A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 1

Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman
Directors: Barry Sonnenfeld, Mark Palansky, Bo Welch
Writers: Daniel Handler, Emily Fox, Jack Kenny

A Review by Anelise Farris

A Series of Unfortunate Events As someone who has been thoroughly enjoying Netflix original shows, I was beyond excited when Netflix announced that they would be producing A Series of Unfortunate Events—a television series based on the 13-book series written by Lemony Snicket (the pen name of Daniel Handler, who served as one of the main writers for the show).

A Series of Unfortunate Events is quite possibly one of the most accurate titles ever, as that is exactly what the show entails. The story follows the lives of the three Baudelaire children: Violet (played by Malina Weissman) is the eldest of the three and a brilliant inventor; Klaus (played by Louis Hynes) is the second oldest and a bookworm through and through; and, Sunny (played by Presley Smith) is, though the baby of the family, highly articulate and sharp-toothed. The first unfortunate event, which sets the series in motion, is that the children are told their parents have died in a house fire. The children are sent to live with Count Olaf—the central antagonist of the series, who is played by Neil Patrick Harris—and from here, what follows is Count Olaf concocting various schemes and donning numerous disguises as he tries to steal the Baudelaire children’s  very large inheritance.

The acting in A Series of Unfortunate Events is fantastic, and each character manages to emulate the intelligence, whimsy, and darkness that this story requires. Weissman, Hynes, and Smith clearly come across as the most brilliant characters (as they should!), regularly correcting the adults and using just the right amount of snark in their quips. While know-it-alls, especially when they are children, can sometimes vex rather than please, it is impossible not to be rooting for the Baudelaire children (and in my case, hoping for such brilliant offspring one day). Neil Patrick Harris is remarkable as Count Olaf; with each episode he only impresses more and more with his disguises and increasing cruelty. And it would be thoroughly wrong not to mention the brilliant casting of Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket—the narrator/author of the story. Warburton is there to regularly remind us that we should turn away from such a dark tale, and his dry humor and expressionless persona is strangely delightful.

Visually A Series of Unfortunate Events is absolutely stunning. The very, very gray world—with bits of color here and there—echoes the story itself, as the Baudelaire children manage to find moments of hope amidst the overwhelming bleakness of their situation. Similarly, it is consistently outlandish and quirky, and plays with perception in compelling ways. Even though we have no real idea of where or when the story is set, it is entirely believable, and although it is probably not a world we would want to live in, it is gorgeous to look at from behind a screen.

For those unfamiliar with the books, this is a dark tale. And, even though it is based on children’s literature, some parents might be uncomfortable letting their children watch it as it deals with death and despair quite heavily. That being said, the Baudelaire children are a movingly close-knit group of siblings who are remarkably resourceful and never fail to keep moving forward.

Verdict
Watch it! Even if you aren’t familiar with the books or the film, don’t hesitate to sit down and binge watch A Series of Unfortunate Events. It is one of the darkest, most strangely charming television series I have seen in quite some time. And, if you are a logophile like me, you will fully appreciate the way A Series of Unfortunate Events is very much an ode to language itself.

Anelise Farris
farranel@isu.edu
I'm a doctor that specializes in folklore and mythology, speculative fiction, and disability studies. Basically, I'm a professional geek. When not researching or teaching, I read; I write; I yoga; I travel; I play with my fur babies; and, I watch way too many (if that's a thing) horror movies.

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