Everyone and their mum seems to hate Netflix’s new adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s book series, A Series of Unfortunate Events. I lived for these books as a kid, and so was, like everyone else, over the moon when I heard that Netflix will be bringing it to life through a series on Netflix. Even better, they released all eight episodes of the first season at the same time – ideal for a lazy, sickness-filled weekend in bed. Unlike everybody else however, I loved the series. Here’s why.
A basic premise for those who haven’t read the books (go and read them now, regardless of age): three children, Violet, 14, Klaus, 12, and Sunny, an infant, are orphaned and placed into the care of a guardian until Violet becomes of age and can inherit their parents’ huge fortune. Evil Count Olaf seeks to take their fortune from them, and thus mayhem and smart kids outwitting adults ensues.
First of, a lot of compliments I heard were that it was over-simplified, childish, etc. It started out from a children’s book? What did you expect? I also disagree – the basic plot, of the three Baudelaire orphans heading to a different guardian every two episodes was indeed simple, but (no spoilers) there is an underlying bigger plot, with hints introduced every episode that keep up the intrigue. An ideal mixture of light-hearted (ish), episode-confined stories with a more gradual, long-lasting plot.
The appearance of Patrick Warburton throughout the show as Lemony Snicket, author of the original book series, added to the unique wit of the show, breaking the fourth wall and reminding the audience of the tragedy of the story of the Baudelaires. His tone and dark humour kept up the atmosphere of the book within the TV show, something that would have been hard to do if restricted to the dialogue of the ‘actual’ characters. Small clues to his involvement with the characters and evidence of his research into the Baudelaire family also blurs the line between reality and fiction. He’s the author, yet exists in the same world as them, thus re-created himself under this pen-name. So #meta.
Forever a fan of Neil Patrick Harris, especially when he’s involved in musical numbers (side-note: the starting credits and end of the series both have musical numbers – what’s not to love?), his role as Count Olaf creates the perfect villain. Enough creepiness to make him threatening to the children, yet comic enough to keep the series light. It’s tense when it wants to be, yet light enough to enjoy from under a duvet on a snowy day. Not every show needs to scare you into hiding for a week – after a year of Strange Things and Narcos, I needed a little bit of harmless entertainment. And I reiterate – is that not a true representation of the books? When I read them, I was never truly scared, even as a child. I rooted for the siblings, I laughed at Count Olaf, I was intrigued as to how they would escape the next vile plot. And that’s exactly what you get from the show.
To summarise, it’s not the most artistic, gripping, chilling show in the world, but it never claimed to be. It’s entertaining, it’s close to the books, it reminded me of the same tone that I loved in my childhood, and it successfully brought to my life some of my favourite fictional friends from a decade ago. Props to you Netflix and cast.