Following their parents death in a house fire, Violet, Klause and Sunny Baudelaire are ferried off to live with their mysterious distant relative Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), a greedy man who will stop at nothing to acquire the Baudelaire fortune. What is supposed to be a new start for the orphans turns out of be a bad beginning, a start that could not have been further from their agenda. Their arrival at the despicable Count Olaf’s residence triggers the first incident in a series of unfortunate events. If you are looking for a happy fairy tale ending with the hero defeating the evil villain, leave now before you get yourself hurt.
“If you’re interested in stories with happy endings, that story is streaming elsewhere. I would advise all our viewers to watch something more pleasant instead” says narrator Lemony Snicket, excellently played by Patrick Warburton (Family Guy) as he breaks the fourth wall in style. This is something he does throughout the story, consistently reminding us of the very bleak and unfortunate circumstances that have befallen our orphaned protagonists. He reminds us that their lives will not get better. If anything, they get worse. People have complained about this series because it’s too depressing. I’m not sure about you but the title tells us what happens in this show. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what’s in the title. It’s a series of unfortunate events. Why can’t people understand that? If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.
After the abysmal movie starring Jim Carrey as Count Olaf, we now have an adaptation worth watching. This show stands on its own, drawing inspiration from the first four books. It has a series of well-written jokes and our unfortunate trio are at the brunt of a lot of them. This is very much a children’s series, regardless of the black comedy. Yet, Netflix’s latest venture is not solely for children and the whole cast give outstanding performances, with Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) putting his own spin on Count Olaf. Much of the time, I was in fits of hysterics (that means laughter) and I can safely say that Netflix have continued their unbroken tradition of great original programming.
There are no happy endings, even for three grieving children who have just lost their parents in a fire. So if you want someone to blame for your now apparent location in Misery Meadow, blame Netflix as they are the ones responsible for filming this morose yet engaging narrative. Under ordinary circumstances, one would feel content after a season finale. But this is Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events where there are no happy endings but there is a cold, cruel and calculating villain who thinks of more original methods to torture children with each episode.
The Baudelaires shine through their unfortunate circumstances. Violet Baudelaire (Malina Weissmann) is intelligent and is resourceful with a knack for inventing things. She looks after her younger siblings. There’s Klaus (Louis Hynes) who reads a lot and is basically a walking encyclopaedia whilst their younger sister Sunny (voiced by Tara Strong) is a sass mouthed toddler equipped with teeth that can cut keys and many other things into shape. Don Johnson (Django Unchained) does a very good job at playing Sir, whilst Alfre Woodard (Luke Cage) plays Aunt Josephine and Joan Cusack (Toy Story 2) plays a good Justice Strauss.
This series is as gothic/neo-noir as it could possibly get with its bizzareness and washed out colours with a lot of witty wordplay in its script, thought-provoking at that. The series does a good job at showing the disconnectedness between children and adults; the latter only think about themselves and what’s easy for them, as we see with Mr Poe (K. Todd Freeman). Its weirdness is worthy of a Tim Burton credit but Mr Poe’s annoyingness must be noted. It’s an accurate portrayal of the human spirit towards children but that doesn’t make it any less aggravating to watch. The adults continue to be grammar Nazis and rant about their unfulfilled lives, unsuspecting of other people’s shady behaviour right under their noses.
These adult characters may be caricatures but they are not one dimensional or boring. The Poe household is very fifties, the era where every family was without flaw, in contrast to the Baudelaire’s from ‘riches to rags’ narrative. Mr Poe is working himself into an early grave and Justice Strauss cannot see what is happening right in front of her, all while our narrator Mr Snicket (Warburton) sometimes narrates elements of his star-crossed loved life. The adults are undoubtedly selfish and oblivious to the most obvious of things, but they have many important things to say, as do the children, regardless of their ‘not so innocent’ minds.
When it comes down to it, this show can be enjoyed by all people between the ages of eight and eighty. It’s humorous, witty, intelligent, stimulating and can extend one’s linguistic repertoire. That’s your vocabulary. Of course you know what that is. What’s more, each two episodes adapts one novel and it really pays homage to them. This series of unfortunate events really captures Snicket’s voice from the books and so does his stand-in, Patrick Warburton. I didn’t understand the hype surrounding How I Met Your Mother but Neil Patrick Harris really makes Count Olaf his own and now I can call myself a fan of his.
If you want a story with a happy ending, I insist you go to the Disney Channel. In this unfortunate affair, there is no room for cheer and happiness, only sadness which will leave some of the tender-hearted members of our congregation sitting on melancholy hill in a perpetual state of depression. Anyhow, with excellent performances, an ace storyline and an impressive rack of aesthetic features, this is certainly worthy of its Friday the 13th release date but nonetheless enjoyable.