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‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ is Fortunately Dark and Delightful

Friday the 13th came and went, but not without dropping the first season of Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. The show has been teased about for months, from seeing Neil Patrick Harris in costume, to the short yet delightful trailer.

If you remember the 2004 film adaption of the book series starring Jim Carrey (which was made 13 years ago, wow!), you may be skeptical about the series. The elements the film got wrong, however, this TV show does right.

One, it’s in the perfect format for a book series: with an overall longer run time, the TV show is able to flesh out plot points and add details we missed in the film. And two, Daniel Handler (the author of the book series under the pen name Lemony Snicket) was involved in the writing of the scripts and production of the show, unlike with the film adaption.

Alongside Handler, A Series of Unfortunate Events features director Barry Sonnenfeld (Pushing Daises) and producer Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), who stars as Count Olaf.

Taking the first four books in the series, the 8-episode season proves to be faithful to its source material with a couple of dark twists. The books are split up into two episodes each, the episodes themselves quirky, sharp and humorous.

And yet we all know that the tale of the Baudelaire children is a tragic one. The narrative commences with the three children (Violet, Klaus and Sunny) being informed their parents have perished in a terrible fire that has destroyed their entire home. On the bright side, they have been left behind an enormous fortune, which ends up making them targets for money hungry relatives (aka Count Olaf). Tragedy is unavoidable; it’s woven within each episode, dark and dismaying moments that will leave you heartbroken and frustrated. It’s an odd piece of television, but it’s brilliant.

Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket. Source.

Don’t worry though – you’re warned of the unfortunate things that will occur at the very beginning by Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton). A rather gloomy yet charming on-screen narrator, Snicket’s disclaimers are usually warnings to look away and turn off. But the allure of the show will draw you to tune in, and I implore you do so if you are fans of the book series, or are looking for a quirky new show.

Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, Joan Cusack as Justice Strauss, Malina Weiessman as Violet and Louis Hynes as Klaus. Source.

The show is stunning in terms of setting, with bleak, washed-out backgrounds, Gothic tones, brilliant libraries, dusty mansions and an ominous lake. The characters themselves are brilliant, especially the performances of Malina Weissman (Violet) and Louis Hynes (Klaus). I loved Violet’s inventions, Klaus’ wit and love for books, and Sunny’s crazy ability to chew things into objects to assist their situation. The supporting cast involving Joan Cusack as Justice Strauss, the soft-spoken lawyer across the road from Count Olaf who is infatuated with the children; Aasif Mandvi as their wacky Uncle Monty; Alfre Woodard as their eccentric Aunt Josephine; and K. Todd Freeman as Mr. Poe, the rather dim-witted banker in charge of the children’s will. However the biggest credit goes to Neil Patrick Harris who plays the theatrical and ghastly villain Count Olaf, whose performance is reminiscent of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. 

The Baudelaire children. Source.

However, the show at times leans towards the comical more than the malicious, dampening the danger the Baudelaire children usually find themselves in. It’s a loyal adaption of the books minus the completely sinister atmosphere. It’s a world of intricate technology, steampunk fashion, fascinating people, and for once, there is an investment in showing the children as intelligent individuals, an aspect I felt was neglected in the film adaption.

Season one of A Series of Unfortunate Events is available to watch on Netflix now.