In Netflix’s highly anticipated adaptation of the popular children’s books “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” we’re presented with some contradictions. While the show is undeniably entertaining, it is difficult to fit into the context of a genre.
On one hand, the subject matter is dark and gritty; in just the first two episodes we’re already exposed to death, kidnapping and arson. On the other hand, it’s full of one-liners, irony and quirky moments, so it would not be incorrect to refer to it as a comedy either. These contrasting attributes create a refreshingly unique production, and more importantly, a show that keeps the viewer both invested and entertained.
For those unfamiliar with the plot, the show follows the Baudelaire siblings, three children who are forced to relocate after a fire destroys their home and kills their parents. The books follow the kids as they attempt to dodge Count Olaf, an evil man who tries to steal their fortune.
This new adaptation follows a previous film that came out in 2004. While the two are somewhat similar aesthetically, the television series is much more in-depth. For starters, the movie only covered the first three books. As of right now, four books are available on Netflix, each split into two episodes.
Altogether, the show is fun to watch, and visually astounding. There is intense contrast between the light and happy areas of the show and the dark and morose ones. The show does a good job of adding whimsy to things as simple as train cars. If you’re watching this and you haven’t yet gotten a Wes Anderson vibe, go re-watch “Moonrise Kingdom.”
Along the way, the Baudelaires’ travels are narrated by the dryly humorous Lemony Snicket, who is played by Patrick Warburton (better known for his roles as Joe Swanson in “Family Guy” and Kronk in “The Emperor’s New Groove”). Snicket is the pseudonym of the author of the original book series, Daniel Handler. In the books, he also serves as the narrator. In many ways, Snicket is as much of a main character as the Baudelaires. In this new adaptation, Netflix is taking this idea to heart, and getting creative with his role as a visual narrator.
Where the show largely differs from the books, however, is that it manages to involve the full storyline much earlier. While the books begin with the Baudelaires’ adventures, they eventually shift some focus on a secret organization that their parents were involved in. The books hinted at their involvement, but the show makes such notions much more apparent, revealing more over the first eight episodes than the books did throughout much of the series.
Whether it be the recurring telescopes that are used to pass secret codes, or the multitude of mysterious figures that are secretly helping the children behind the scenes, the show gives away just enough to keep the viewer striving to find out more, without giving away too much.
While one might have expected the story to be largely child-oriented, this new adaptation revealed itself as an entertaining production geared toward all ages. Whether one read the books in their youth, or is a newcomer to the universe of the Baudelaires and Count Olaf, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” is an entertaining odyssey through both the darker and lighter aspects of life.