We are in for some TV binge posts this week. I have been slacking off on writing them up. Let us start this week with something the most current: Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. I was adamant on finishing the first four books before watching this series. If you missed the reviews, you can find here and here. On the record, I love the movie adaptation and the cast and I watched it without any knowledge of the source material. I still think it handles what it has well enough.
The question is how do they approach it as a TV series. Netflix has rarely disappointed in its series so I was incredibly excited for this one. Let’s check it out!
A Series of Unfortunate Events (Season 1, 2017)
A Series of Unfortunate Events has a fun and sinister premise. It is full of imagination and adventure. There are clever inventions and also an educational vocabulary adventure filled with colorful characters no matter how dark and grim of a situation the Baudelaire orphans get caught up in as they narrowly escape Count Olaf time and time again. In that sense, the TV series grasps the ton of the books incredibly well. They handle it with a great balance while stringing in some simultaneous events to keep us intrigued. While this may limit themselves in terms of how long the series can run, it is smart idea to take the books and split it into two episodes. Season 1 covers the first four books in the eight episodes. At the end of the fourth book, there is a change in events that should spring forth in the next season. I’ve only read till book 6 so I don’t know what goes on in books 7 and 8 but there is a new discovery and characters that will give it a fresh change to keep it interesting.
The cast here does a fantastic job in capturing how these characters are. The Baudelaire Orphans are played by Malina Weissman as Violet, Louis Hynes as Klaus and Presley Smith as baby Sunny. These three are the focus of the story itself. They are the ones dealt with all the misfortune. In many ways, Violet, Klaus and Sunny are hold a wonderful connection to each other as siblings. There is a likeable factor to them because they are so intelligent and because they’ve lost so much and trapped with such either useless or evil adults. However, there is a question of how the character in the series actually pick up to fend for themselves (much quicker than in the books).
Talking about useless adults, we can’t dive into a talk about the series without talking about their absolutely useless and constantly coughing Mr. Poe, a man who is responsible for their future until Violet comes of age to inherit the Baudelaire fortune. Mr. Poe, played by K. Todd Freeman is portrayed so incredibly clueless and possibly self-absorbed that in fact, him and his family are quite funny to watch. This brings forth a dark comedy tone that works well to not only give us a grim situation but know when to inject some dark humor.
We can’t have a conversation about characters without talking about the master disguise villain, Count Olaf who will do absolutely anything to get his hands on the Baudelaire orphans. Neil Patrick Harris, for myself, is a hit and miss sort of actor. He has done great roles such as Mr. Horrible and Gone Girl. I’m not a fan of How I Met Your Mother so I never watched it much. However, he always carries a charm in taking on different roles. In many ways, Count Olaf is a perfect platform (much like Jim Carrey’s portrayal) where he can do all sorts of voice acting and show off a ton of his skill set to capture and bring this Count Olaf character to life and man, does he prove himself worthy! Just his facial expressions is irreplaceable.
Perhaps one of the nicest touch is to keep our narrator, Lemony Snicket to pop up in the most random places as he continues on with the story. He gives us comparisons and sheds light on vocabulary, just like the books did. He adds a very serious tone to the story. In this case, Lemony Snicket is played by Patrick Warburton, a man with a unique voice. If you don’t know who he is, he’s done the voice of Kronk in Emperor’s New Grove. His voice is commanding and just amazing and fits his narrative so well. Especially adding in his background appearances to aid the progression of the story, it is possibly one of my absolute favorite parts of the series.
There is a lot of cameos here filled with familiar faces. Perhaps the most known would be Joan Cusack playing Justice Strauss, Catherine O’Hara as Dr. Orwell and Don Johnson (as Sir). Aunt Josephine and Uncle Monty are played by Alfre Woodard and Aasif Mandvi respectively and look incredibly familiar and yet I can’t pinpoint where I’ve seen them before. However, they all do really well in their roles. I’m a huge fan of Catherine O’Hara.
The familiar faces don’t stop. In fact, this Netflix Originals adds in a little extra mystery with injecting Will Arnett and Cobie Smulders who plays parents who are locked up and escaping some interesting situations and trying to get home. Now, are they the Baudelaires? Are the Baudelaires orphans not actually orphans? These are questions that this invokes. Who are these two mystery couple? Aside from that, we also get a deeper knowledge of what that secret society and the telescopes that the Baudelaire orphans find from their parents including the recurring symbol as we get undercover roles from Sara Canning as Jaquelyn and Luke Camilleri as Gustav. This side of the story about the eye and the telescopes really bring out a different side of the story that we’ve never learned much before and it adds in a nice mysterious touch and something that unfolds a little in each episode and wonder how this will all pull together.
Overall, the first season of A Series of Unfortunate Events is an intriguing one. It did take a while to build in the first few episodes but does a well job and captures a very suitably dark comedy tone. The cast captures its roles great whether it is our charming narrator to the evil villain to the resilient Baudelaire orphans. They add in a bit of mystery by showing a little more about the mysteries. Its a great way to keep the story intriguing and entertaining all at the same time. It is definitely one I am looking forward to Season 2 to see how it continues.
Have you seen Netflix Original A Series of Unfortunate Events?