We begin with a twist: Rowan, the boy who you may recall was drawn and quartered and then ripped apart some more by an unidentified monster who, for reasons unclear, spared Wednesday’s life, is … missing! Wednesday is out here telling everybody she saw Rowan get slaughtered; meanwhile, the adults are singing no body, no crime. Principal Weems doesn’t seem all that bothered by Wednesday’s report and insists Rowan ran away. I find Weems’s lack of concern pretty concerning! Wednesday manages to get Sheriff Galpin alone so she can level with him: They both know there’s a monster out there. (I find it interesting that the sheriff is just taunting Wednesday — age: 16? — with a theory he can’t prove re: Gomez being a murderer.) But their conversation is cut short by the return of a totally unharmed Rowan.
Are we surprised that everybody thinks Wednesday is either a liar or a psycho? Her therapist believes the former: Perhaps Wednesday is making it up for attention? (Again, I want to believe in the therapist’s abilities, but I’m pretty sure it’s obvious Wednesday is getting more than enough attention just from being the only girl in school who wears a special-order gray-and-black uniform, among other noticeable quirks.) Wednesday exits through the door rather than the bathroom window and bumps into Tyler, who also sees this therapist, also due to a court order. (Intriguing!) He believes Wednesday is telling the truth about what she saw in the woods.
Now that everybody at Nevermore has seen Rowan walking around being all not-dead, Wednesday’s classmates are more convinced than ever that she is fully deranged. Enid, area gossip expert, reports that Rowan’s whole deal was “being a weird loner” and that Xavier is his roommate. Then she explains that she’s prepping for the Poe Cup: Each dorm makes a canoe and costumes inspired by an Edgar Allan Poe poem (he’s an alum, naturally), races to an island, grabs a flag, and returns. There are NO RULES and Bianca wins every year.
Wednesday pops over to Weems’s office to find out that Rowan got expelled (!) and that Weems knows Wednesday had a psychic vision, just like Morticia did back in the day. Weems warns that Morticia’s visions were “notoriously unreliable and dangerous,” although so far Wednesday’s seem pretty on the money. Anyway, enough about the new student’s possible psychic break: Time for Wednesday to join an extracurricular activity! (I enjoyed Wednesday’s rejection of Weems’s suggestion that she try to be well-rounded: “I prefer to be sharp-edged.”)
This gives us a little tour of the Nevermore offerings, which are not as weird as you’d expect for a magic school; basically, the Sirens do choir (they sing scales about scales) and Xavier does archery and Eugene runs a one-man beekeeping club called the Hummers, and Wednesday is better at everything than everyone, except for maybe keeping bees, but we don’t really see her give that one the old college try. Through Xavier, she learns that Rowan, who has telekinesis (Did I mention that last time? That’s how he moved the gargoyle.), had been “more erratic” before his death-that-wasn’t. Xavier also reveals that he thinks Tyler and his friends are “jerks.” Wednesday retorts that Xavier is an elitist snob, I guess because he doesn’t have any normie friends from Plymouth Rock city or whatever.
Wednesday confronts Rowan for trying to kill her; Rowan denies it all, and Thornhill drives him to the train station. Thing is clinging to the bumper, though, to see what happens next. Unfortunately, all Thing sees is some fine fall foliage, because Rowan dips into the bathroom, transforms into a grown man, and then — well, what do we have here? Rowan is PRINCIPAL WEEMS. Hey, it’s not not what I suspected! But Thing doesn’t catch this last transfiguration, instead reporting back to Wednesday only that he lost Rowan in a windowless bathroom … very embarrassing stuff.
When it comes time to study carnivorous plants with Ms. Thornhill, Wednesday again crushes all her classmates. I wonder if this show will ever let Wednesday just … be bad at something? Besides the whole emotional-growth part. Like, she’s the best archer, the strongest fighter, the smartest student, etc., etc., etc. Isn’t it a little dull for her to never fail at anything? Her only struggles seem to be social. For instance, Enid has to tell her that Thing is mad at her (they do manis together, lol) for being so callous about his failure to tail Rowan. After some non-apology nonstarters, Wednesday admits to Thing that the picture from Rowan confirmed her greatest fear: that she will be responsible for something terrible, like, in a bad way and not a fun way. Having earned Enid’s assistance via accountability with Thing — she covers for Wednesday in the beekeeping shed — Wednesday is able to get back to the woods to find some evidence.
