A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017)

Three orphan siblings are thrust into a chain of sorrowful events in the adapted Netflix series of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’


Netflix TV Review

– Includes potential spoilers –

Covering the books written by Lemony Snicket, the latest original series to arrive on Netflix is the book adaptation of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events‘. Originally made into one singular film back in 2004 under the same name, the narrative follows three siblings recently orphaned after a fire destroying their family home; propelling them into a world lacking the stability and safety they were accustomed to.

Being a 90’s kid, I’m one of the very few of my generation to have not grown up reading the Harry Potter books. Instead, I was pulled towards the dark and eerie fabrications of Daniel Handler; better known as Lemony Snicket, creator of the Baudelaire children. The movie was a perfectly adequate representation of the first three books of the series, despite not fully following the story structures entirely. The characters were well portrayed, there was a satisfying narration and a continuous mention of despair and troublesome circumstances.

It’s due to the success of the film that encourages a instinctual motive to compare when it came down to viewing the Netflix series: particularly through the first six episodes of the first season. The cast is so different and the surroundings are familiar yet still contain distinct dissimilarities, and that is what is great about this adaptation: its making its mark, using the Netflix setup to an advantage to compliment the greatness of the book series. We’re able to explore the full plot, rather just displaying the first three instalments crammed into one and a half hours of cinema screen time we’re blessed with that same amount of run time per story.

The Bad and the Evil

The first, and probably most talked about difference to the film is of course Neil Patrick Harris‘ introduction as the infamous Count Olaf. He had the difficult task of filling the rather splendid boots of Jim Carrey, who provided a comedic and equally quirky rendition of the villain thirteen years ago. They are indeed big boots to fill, but the commendable effort that Harris introduces does a high-quality job. This Olaf is darker and indeed more  immorally committed to removing the children from the situation. He refers to the children simply as ‘orphans’, a simple aspect that is evident in the books, yet not in the film; this is a plain embellishment, yet it’s something that makes the overall experience a lot more enjoyable for someone that appreciated the books so much. We may not have Carey’s trademark creepy stare, but instead we get a well defined character who is capable of suiting multiple personas and disguises whilst still keeping that classic Olaf presence.

source: Netflix

It’s a Sad, Dark Tale

There’s no doubt that the book series is pretty dark and mysterious, and the Netflix adaptation is no exception to this environment. There’s a aura of steampunk inspired elaborate sets that suits the sombre plot brilliantly. It’s a truly dark tale, following a devastating succession of events that woefully occur to these very unfortunate siblings; alas, these youngsters take this in their stride with their strengths of whit, intelligence  and quick thinking. They may be young children but they have more resilience than a large majority of the adult characters, fortifying the belief that they are all alone in their ongoing battle against the evil Count. They easily stand out from their dark and dreary backdrops, asserting  a dominance for the youngsters.

The tale of the Baudelaires is told by the Lemony Snicket himself (played by Patrick Warburton), a man who appears alongside the current action time and time again. His appearances are ingenious and cleverly presented in order to make the story flow incredibly well. He materialises everywhere the Baudelaires go, from the drains near their house to the rooms of Dr Montgomery’s reptile haven to then conventionally provide a documentation of the children’s movements in the form of well presented fourth-wall breaks. His frequent use of complex words and subsequent definition of said words is a brilliant addition to the narrative that wasn’t addressed as much in the film, but is so prominent in the books; it truly fills in the gaps and appears fluent – a word which here  refers to scenes of effortless action and narrative.

source: Netflix

Very Fascinating Deductions

Whilst watching the episodes, it’s clear to see they’re aiming to contain a string of mysterious clues to alternate plots that intertwine with the main chain of events. These enigmatic suggestions – such as the reoccurrence of the initials V.F.D. and the appearance of a Mother and Father (Cobie Smulders and Will Arnett) – are not yet explained, yet those familiar with the books can begin to pose answers to the questions that the first series presents. The series did brilliantly at hiding in secret easter eggs that may go unnoticed to someone not as familiar with the story.

In particular, the appearance of these credited Mother and Father pose multiple questions, even to those that are familiar with the plot. They make an appearance towards the end of each episode, in ways that may hint towards the belief that the two are in fact the Baudelaire’s parents; despite their apparent passing. It’s been a while since I’ve personally read the books, but I’m still following the belief that the two parents are in fact relatives to the Quagmire triplets: who are seen later in the fifth book, The Austere Academy. As Smulders and Arnett are seen greeting three children during the Miserable Mill episodes, it does seem to add up that they are in fact the parents of a different trio of children other than the Baudelaires.

All in all, the Netflix series is shaping up to be an incredibly accurate adaptation of the beloved book series. There’s plenty of dark mystery that compliments the overall experience that has always been associated with the story, this continually poses an abundance of questions even for the viewers that are more acquainted with the story already. The cast perform brilliantly, and theres a lot to look forward to.

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