Netflix’s Latest Series Is Totally Not ‘Unfortunate’

by Lydia Velazquez ‘17

When a well-known children’s series is adapted to the screen, it’s monumental and nostalgic for fans, raising the stakes for it either to be a success or a letdown.

“A Series of Unfortunate Events,” written by Daniel Handler (pen name Lemony Snicket), was an example of the latter, as it was adapted into a 2004 film that fell flat. However, Netflix resurrected the book series as a TV show, making eight episodes out of the first four books.

The story follows the misadventures of siblings Klaus (Louis Hynes), Sunny (Presley Smith), and Violet (Malina Weissman) Baudelaire after their parents died in a fire, forcing them to be passed on to strange guardian after guardian. All the while, the siblings attempt to piece together family secrets and avoid the sinister Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), a master of disguise after the Baudelaires’ fortune. A pattern ensues where the children go to a new guardian, Olaf appears and tries to gain custody of them, the Baudelaires expose him, he escapes, and the children move. It’s the curiosity of how and when Olaf arrives and how the Baudelaires will overcome him that allows for suspense to build.

On the topic of patterns, there is a recurring theme emphasized in the show: question authority. This idea is refreshing, as, in most young adult stories, adults are either respected or complete disregarded. In the show, the Baudelaires are level-headed characters surrounded by dimwitted or ill-hearted adults, making the story frustratingly great.

Another aspect of the book series that the show plays with is its breaking down of the fourth wall by narrator Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton). Snicket speaks to the audience from years after the Baudelaires’ misfortunes, often interrupting scenes with English lessons or blunt foreshadowing. Though the episodes follow somewhat of a pattern, making the plot predictable, it’s the picking at the big picture that creates tension for the viewer, with clues, symbols, and casual references to a secret society.

The new series is a quirky piece, with an aesthetic between Tim Burton and Wes Anderson, not meant for those faint of heart or short of patience. Despite the theme song warning the viewer to “look away,” it’s hard to stop watching. If its schedule is consistent, fans should get another season in January 2018.