Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire: the three names we immediately recognize as impossibly unfortunate and as the subjects of the iconic books that gave our middle-school age selves the first taste of binging a series. Keeping up with the spirit of the books we were unable to put down as children, last year Netflix created a series dedicated to telling the Baudelaire’s heart-wrenching story, book by book, and recently dropped the series’ second season this past March.
VALLEY watched the series that made us want to immediately close our laptops and run to the nearest library for a quick reread of the originals.
*Disclaimer: no spoilers up ahead, even though we’re sure you know it all already.
Things We Wish That We Could Unsee
When it comes to a series that is as loved as “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” even the slightest of changes can cause an uproar. Cast as Count Olaf, Neil Patrick Harris told Entertainment Weekly, “We’ve added a few characters that aren’t in the books, we’ve added some songs that you probably couldn’t put into the books, but for the most part we’re sticking to the structure of what already worked.”
While VALLEY couldn’t know all of what to expect from Harris as Count Olaf, there was one thing that we were sure of — singing, and him doing a lot of it. As talented as Harris is, lengthy song breaks in the middle of darkly humorous scenes took away from the plot and purpose of the story. As Harris said himself, some songs probably couldn’t be put into the books, and they probably shouldn’t have been put into the TV series either.
Besides this, the new characters are introduced far too soon in respect to the recurring storyline. Sure characters like Larry the Waiter may add something more exciting for Netflix, but when it comes to the original storyline, they reveal too much about the Baudelaire’s parents’ secrets too early in the story.
What Was Perfect
While there were a few aspects of the series that missed the mark, finishing all two seasons still left a familiar, intellectual, comedic, child-friendly darkness that we haven’t able to recognize since reading the books as 12-year-olds. Snicket always managed to effortlessly blend beautiful life lessons in with the horrors of the Baudelaire’s lives. As one of the executive producers of the series, Handler’s talent is still unbelievably clear.
First and foremost, from Count Olaf’s decrepit mansion in ‘The Bad Beginning” to the Caligari Carnival’s circus tents in ‘The Carnivorous Carnival,” each and every scene takes place in sets that seem to be pulled right from the pages of the books. Every unpleasant location that the siblings find themselves in is cloaked with an indescribable gloom; the colorless and grimy, yet intricate settings pull viewers right into the unpleasant uncertainty of the Baudelaire’s lives. However, in libraries and happy homes where the siblings briefly find themselves in each new chapter of the series, the scenes seem to be lit from within with a glow that captures the books’ underlying message of the importance of love, family and friendship (and also reading).
Along with perfecting the sets, almost every member of the cast managed to flawlessly transform into characters that, for years, have existed only in print. Each actor captures the essence of their characters perfectly; Mr. Poe’s aggravating ignorance, Carmelita Spats’ iconic obnoxious bullying, The Person of Indeterminate Gender and the Hook-Handed Man in Olaf’s troupe and even the dark, witty humor of Lemony Snicket himself, but most obviously, the three Baudelaire siblings. Violet played by Malina Weissman, Klaus played by Louis Hynes and even baby Sunny played by Presley Smith all capture their original characters’ wise-beyond-their-years auras in a way that we haven’t seen since 2004’s film adaptation.
Overall, while slightly flawed, the Netflix adaptation was a walk down an unfortunate and troublesome memory lane that would be impossible not to fall back in love with even if you tried. Just as it was in middle school: as soon as Lemony Snicket warned us not to keep reading, you already knew you wouldn’t be able to stop.