If you've come here to read a happy review filled with reverence-a word which here means a deep respect for something- towards an extremely depressing story, then you are in luck. It is my sworn duty to report on the lives of some incredibly unlucky orphans and review the gloomy world around them
Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" first season dropped on Netflix last week, fittingly, on Friday the 13th of January. Patrick Warburton, as Mr. Snicket himself, narrates the start of the pilot episode. He speaks in direct quotes from the original novels, imploring the viewer to turn off the stream and watch something more pleasant. I was absolutely blown away by the faithfulness of this adaptation, and the dark humor of Daniel Handler (the real world name of author Lemony Snicket) is present and in the forefront as soon as the episode begins.
Season one of the Netflix adaptation tells the tale of the first four books of the thirteen book series throughout eight episodes. That is to say, one novel's events are put into two episodes each. If you grew up reading the original book series or if you're a newcomer who started reading before this adaptation premiered, you will more than likely love this show.
As far as loyalty to the source material goes, Netflix absolutely killed it. With Daniel Handler himself as an Executive Producer, easter eggs and references are all over the place. Not only are there plenty of references to other literature and film, but the call outs to the other books in the series are amazing. One scene in particular in the first two episodes has Neil Patrick Harris's Count Olaf making a throwaway comment during his breakfast about not being able to find his sugar bowl. Slippery Slope anyone?! The viewer will definitely get more out of the show if they've read all of the books.
Speaking of NPH's Olaf, the characters are also MOSTLY loyal to the text. Olaf himself was just as stuck up and evil as I imagined, yet ended up coming across as almost too silly. I almost found a lack of the menace I expected. Before you jump down my throat, dear reader, there are plenty of dark and terrible moments from Olaf that brought my mood right back to where it should have been. I did enjoy the portrayal of all three orphans, but there were a couple discrepancies. It's a minor complaint, but I didn't agree with all of the choices in wardrobe for the Baudelaires. Violet, in particular, definitely didn't have enough purple in her clothing. Malina Weissman's Violet was the weakest of the the three Baudelaire children in my opinion. She did have her moments; the times when Violet ties up her hair with her trademark ribbon and really focuses on an invention or an idea seemed to leap right off of the page and onto my tv. However, there were times when I didn't feel fully convinced with what she was saying. Louis Hynes as Klaus Baudelaire delivered a fine performance. Again, there were a couple moments where Klaus would seem almost transparent, but then a scene would happen between Klaus and one of his sisters and I would be fully involved with the character. Sunny Baudelaire was absolutely hilarious. The show runners picked this sickly green font for Sunny's subtitles that truly fit in with the aesthetic of the show. Sunny was turned into quite the sarcastic little smart mouth, and I was loving it. The best moments of the Baudelaires were definitely when they were together.
My favorite part of the season one is, surprisingly, the new content in the show that wasn't present in the original series. To keep this review spoiler free, V.F.D. is everywhere. The secret organization is given a ton more screen time and there are plenty of secret messages and bad ass secret agent moments to keep fans happy. This aspect could've been done poorly and might have ended up disconnecting the viewer from the original story. I am happy to say that this is one hundred percent not the case. The two episodes that adapt "The Reptile Room" were the best for these secret moments and may very well be the best episodes of the season. V.F.D.'s fascination with secret messages and passages are driven home with these episodes. There is also a huge subplot involving two characters only credited as Mother and Father that was absolutely unexpected. You'll have to watch for yourself to see what I mean. It was a huge blind side that kept us all on the edge of our seats, and the end of that plot line was disappointing, amazing, and incredibly satisfying all at once.
All in all, Handler's dark, depressing, and Burtonesque world has been done justice. Netflix embraced the weirdness of the world and characters to a T. You will spend your time feeling empathetic for the Baudelaires, irritated at the evil Count Olaf, and incredibly annoyed at the stupidity of almost every other adult in the show. If you want to exit your streaming and watch something more pleasant, then you are robbing yourself. Don't "Look Away". Read the original series and please come back to watch. Netflix. You have done well.
Verdict: Season one was almost perfect. Watch it! All of it! You're missing out on some delightful misery if you don't.
- Written by Jean-Luc Navan