Netflix first announced it would be turning the popular children’s series “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” written by Daniel Handler under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket, into a show November 2014. A little over two years later, the first season of the series was finally released on January 13, 2017.
Consisting of eight episodes that cover the first four books, viewers follow the tale of the Baudelaire orphans, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, from guardian to guardian as they seek both a home, and an escape from the treachery and any harm of Count Olaf. This treachery follows, however, affecting them and each guardian.
The series begins with the death of the Baudelaire parents by a mysterious fire; this leads to the children being placed in the care of Count Olaf, their guardian shortly turned enemy. Their time with Olaf is brief, but leaving their misery behind isn’t as simple as being removed from his care. Rather, he follows them from guardian to guardian, stopping at nothing to try to make the Baudelaire fortune his own, affecting, or at times putting an end to, the lives of their Uncle Monty, their Aunt Josephine and even their boss.
The series succeeds in bringing the books to life, keeping the same dark, bleak and hopeless tone while still giving viewers a little hope to hold onto as the series progresses. It dangles a happy ending just in front of us, and though we are warned from the beginning that there are no happy endings here, something inside of us can’t help but hope for the best anyway. It does a fine job of balancing that melancholy with that spark of hope. Keeping true to the word set out originally by the books, the tale of the Baudelaire orphans is despairing.
While the majority of dialogue is taken straight from the books, the words continue to ring true even when they are not. This is not surprising given Handler not only served as an executive producer for the show, but also helped to work on the scripts. While a treat for fans of the books, the show runs the risk of appearing jilted, unnatural and even awkward at times to those who haven’t read the original books.
Narrated by Patrick Warburton (Lemony Snicket), the casting choice is rather jarring at first, seeming to make little sense. While he does deliver his lines well, the role of Snicket’s narration is that of someone recounting a tale deemed dreadful, unfortunate and melancholic. But at times Warburton fails to deliver such depth. That aside, his presence is almost comforting in an eerie way as the series progresses and you learn that few people introduced can be trusted.
Louis Hynes, playing Klaus, brings something to his character that the books admittedly lack. He is every bit of Klaus Baudelaire that is on the page and then some; simply put, he is Klaus.
Malina Weissman is a convincing Violet, though she sometimes seems to lack something when compared to Hynes. She does, however, do a good job of reminding viewers’ just how young she’s supposed to be. With characters, it is often all too easy to think of them as being older than they actually are, but Weissman reminds you that Violet is only fourteen and is still only a child. They are only children who have had and continue to have terrible things happen to them. Wissman continues to remind viewers of the severity of their circumstance, just as Warburton does through his constant narration.
As the star of the Baudelaire’s continuous misfortune, Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf is a natural role. He is able to transform himself into this character and smoothly transitions between each of Olaf’s disguises, making his purposely bad acting appear far better than it actually is.
Overall, the Netflix series does the books justice, bringing the mystery and melancholy promised. But it remains something that everyone can enjoy, regardless of whether or not they’ve read the books themselves. It is both a treat for original fans of the book series, and those just tuning in. And with season two already in the works and a third one expected after that, it’s safe to say that it will continue to be a treat in the near future.