“A Series of Unfortunate Events” makes fortunate Netflix debut
“This show will wreck your evening, your whole life, and your day,” Netflix claims in the opening theme song for “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” But don’t let the warning scare you away. This quirky program is not one you want to miss.
The first season of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” has eight episodes, covering the first four books. The finale doesn’t offer much closure, but fortunately, a second and third season to cover all 13 books is highly likely.
Each episode is around 45 minutes and presents a mostly faithful retelling of the book series. The series follows the three Baudelaire orphans as they try to escape from the wicked Count Olaf, a man out to steal their parents’ enormous fortune. To keep longtime fans interested, the show also throws in an intriguing subplot dealing with a secret organization at the heart of the original books. The added mystery effectively keeps viewers on their toes, and will likely grow even more significant in later seasons.
The show’s tone might be confusing to non-readers at first, but those who know the series will be pleased with the strange balance it achieves. After all, one of the best aspects of the novels was the sardonic voice of Lemony Snicket, the story’s narrator. The show has preserved his dark humor by keeping Snicket as a character in the story. Played by Patrick Warburton, he is a constant observer to the unfortunate lives of the Baudelaires and frequently addresses the audience in deadpan to provide grim advice, vocabulary definitions, and everything in between.
The rest of the cast is impressive, too. Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) is just the right mix of evil and hilariously self-absorbed. The Baudelaire orphans (Malina Weissman, Louise Hynes, and Presley Smith) are pleasant and clever protagonists. They come off as a bit bland when compared to the other more absurd characters, but the sweet bond they share makes up for this. Mr. Poe (Todd Freeman), the blundering banker in charge of the Baudelaire fortune, is given a beefed-up role in this season and provided much of the comic relief in the episodes. A host of amusing side characters are introduced nearly every episode, which prevents the story from getting too repetitive or dull.
Even though the books were some of my childhood favorites, I hadn’t picked them up in a while when I began the Netflix version. However, not remembering everything turned out to be a good thing because the story is more suspenseful if you don’t recall exact plot details.
Despite the depressing subject matter, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” manages to be warm and funny while staying true to the books. Old fans should start streaming it immediately if they haven’t already, and anyone else who enjoys clever and unusual comedy should take a chance on the show as well.