when two characters briefly kiss. There is some language, but a relatively small amount. There is a fair bit more violence and scary elements (enough, that I wouldn’t encourage it for younger viewers with active imaginations), but even these consistently fit the settings and are rarely overdone. My one complaint is the picture of Puritan Christianity delivered by the series. It is badly caricatured and runs on old, tired stereotypes with little basis in historical reality, but I honestly wouldn’t have expected anything different so this personally came as no surprise and a detriment I mostly ignored. On the whole, the series was really well done and one I would highly recommend to anyone with even a bit of interest in the genre.
The thing that most captured my attention, though, and the spark for this post, is Wednesday’s character growth over the course of the series from a committed loner who was convinced relationships were a form of weakness, to someone who has realized that having friends makes getting through life (and monster attacks) not only easier, but enjoyable.
We live in a culture in the West that is suffering from a loneliness epidemic. Much of this comes from our collective social media addiction. We sit in a room by ourselves and “connect” with people all day, but those connections aren’t real and never bear the kind of fruit we need to thrive in life. Interestingly, one of Wednesday’s quirks throughout the series is her refusal to own a cell phone or engage with much technology at all. (She spends the series writing a novel on an old fashioned typewriter.) More jobs today involve working remotely and because of that never interacting with coworkers. Everywhere you go, people are wearing ear buds or headphones (like I am right now…) to shut out the world. And on the whole, this is killing us.
We weren’t made for isolation. We need people. We were created in the image of a relational God. We reflect His image in our need for and embrace of relationships both with one another and with Him. What’s more, this is something His people have known for a long time. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote nearly 3000 years ago that two are better than one. What was true then is just as true today.
Wednesday learned to love people and the importance of having friends. Take a page from her playbook. If you don’t have any close relationships in your life, you need to fix that. They will make your life messier and more complicated at times, but they will also make you stronger. They will take work. You have to invest in them intentionally if you want them to mean anything. But the dividends they pay when you get this right will be far more valuable than the input you give. Don’t be alone. You weren’t made for it.