The Spiderwick Chronicles Revived… and Dead Again

Photo courtesy of Jasmine Liang.

Jasmine Liang

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Spoilers ahead!

After Disney+ filmed the first season of “The Spiderwick Chronicles” (2024), budget cuts and reorganization killed it before it had the opportunity to air. The ad-based streaming platform Roku picked it up and released the eight-episode season on April 19.

Adapted from Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi’s titular fantasy children’s book series, the modern-day show follows the Grace family after they leave Brooklyn and move into their ancestral home, where their eclectic great-grandfather Arthur Spiderwick once lived. The teenage twins Jared (Lyon Daniels) and Simon (Noah Cottrell) Grace grapple with their absent father and try to adapt to the town of Henson, while their sister Mallory (Mychala Lee) attempts to join a fencing academy. Their single mother Helen (Joy Bryant) navigates her great-Aunt Lucinda’s (Charlayne Woodard) alleged mental illness and Jared’s oppositional defiant disorder.

Quickly, their lives descend into the whimsical world of fae. The powerful ogre Mulgurath (Christian Slater) disguises himself as Jared’s psychiatrist in order to obtain Arthur Spiderwick’s field guide, and the brownie Thimbletack (Jack Dylan Grazer) wreaks havoc on the Grace family — whom he views as the Spiderwick estate’s uninvited guests.

Loyal fans will notice many differences between the novels, the 2008 film adaptation, and the 2024 TV series. While “The Spiderwick Chronicles” (2008) remains a fairly close adaptation of the novels’ main conflict, “The Spiderwick Chronicles” (2024) keeps Mulgarath close to the protagonists — eventually falling in love with Helen. Mulgarath also gains an original sidekick named Calliope (Alyvia Alyn Lind), a fetch who parades as a teenage girl to manipulate the Grace kids. 

A surrounding cast of meaningless friends act as failed punchlines, only relevant when they need to get hurt for one of the protagonists’ progression. The pathological liar Emiko (Momona Tamada) is tragically Gen Z, Hatcher (Hunter Dillon) is forgettable, and Bree (Mellany Barros)… gets Mallory to kiss her boyfriend? (The writing seemed to tease a potentially romantic relationship between Bree and Mallory, but succumbed to straight nonsense.)

Jared’s arc gains another layer on top of convincing his skeptical family that fae are real. His poor mental health and emotional outbursts consistently isolate him from his family, drawing out his feelings of inadequacy. Helen gets more time in the limelight; she struggles to be a good parent while making difficult decisions. 

Most of these changes are questionable — clearly chosen to fit the genre and not the story. Calliope’s character is poorly written, sometimes poorly acted, and never justifies her presence. Her addition likely stemmed from a tight budget, unable to produce costumes and CGI. Although the production design of the Spiderwick house is stunning, the environment lacks its magic — the books’ wonderfully full and dynamic world of creatures falls empty. The few creatures that are featured mostly take human forms. (This might also account for Thimbletack’s lack of screen time despite being a prominent character otherwise.) Mulgarath’s horde of goblins are notably absent, with not even one making it on screen, and Calliope fails to take their place.

Loyal readers may find this version of “The Spiderwick Chronicles” difficult to chew. The wonder of deciphering Arthur Spiderwick’s iconic field guide no longer takes center stage, the rules of the world are left open-ended, and traditional TV structure prevails over the books’ unique sequence of stories that broaden magic with every word. 

But the TV adaptation got one major thing right: the Grace family works much better with a Black cast. This one change heightens minor details and conflicts, rounding out the whole story. Thimbletack destroying Mallory’s hair hits harder knowing the hours and hours she pours into salvaging it. The way the people of Henson ostracize the Graces and denounce them as dangerous aligns with the reality of many people of color in predominantly white communities. Even the stigmatization of their family’s mental health ties into how they’re racialized. This decision also graced us with the skilled performances of Lyon Daniels and Noah Cottrell, whose acting often transcended the cheesy, Disney Original-esque writing they were dealt. 

New and old viewers will still find merit within “The Spiderwick Chronicles” (2024) — just don’t come in with high expectations, and it can still be an enjoyable experience, especially for younger audiences. 

Unfortunately, the show’s cliffhanger ending will inevitably leave everyone wanting. In Roku’s 2024 WonderCon Anaheim panel, the cast and creators mentioned that the show encapsulated all five books in the original series, but nothing was resolved, and vital plots were either left unexplored (such as the entire fourth book “The Ironwood Tree”) or neglected (Thimbletack’s arc, the fairies’ involvement with the Spiderwicks, etc.). 

While still belonging to Disney+, “The Spiderwick Chronicles” (2024) was already developing a second season, but with its ownership transfer, there’s no guarantee that viewers will ever see this story come to a close.


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