It’s been almost eighteen years since A Series of Unfortunate Events first arrived onto book shelves, and a lot has happened with the series since. With thirteen books creating the narrative, and a 2004 film adaptation under its belt, it’s safe to say that author Lemony Snicket (real name Daniel Handler) has seen quite a lot of success from his franchise. However, other than a few prequel stories released from 2014 to 2015, we haven’t seen much more of the Baudelaire children since their story ended in 2006. That’s not to say people weren’t still reading the books, but with such a giddily Gothic world well worth still exploring, it seemed like a shame nothing more was being done with it. This little thought must have popped into someone’s head somewhere, as here we are in 2017, and the Baudelaire’s story is finally getting the justice it deserves in the form of a Netflix series. How wonderful.
Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is a Netflix original series produced by Paramount Television. When their parents are killed in a house fire, the three Baudelaire orphans Violet, (Malina Weissman) Klaus (Louis Hynes) and Sunny (Presley Smith with Tara Strong as voice) are promptly sent to live with their closest living relative, Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris). However, they’ve been left with a sizable fortune, and while Violet won’t be able to dip into it until she turns 18, that won’t stop the exceedingly greedy and sinister Count Olaf from trying to get his hands on their money. Exceedingly here is a word that means “extremely, or, to a great extent.”
Unlike the 2004 film adaptation, (which you’ll always hear me cry as an overrated, misguided mess) this somber series is a considerably better encapsulation of what the book series stood for: depressingly dark stories drowned in a good deal of dark humor. With two episodes per book, we’re finally given enough time to explore this fascinating world, unlike the 2004 film which tried to rush three books into an hour and a half movie. The three leading children do a great job of capturing the essence of what made these three orphans so much fun to read growing up. With Weissman playing the talented inventor Violet, Hynes as the brainy reader Klaus, and the baby with a bite Sunny voiced by Tara Strong, (yes, really) it’s hard not to fall in love with the down on their luck orphans who just want some answers as to why these unfortunate events keep befalling on them.
However, who could forget the no so little detail of Neil Patrick Harris being a front and center stage of it all as the dastardly Count Olaf? Harris does a top-notch job as the ever evolving personality of Olaf. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a perfect personification of Olaf from the books, but it’s clear and present how dedicated Harris is to the performance. He’s taken the best traits of what made Olaf so much fun to read, and putting his own little Harris mannerisms into the role. Also acting as the show’s producer, A Series of Unfortunate Events feels like it was sort of his love project to bring it to life, and it shows in his performances and the end product. He’s unarguably a more unnerving rendition of Olaf than Jim Carrey achieved. Another surprisingly lively addition to the show comes in Patrick Warburton’s rendition of the author Lemony Snicket, who I was admittedly far from sold on in the previews, but that was quickly changed when I binge watched the episodes back to back. Warburton’s stone cold demeanor actually makes the character of Lemony Snicket all the more fun to watch unfold. And all this backed by excellent set design and a creepy atmosphere, makes this Netflix series the Unfortunate Events adaptation I so desperately wanted as a kid.
On a more melancholy note though, the show does have its share of problems, many of which come from adapting books into on-screen entertainment. While not nearly as drastic as the film adaptation, the Netflix series does suffer a share of changes that don’t necessarily feel like improvements. Call me black-hearted if you must, but I didn’t really care for Aunt Josephine’s change of heart towards the end of The Wide Window episodes. Without giving away too much, Josephine in the novels was meant to be a kind woman who was drastically hampered by her fears of everything, even to the point of sometimes putting the children at risk to save her own skin. This was changed at the episode’s conclusion, and while I guess it makes sense to give her character some sense of decency, the inner masochist in me wanted to see her stay that way towards the end (like in the book). There’s also a character death that was changed in The Miserable Mill episodes to be less graphic. This disappointed my twisted mind from childhood wanting to see the in-book death happen in front of my eyes. And on a side note, the CG/green screen effects aren’t always the most convincing, but this only happened once or twice throughout the eight episodes for me personally.
Regardless, my inner child has finally been satiated with the witty adaptation it desperately wanted. Not many novels get a second change to redeem their failed adaptations, (I doubt we’ll ever see the likes of Eragon on-screen ever again) but Netflix decided to give Daniel Handler’s works another go, and the end result is another out-of-this world original series everyone should go binge watch right now. The faint of heart looking for a tale of joy and happy endings should just look away; everyone else on the other hand, will find a not-so unfortunate retelling of Lemony’s Snicket’s beloved books.