Thing Is the Beating Heart of Netflix's Wednesday

Who knew a disembodied hand could be so compelling?

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Thing Is the Beating Heart of Netflix's <i>Wednesday</i>

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When sitting down to watch Netflix’s Wednesday series, Tim Burton’s foray into The Addams Family, I never thought that my favorite character would be a sentient, disembodied hand. Though, after watching the entire season, it’s very clear: Thing is the beating heart—er, hand—of Wednesday.

From the very beginning of the season, when he is deployed from the bottom of the Addams’ family car as it’s pulling away from Nevermore Academy, Thing stands out as an instant highlight. Wednesday finds him rather quickly, putting the pieces together about his assignment to spy on her for Gomez and Morticia, and he quickly jumps ship to Wednesday’s side. As Wednesday’s right hand man (literally), he becomes an integral part of her attempts to solve the murders plaguing Nevermore and Jericho, but he also acts as a window to Wednesday’s soul, softening her against her own will.

Thing instantly hits it off with Wednesday’s roommate Enid, and they quickly form an alliance of sorts, much to Wednesday’s dismay. In Episode 2, when Wednesday orders Thing to follow Rowan as he’s shipped off to the train station, she snaps at Thing when he returns empty-handed. Enid tells Wednesday that Thing is mad at her (a fact that she learned during the hour they spent giving each other manicures), and that she will only consider helping her if she goes and apologizes to Thing first. After she non-apologizes to Thing, he refuses to just accept that, and pushes her to open up to him. Even when the series itself lets Wednesday off the hook for her treatment of others, Thing is the only character in the show to actually hold her accountable for her actions (even if he doesn’t get to do so nearly enough).

Besides his ability to make her open up, he also forcibly puts Wednesday in scenarios that he knows will ultimately be good for her—but she will also immediately despise. In Episode 4, Thing types up a message to Tyler, inviting him to be Wednesday’s date to the Rave’N dance, and even secures her dream dress with a “five finger discount.” In spite of Wednesday’s determination to stake out the forest with Eugene that night, Thing forces her to enjoy herself at the dance, which leads to one of the show’s best scenes; as Wednesday dances to The Cramps’ “Goo Goo Muck,” she steps out of her shell for the first time at Nevermore, all thanks to a little push from Thing. In another episode, for Wednesday’s birthday, he’s the one that informs her friends of the special day, and gets them to set up an entire birthday surprise party for her. Even though she clearly does not appreciate the surprise or the effort, Thing went out of his way to make sure she felt special on her first birthday away from home, and gathered all her friends to throw her a birthday party in a crypt (and for Wednesday, there was no place more fitting).

Because Wednesday as a character is despondent, cold, and nearly heartless, Thing acts as the emotional touchstone for both Wednesday and her friends. One of the only times in the entire season that Wednesday expresses any emotion other than displeasure or sadistic glee is when Thing is stabbed straight through and hung on the wall in Wednesday’s room, presumed dead. Her frantic sprint to Uncle Fester, the tears in her eyes as Thing remains lifeless on the table in front of her, and the determination with which she asks again and again for Uncle Fester to shock him more is such a stark contrast to her usual behavior, and goes a long way to showcase that there is a heart in Wednesday Addams. The pinkie promise between the two of them is a surprisingly intimate reunion, one that feels truly heartfelt; his near-death is the emotional center of the entire season, and holds an appropriate amount of weight for the sole character in the series that truly understands our titular character. In contrast to how Eugene brought out some emotion in Wednesday, Thing is a constant presence rather than just a comatose figure in a bed, and acts as the window to Wednesday’s soul in every scene he’s in.

Since Wednesday keeps a certain emotional distance from all of her friends, she as a character is unable to aid in allowing the audience to connect with those side characters, and Thing becomes the tether between the audience and Wednesday’s friends—much like he tethered Wednesday to her friends within the series itself. In the finale, Xavier is locked in the Sheriff’s car, still chained from head to toe and presumed to be the monster. Thing is the one to scuttle up to the police car and free him, but his reaction to simply seeing Thing showcases the relationship that they have created, and softens Xavier to the audience. His visible excitement over seeing Thing is heartwarming, and allows the audience to feel the same triumphant vindication that Xavier is feeling upon being released from his unfair imprisonment. Even if Wednesday never apologized for getting Xavier wrongfully arrested, Thing did his part in aiding to smooth that relationship over by saving him in that moment.

Similarly, Enid shares a very sweet moment with Thing in the finale when, after Enid used her newfound wolfy claws to take down the Hyde, Thing approaches Enid to make sure she’s alright after their brawl. As Enid transforms back into her human form, the simple shot of Thing grabbing her bloodied and dirty human hand acts as one of the emotional peaks of the finale. Enid helped save the school and finally “wolfed out” (no werewolf conversion therapy needed!), and now Thing is there to support her straight after. In a way, this embrace acts as the precursor to the hug shared between Wednesday and Enid, setting the stage for Wednesday’s important display of emotion by cementing the equally strong bond shared with Enid and Thing just moments before.

Even though Thing doesn’t actually speak within the series, and his single-handed sign language is never captioned on the screen, he is an extremely expressive character, much more than he has any right to be. He is literally just a hand, but his emotions bleed through the screen clearly, and his love for Wednesday and her friends translates beyond language. This is largely due to the practical nature of Thing himself, who was performed by Victor Dorobantu in all eight episodes.

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The use of a real performer and numerous practical stand-ins rather than a CGI insert was the perfect decision for Thing, as it allows the audience to be immersed in the illusion of Thing as a character, without acting as a distraction through shoddy graphics. It’s already a hard-sell to tether the emotional core of the series to a sentient hand, let alone one that could have looked like it came straight out of a PS4 game. Dorobantu and the crew of Wednesday deserve celebration for their accomplishments with Thing, in creation, writing, and performance.

Without Thing as the heart of the series, much would have been lost in translation throughout Wednesday. Besides his importance to the humanization of Wednesday and the emotional tether to Wednesday’s friends, he also acts as a connection to the iconic Addams family, even when Wednesday has shut the rest of her family out. He acts as the bridge between the Addams, Nevermore and its students, as well as Wednesday herself, leaving the series’ overstuffed plot held in his stitched hand. More than anything, Thing elevates the show and Wednesday herself, making the series better for his presence, and for that, I have to hand it to them.



Anna Govert is an entertainment writer based in middle-of-nowhere Indiana. For any and all thoughts about TV, film, and the wonderful insanity of Riverdale, you can follow her @annagovert—if Twitter still exists.

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