By LAYANN BASILEH
Netflix released the much anticipated show A Series Of Unfortunate Events, based on the children’s book series of the same name, on January 13th. This dark comedy revolves around the lives of the three remarkable Baudelaire siblings, clever inventor Violet (Malina Weissman), intelligent bookworm Klaus (Louis Hynes) and infant Sunny (Presley Smith), after a sudden fire destroys their home, belongings and beloved parents. The family’s less than empathetic banker proceeds to introduce the Baudelaire orphans to their new guardian, Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), a cruel and conniving man who will stop at nothing to obtain the sizeable fortune the deceased Baudelaires left their children. As the Baudelaires work together to get through the never ending unfortunate events that plague them, their struggles are narrated to the audience by Lemony Snicket (Patrick John Warburton), also the pen-name of the book series’ author, who is an enigmatic individual dedicating his life to uncovering the story of the children.
What truly separates A Series Of Unfortunate Events from other television show is its method of storytelling. Every episode is filled with fourth wall breaks by Snicket, who constantly interrupts the tale of the Baudelaires to define words for the audience, as well as explaining how the word applies in the specific situation it’s being used in. Snicket also frequently spoils events for the audience, informing us that a character’s death is approaching or that things are about to go horribly wrong. Another particular running gag Snicket employs, which is included in the very first scenes of the series, is his constant warnings to audience to stop watching the show immediately, as people will receive only anguish from the Baudelaires’ fate. Even the show’s opening title sequence tells the audience to “Look away.”
I absolutely loved this storytelling technique. It was very different from anything I had seen on television before, and the tone was reminiscent of British literature for children, such as Ronald Dahl’s novels. Although some might find the constant spoiling by Snicket frustrating, I found that it served the show’s theme well. As we are handed sad spoilers, we are also filled with a sense of dread and remorse that we are unable to anything to change the unfortunate course of events from occurring. This is exactly the feeling the show aims to instill in us.
I was very impressed with the casting and performances of the show’s actors. Weissman and Hynes, thirteen and fifteen years old respectively, play the roles of Violet and Klaus immaculately, despite their young age. In every scene they perfectly capture the emotions of their characters, whether it be fear, desperation or frustration. Connor Martino (Sr.) said, “I loved how engaging Violet’s ’character was.”
However, despite their talent, Warburton and Harris steal the show. Warburton’s voice was entrancing as he narrated the story of the Baudelaire; I could listen to that man talk all day (which is a good thing because he talks a lot). Although many people felt that Harris would be unable to live up to the performance of Jim Carrey who played Count Olaf in the film Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events in 2004, I can honestly say Harris has far surpassed him. He skillfully balances all aspects of Count Olaf’s character, being humorous enough that it was difficult not to laugh every time he appeared onscreen, yet also remaining enough to remind us of the fear the Baudelaires felt towards him.
Overall, A Series of Unfortunate Events is a morbid, yet simultaneously whimsical show with many exceptional performances. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys unconventional storytelling and a lot of laughs.
The show has earned many loyal fans in its short running time. Amir Zekria (Sr.) said, “If you’re a fan of the books or shows that break the fourth wall often, then this is for you.”
A Series of Unfortunate Events currently holds a 8.2/10 on IMDb and a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Netflix has renewed the series and plans to produce a third season in the future.