Secrets will be revealed, one unfortunate event at a time.
It dawned on me the other day that I finished this series recently and I hadn’t blogged about it! And with Netflix’s sudden interest in adapting YA novels into TV series (looking at you, 13 Reasons Why), I’m going to be busy!
If you don’t know the premise of A Series of Unfortunate Events (which is an unfortunate event in itself), here’s some background: three children (Violet, Klaus, and Sunny) find themselves suddenly becoming orphans after a fire destroys their home and kills their parents. Shipped off to live with their closest relative, Count Olaf (played by Neil Patrick Harris), the trio find life is no longer comfortable and safe. They have too many questions about their parents, their parents’ deaths, and their new guardian. Because no matter how they try to escape Count Olaf, they can never get far enough away.
Quick overview of the episodes: this series covers the first four books (The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, and The Miserable Mill). Each book is broken into two episodes that range in length but generally run about 50 minutes.
I thought this series was really interesting. I watched it over the course of about a month with my boyfriend, who kinda sorta knows the stories. Anyway, the story is narrated by Lemony Snicket (played by Patrick Warburton). He cuts in and out to explain what words mean or tell us that something bad is about to happen, the same way Snicket did in the books. (It’s probably been over 12 years since I last read the books and I still remember Snicket’s way of defining words All. The. Time.)
The acting, I thought, was great. Obviously I enjoyed Warburton’s dry humor and his somber delivery as our narrator, but NPH…give this guy some props. He plays Olaf (and Olaf’s many personas) masterfully. Olaf is obnoxious and boisterous and terrible, but that just goes to show how good NPH is because that’s so not the NPH we’ve come to know. And the fact that he pulls off these weird disguises he wears to get close to the children also goes to show just how amazing an actor he is. (As if that isn’t enough, he also sings the theme songs to each episode! The songs are all a little different, depending on which book you’re in.)
The children were also delightful. Violet (played by Malina Weissman) is clever and careful. I totally bought into her older sister act as she tried to keep tabs on Klaus and Sunny to protect them. And Klaus (played by Louis Hynes) was just a sweetheart. He’s booksmart and savvy, always two steps ahead of Olaf. They were so much fun to follow, and the chemistry between the two of them was great. They really seemed like family.
And of course, the minor characters were fantastic. From Olaf’s crew of henchmen to the Baudelaire orphans’ new guardians, they were all well-cast and brilliant. I did kind of have a freak out when I saw that Aasif Mandvi was playing Uncle Monty. I think Mandvi is hilarious.
The show, amazingly, is targeted at both children and adults. So the humor remains clean and the children’s conflicts are familiar to other kids. But as an adult, I loved the subtle jokes this show got off. It broke the fourth wall, they made all kinds of literary references to classic novels and writers, and the acting sometimes gave subtle jokes as well. It’s mostly based on puns and slapstick for humor, but that’s my favorite. And like I said, there are great literary references if you listen closely. Everything from George Orwell to Virginia Wolf to Moby Dick. Basically every episode dropped something that my English major side picked up on.
I really enjoyed this. I won’t say everything was perfect; some of the episodes felt long. There were times I started getting a little bored. But it was still fun to see this series come to life and I’m really interested to see where the next season goes.