The countdown to the release date of the Netflix Original A Series of Unfortunate Events was one of high anticipation. From when the initial announcement was made to when the first trailer was released to that Friday the 13th at 5.00pm when I knew that I would be able to log onto my Netflix account and see for myself what they had prepared. The reveal of Neil Patrick Harris as the evil Count Olaf did nothing but elevate the excitement and his performance did not disappoint.
The series is an eight-episode adaptation of the first four books written by Daniel Handler that follows Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire after the death of their parents in a mysterious fire. They are sent to live with various distant “relatives” who just seem to cause more problems for them and uncover clues along the way about a secret society called the V.F.D. Everyone seems to be involved with the V.F.D and hopefully these “relatives” can help them to find out more about their parents, their past, and why this is happening to them. All the while, Count Olaf, who is accidentally assigned to be their first guardian, is thwarted after the first couple of episodes but then continues to reappear with his evil conspiracies to steal the Baudelaire fortune.
The long wait between the release of the books and the TV series, and even between when the film adaptation (which covers the first three books) that came out in December 2004 and when the TV series was released, was worth it. It is completely binge worthy. It is full of black humour, references more likely to make sense to adults than to children, scene specific explanations for the vocabulary used, the idea that children can be smarter than adults, and themes of grief, loss, frustration, abandonment, and fire. It is suitable for viewers of many ages although probably not for younger children. But the question is not who should watch it but rather who would get the most out of it. Although children and tweens will certainly get some enjoyment out of it, a lot of the references are likely to just go right over their heads, and it’s possible that they just won’t understand some things. Young adults can reminisce, as well as do what we do best and compare screen adaptations to their book originals. Adults…well they are going to appreciate all of the dry jokes, conspiracies, and edgy material.
While the introduction of an entirely new side plot outside the original book series is a creative and clever addition, it can be remarkably frustrating and unsatisfying for the audience. The new storyline features a pair of spies (Will Arnett and Cobie Smulders) who have been taken captive in Peru and their worldly adventures. There is a real air of mystery about them and although they never appeared in the books, it seems as though they are connected to the Baudelaire past and the V.F.D. The irksome thing is that throughout the series, it was as if one plot was implied but in the end it turned out to not be the case, making it exceptionally disappointing and adds a level of misery to the Baudelaires’ story that’s more unfortunate than ever.
Although the depressing monologue from writer and narrator Lemony Snicket (played by Patrick Warburton) at the beginning of every second episode can get very annoying very fast, the repetitive nature of his warning not to watch the show and to watch something happier instead ties all the episodes together and is an act to pretend to put the audience off while really drawing them in even further, which is just the beginning of the show’s resemblance to the books.
The most upsetting thing about the show was when the musical number at the end of episode eight came to a close and I realised that it was the last episode of the season. I could not simply press next on my remote to fast forward through the credits and watch more, though somewhat depressing, adventures of the Baudelaire orphans. I merely stared blankly at the screen in front of me and thought “what am I supposed to do now?” My only hope is that there will be another season released soon. According to IMDB, myself and other fans will need to wait until 2018 for the next instalment to hit our accounts, which just gives me plenty of time to go and re-read the books.