Back in Jericho, Tyler and his dad have a really beautiful father-son heart-to-heart wherein the sheriff is like, “I have a right to know what you talk about in therapy” (… actually, no) and Tyler says, “I talk about MOM, remember HER???” to which all Dad can say is “Don’t talk crap about your old man,” which is literally 50 percent of what therapy is for. I’m glad we got to meet their very cute dog, Elvis. Tyler follows his dad and Elvis into the woods and runs into Wednesday, whom he grabs and silences before she can get caught by his dad. Because Wednesday “consistently” stalks her own parents, she doesn’t find anything strange about Tyler doing the same. Wednesday finds her clue — Rowan’s glasses — and is smacked with another vision: Xavier yelling, Rowan moving the gargoyle, and a book about something called the Nightshade Society.
So Wednesday heads to the library, where she is found by Ms. Thornhill, who is just happy to see somebody in the stacks for something other than making out. Thornhill is a NORMIE, the only one on staff! She says she’s never fit in anywhere (how very Misty Quigley of her) and bonds with Wednesday over their shared outcast status. Then Wednesday and Thing sneak into Xavier’s (and formerly Rowan’s) room to find the purple book at the center of this mystery. Instead, she finds that Xavier has drawn a life-size sketch of her face. Bianca comes by for a visit and Wednesday hides, eavesdropping on Bianca and Xavier’s conversation: She apparently manipulated him using her Siren powers (which I assume she cannot do while wearing that gold medallion?) but wishes he would just get over it so they could go back to being a power couple. I find this whole side plot a little tedious and basic, to be honest with you. Not exactly the most interesting or imaginative incarnation of a mean girl, no? Feels very teen-movie-by-numbers to me.
Back at the dorm, Enid is in shambles because Yoko, who was supposed to row with her, is in the infirmary due to a garlic-bread attack that was obviously Bianca’s doing. Wednesday agrees to join team Black Cats, so as to humiliate her nemesis (even though, again, I don’t really find their mutual hatred all that compelling or even believable). For reasons, Wednesday’s costume for this event fits like Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman bodysuit.
The day of the Poe Cup arrives. I understand that we’re drawing on some classic tropes here — boarding-school stories, magic youths — and there’s bound to be some overlap, but this whole Poe Cup thing with the four dorms and the magic race in the water and whatnot feels so copy-paste-and-paraphrase from the fourth Harry Potter book that I basically have to dock a full star for it. It’s only the second episode; surely we’re not already out of fresh material?
Anyway, it goes about as you’d expect: Bianca sabotages all the other boats, but Wednesday has Thing in her corner and ultimately emerges triumphant. In the middle of the race, she has yet another vision where she meets a blonde version of herself telling her, “You are the key.” (Pretty sure I’ve heard that one before.) I’m happy for Enid, who is having the best day of her life, and for Wednesday, who has learned that school spirit is “a dark, vengeful spirit,” a.k.a. one she can really get behind. I laughed out loud, but not in a good way, when Principal Weems announced that this school of “outcasts” shares the value of “community,” which I think is the opposite of what it means to be an outcast. As is required by storytelling law, the last time Ophelia Hall won the Poe Cup was when Morticia and Weems were co-captains of the canoe.
Wednesday realizes that the seal from Rowan’s picture is visible on the underside of the Edgar Allan Poe statue, so she goes back under the cover of night and solves the riddle in his book, which leads her to snap twice (!), which rolls the statue back to reveal a secret underground chamber full of creepy old portraits of, I think, Nevermore alums (including Wednesday’s parents). The walls are lined with a hundred copies of the purple book Wednesday has been searching for. But before she can get any reading in … she gets captured! Who do we think the kidnappers are? Leave your best guesses in the comments.