A Series of Unfortunate Events

2017 - United States

‘With its wickedly bleak humour, the series actually conveys some really important messages...’

A Series of Unfortunate Events reviewed by Jennifer AJ

In this adaptation of the bestselling children’s book series, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, three newly orphaned siblings attempt to investigate the unfortunate accident that killed their parents as all clues lead to their sinister new caretaker.

A second attempt at adapting Lemony Snicket (pen name of Daniel Handler)’s children’s book series turns the tale of the Baudelaire’s’ misfortunes into a series instead of a movie. The Netflix version is decidedly less grim than the 2005 movie starring Jim Carrey, but it retains the gothic aesthetics and dark humour that the novels are known for. With 3 seasons and 25 episodes, the Netflix series also gets to delve deeper into each book, unlike the movie that crammed the first three books into a 100-minute duration. 

Unfortunate Events

The story revolves around the Baudelaire siblings – Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes), and Sunny (Presley Smith) – who lost their home and parents in a fire. They’re subsequently sent to the custody of Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), a failed actor who was part of a secret society with their parents. Behind closed doors, Count Olaf treats them horribly and plans to dispose of them to steal their inheritance. Before long, the kids discover a larger conspiracy behind their parents’ demise and that Count Olaf might have been responsible. The problem is, the adults around them refuse to believe the words of children. And so, it’s up to the Baudelaires to prove their suspicion and escape Count Olaf’s clutches. As with the original, the children’s tragic lives are narrated by one Lemony Snicket, played by Patrick Warburton in the series. 

Unfortunate Events

The misadventures of the Baudelaires have always stood out among children’s stories of its kind because of its grim tone. Like a modern take on Oliver Twist, the poor orphans just can’t catch a break, having to constantly shift from one foster home to another because Count Olaf keeps hunting them down. Although it’s chock full of tragedies for the Baudelaires, the series is not a mopey one. Instead, the siblings are shown to be resilient and highly capable in their own rights. Violet is a brilliant inventor, Klaus is an avid reader with a wide range of knowledge, and little baby Sunny has abnormally strong teeth that prove useful whenever they’re kept captive by Count Olaf and his accomplices. At its heart, the story is about triumphing against all odds.

Unfortunate Events

A departure from the usually sanitized children's stories, A Series of Unfortunate Events never shies away from cruelty, murder, extortion, and other misfortunes befalling the siblings. With its wickedly bleak humour, the series actually conveys some really important messages: how adults often disregard children’s opinions for being young, how authoritative figures don’t always look out for our best interest, and also the importance of taking charge of your own fate. 

Visually, the series is a cross between Tim Burton’s gothic aesthetic and Wes Anderson’s quaint symmetrical dollhouse aesthetic. Being more kid-friendly, it’s not as distinct as its 2005 film version, but as far as adaptation goes, the series is far from unfortunate. 

Published on August 15th, 2023. Written by Jennifer Ariesta for Television Heaven.

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