Based on the children’s book series, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events follows the Baudelaire children, Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes) and Sunny (Presley Smith, but voiced by Tara Strong). To those unfamiliar with the story, and reiterated every episode by the narrator of the show Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton) and in the catchy theme song, this won’t be anything of a pleasant story, and if you must look away, do it now.
Netflix has been extremely daring with their original content, and this new show has been nothing but outstanding. Adapting 8 episodes of the first 4 books, out of a total of 13 novels in the series, each book has gotten two episodes each so far. Not following any conventional television format, Netflix shows are able to explore run-times and formats that are perfectly suited to their original shows. The dark and alluring comedy is presented in a sweet tone and a visual style that feels right out of the books.
The self-aware show addresses audiences with Patrick Warburton’s soothing and macho voice as Lemony Snicket. The narration, not only hilarious and a great stylistic device, is often used as much needed relief or preparation for scenes to come. Lemony Snicket is a brilliant introduction that was able to set the dark, mysterious, interesting and aloof world in the eyes of the Baudelaire children. From living in a mansion, the recently made orphans, by fire which destroyed their house and parents, must jump from one caretaker to another. The family banker, Arthur Poe (K. Todd Freeman), must guide the children and find them a suitable guardian, but with a reasonable fortune under their family name, Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) and his minions is determined to wreak havoc and cause a series of unfortunate events upon the children.
The cinematography and visually appealing style of the show has the persona of right out of a book. It is a fantastical way to represent a bleak world, whilst audiences still feel glee about the entire situation. It takes you right out of all the deaths and misery, it is easy to see the light in every two-part episodes. In addition, the set designs are nothing but superb, a perfect blend of practical effects and CGI, each story has its own persona and is a complete thrill to watch each one of them.
The Bad Beginning
Starting with the recently made orphans into the care of a mysterious relative they have never heard of before, which seems to be a common theme, Count Olaf. In his depressing mansion filled with rusty nails, cobwebs in every corner and faulty boards, the kids find solace in Count Olaf’s neighbour’s library belonging to Justice Strauss (Joan Cusack). Another common element would be the library, with a different one appearing in every different book adaptation. In a world filled with secrets and suspicious adults, the library is the perfect escape for the children to find all the information they need. For every library there is always a new story, and has perfectly come to life in their set designs. The Bad Beginning, was nothing but a fantastic start, with a clear definition of the show and what it would bring. It is a little hard to get used to Neil Patrick Harris’ over-the-top performance, but after some time it is easy to understand his antics.
The Reptile Room
The second book brings the children to an uncle named Professor Montgomery Montgomery (Aasif Mandvi). By far the most interesting story in the season, The Reptile Room has one of the best characters in the show, and a murder mystery that keeps you on your toes. Aasif Mandvi’s performance was completely mesmerizing, perfectly capturing Uncle Monty’s love for reptiles. His promise to answer all the Baudelaire children’s questions, the history of his parents and to take them away seemed to good to be true. This story boasts a cool maze and room, distinguishing the children with their own talents, and possibly the best costume worn by Neil Patrick Harris.
The Wide Window
The Wide Window has arguably the coolest set design, where the children are now living with their Aunt Josephine (Alfre Woodard) on the edge of a cliff. Alfre plays an overprotective widow who can not be surpassed for her fear of life and everything. Going into the third story, or fifth episode, an appreciation can be found for every over-the-top performance; along with the highly stylized visual style creating an essence right out of the novels. The ridiculous of the stories are truly appreciated, and yet believable at the same time. Possibly the weakest plot out of the four, however, manages to start tying in the overall story and mystery in a way that starts to get more intriguing and gratifying.
The Miserable Mill
The last story of season one, the children find themselves in a lumber mill in the care, or lack of care, of Sir (Don Johnson) and Charles (Rhys Darby). The story with the best dialogue and wit, the last two episodes were hilarious, which was somewhat felt throughout but never engaged as much as now. Both Don Johnson and Rhys Darby play a partnership that can only be described as endearing and frustrating. The introduction of Dr. Georgina Orwell (Catherine O’Hara) as an additional villain was brilliant casting, playing alongside Neil Patrick Harris flawlessly. The Baudelaire children find themselves trying to uncover the truth behind a mysterious fire that was thought to be caused by their parents.
Each story has its best moments, and reveals something different to be discovered about the show and the story. Alongside the main story, a small subplot follows Will Arnett and Cobie Smulders. The direction they progressed with their two characters was phenomenal, and such an excellent revelation towards the end. Not only did the show did stunningly with the casting, with break out actors playing alongside massive stars, it manifested a series that both new fans and fans of the book can certainly enjoy. Although the character development was a little weak in the beginning, approval and love for every character on screen is not difficult to find as the show progresses. It’s a wonderful coming of age story that is able to explore dark themes of death and morality in a lighthearted fashion.
A Series Of Unfortunate Events is available to watch on Netflix now.