Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 2
Staring: Neil Patrick Harris, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes}
Directors: Barry Sonnenfeld, Bo Welch, Mark Palansky
Writers: Daniel Handler, Joe Tracz
Based on the books by: Daniel Handler
A review by Brooke Ali
“Charming” may not be the word you would think of to describe a television series that includes no less than seven murders, but nonetheless it is an apt description for A Series of Unfortunate Events. (“Apt” is a word which here means appropriate, like how its is appropriate to love this show even though it portrays really horrible things happening to children). From the vintage-inspired wardrobe to the bleak, grey, crumbling settings the show displays charm like a blue and white sugar bowl: sometimes hidden, but always present.
I read all thirteen books in the series as they were published and my favourite books were the titles in the second half. This is where the story breaks from the formula established in the first half (new guardian -> Count Olaf’s evil scheme -> the Baudelaire’s using their individual talents to foil him -> rinse, repeat). By the middle, the story starts to play with these expectations. First, they get rid of the rolodex of guardians and the Baudelaire’s start trying to take control of their own destinations; they escape the control of Mr. Poe when they can and focus on uncovering the mystery of their parents’ deaths. Next, Count Olaf starts teaming up with other antagonists, people with their own agendas that sometimes get in the way of his own. Finally, the siblings find themselves needing to work outside their own skill sets and attempt to use their siblings’ skills to solve problems.
This is also the season that introduces the VFD, a secret organization that is connected behind the scenes to all the recent events in the Baudelaire’s lives. The VFD gives more depth and intrigue to the parents’ deaths and an added mystery to connect the plots of the various books. In the books, it always felt like it was Violet, Klaus, and Sunny against the world, so I love how the show opens up the stage to the Volunteers, members of the VFD who are constantly trying to help the siblings. This helps counter the increasing bleakness of the story as the Baudelaire’s are otherwise consistently failed by the adults around them. Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle) and Sara Rue (Impastor, Rules of Engagement) are wonderful as the stalwart volunteers staying true to their philosophical and literary principles.
Can we talk about how great the acting is? Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes are remarkable young actors who are completely believable in every scene. As a mother to young children, I’m infinitely impressed with how well Presley Smith, the toddler who plays Sunny, takes direction and keeps focus during her scenes. This is obviously a passion project for Neil Patrick Harris who absolutely throws himself into the role of Count Olaf (and the changing intro music, and the choreography).
Watch it! This show is delightful and very binge-worthy. The second season builds on the success of the first and doesn’t disappoint. As usual, its good to keep in mind that this show is based on books meant for older children, so be mindful of the rather dark content and tone when deciding to let your children watch with you (my own children won’t be introduced to this series for several more years yet).