The idea of a sarcastic and wicked Merlina (Wednesday, in her original name, after her mother’s favorite lullaby: “and on a gloomy day Merlina was born”), does not come from the original television series, which was kept aired from 1964 to 1966, in which the daughter of the Addams family, played by the very little Lisa Loring, hardly had any relevance, other than the performance given by Christina Ricci in the pair of films directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, in the years 1991 and 1993.
Is merlin (2022), by Tim Burton -and some other directors-, is precisely based on the character given by Christina Ricci, a lankier girl than the previous ones, with big black eyes and hair “like a crow’s wing at midnight” (played by Jenna Ortega), who is expelled from school for attempted murder -after defending her timid brother Pericles (lsaac Ordonez) victim of bullying, and who never had much importance in the series or in the movies, beyond some simple jokes- , by releasing piranhas in the pool where the aggressor boys swam.
Merlina is enrolled in the “Never More” Academy (Never More, by Poe’s verse), for “excluded, weirdos, monsters”, in whose central courtyard there is a bronze fountain with the sculpture of the drowned Shakespearean Ophelia, and another sculpture by Edgar Allan Poe with an open book -containing riddles, of importance to the plot- in one hand, and the famous raven held in the other.
As indicated, the student body of said school is made up of adolescents of various types of fantastic creatures, such as werewolves, vampires, gorgons and mermaids who, despite the marginality of their students, are tolerated in the town of Jericó due to the contributions that its director Larissa Weems (Gwendoline Christie) does to the town -read the purchase of politicians-, and whose “normal” inhabitants call “normis”. There is here a rather blurred nod to the Freaks of Tod Browning, as Enid, one of the characters, points out about its director: “she is one of us”.
A reluctant Merlina finds the aforementioned Enid Sinclair (Emma Myers) a roommate, a werewolf girl with trouble assuming her nature – a subtle allusion to sexual awakening, always identified with the “inner monster”, since George’s classic Waggner-, and it doesn’t take long for her to rival Bianca Barclay (Joy Sunday), the leader of the mermaids – yes, an African-American mermaid with piercing blue eyes – and, in fact, one of the best and most popular students of Nunca Más.
The series abounds in flashing politically correct or inclusive phrases and facts -Eugene Otinger (Moosa Mostafa), the boy who takes care of several bee hives, has two mothers, for example-, but they appear deftly framed in the direct sarcasm of which Merlina -who He never smiles – he shows off.
When a monster attacks and, apparently, kills one of the students in the forest -at first there was an attack on a hiker, who was dismembered-, the series unfolds mysteries, clues, riddles and secrets –“My mother says that a secret is like a zombie, it never dies”– involving Homer and Morticia, as well as Mayor Noble Walker (Tommie Earl Jenkins), Sheriff Donovan Galpin (Jamie McShane) and the town’s former founder, the 17th century pilgrim, “witch” slayer Crackstone, as our heroine experiences episodes that denote that her psychic qualities are awakening, while anyone appears as a suspect of transforming into the monster.
We found out that Merlina -who listens to records in Spanish on an old phonograph, where La Llorona-, is of Mexican descent on the father’s side -he explains that the family has a Day of the Dead altar in the living room- and, in fact, these Homero (played by the Puerto Rican Luis Guzmán) and Morticia (played by Catherine Zeta-Jones ,), they look more Latino than ever, especially Homer, with an appearance closer to the character originally created by Charles Addams.
To highlight the soundtrack by Danny Elfman, the covers of Apocalyptic -Merlina skilfully plays the cello-, the songs by Wolf Larsen, the Gymnopedias by Satie and the literary tributes (Poe and Robert Louis Stevenson) to Carriecartoons (Scooby Doo) and to the same Barry Sonnenfeld films, in the camp scene, which provide a sound atmosphere and cultured references to the plot.
With quite macabre touches and a very “Burtonian” aesthetic, the final sensation that leaves merlin is that of one Enola Holmes sinister, very “darkie”, but far from the original series and apart from the aforementioned films by Barry Sonnenfeld, with which the Addams Family achieved the refinement of its own aesthetic. Look, to cite an example, at Anjelica Huston, a Morticia with an archetypal appearance, who greatly elevated the essence already present in the performance of Carolyn Jones in the television series. In this case, at times we forget that we are witnessing Merlina’s “student years” -except for the ubiquitous “Fingers”, who appears here with his skin fully sutured and who serves as the girl’s “guardian”-, which gives us the feeling of watching another series. As expected -at least in this first season, developed in the interiors and surroundings of the academy-, the ardent Homer and Morticia have little to do -with the exception of the aforementioned secrets, which necessarily require their most active participation- Until the exciting -and momentary- appearance of Uncle Lucas, the only one that will make Merlina smile on her austere face.
As with Kenneth Branagh’s Hercule Poirot, this Merlina is barely recognizable in her reinvention and recreation – she wields the sword deftly, like Lisa Loring’s Merlina knew judo – and she fades from the sixth episode on. Even with everything, those touches of nostalgia for the original characters – Christina Ricci appears as Miss Thornhill, Head of Rooms and botany teacher – maintain a certain interest, and even charm in a series, otherwise, irregular and very generic in tone. . In short, disappointing.