A Series Of Unfortunate Events continues to be a delightfully dark and faithful adaptation

words fae olivia armstrong (@starcadet96)

Before I begin, I would like to say that the review you are about to read is very unpleasant. It tells of many awful things, such as a Netflix adaptation of an exceptionally depressing series of children’s books, detestably great casting choices and adaptational changes that serves the story well. It is my sad duty to document this series and inform of whether it is worth your Netflix subscription. But you could certainly find more pleasant things to read on this site, such as Looking Back At…Elephant –  The White Stripes by Ethan Woodford or Every Biffy Clyro Album, Ranked from Worst to Best by Liam Menzies.

However, if you wish to read about this sorry series, we shall press on with the second season of this adaptation of the trials of the Baudelaire orphans.

This season continues where the last left off, with the Baudelaire’s being sent to boarding school at Prufrock Preparatory and Count Olaf hot on their tail with his intent to capture their large fortune. The structure of this series is the same as the first, with each book being split into two episodes going from book 5 to book 9, with more details of the true underlying story unravelling and more quirky characters to be found as the Baudelaire’s situation worsens with each passing episode.

The show continues integrating the VFD plot into the narrative much more than the books did and the few adaptational changes they make in terms of detail and characters are welcomed. Olaf’s henchman, in particular, are given far more character and screen time than they ever had in the book and the expansion on the VFD agents as they track down the Baudelaire’s ties the mystery of the story in much more closely. This season also marks the darker territory of the later installments in the series, with The Hostile Hospital being particularly dark even by the standards of the series. But there is just enough of that dark whimsy that keeps it a hugely fun ride. While there are a few modern references and fourth-wall jokes, most of the dialogue lifted from the books keep in with the quirky and timeless dark humour of the books.

As established in the first season and the book series, A Series of Unfortunate Events is set as more of a dark tale in an ignorant world as opposed to any sort of realistic setting. The adults of the world never being able to recognise Count Olaf even when he is right in front of them and the Baudelaire’s being the only characters who seem to have any common sense are stables of the series at this point and should be expected from fans of the original books. It’s a surreal yet delightfully macabre story of children who are never listened to in a world that refuses to take them seriously, highlighting the absurdity and ignorance of the world of adults who refuse to listen to the children.  

The original actors continue to reprise their roles and do an exceptional job. Patrick Warburton once again sells the gloom and dark humour of Snicket’s overwrought dialogue and the comic timing of Neil Patrick Harris as Olaf and his acting troupe keep the dark giggles coming. As far as new characters, two casting choices emerge as the stand-outs. Kitana Turnbull as Carmelita Spats deserves her due, as she turns a character who is unbearable on paper and makes her hilariously obnoxious as a complete brat who makes Count Olaf look bearable by comparison.

Another standout is Lucy Punch as Esme Squalor, who is the absolute highlight of this season. When you manage to out-ham Neil Patrick Harris in every single scene, you’re doing it right. She completely steals the show as the devious partner/semi-girlfriend of Olaf who is insufferably rich and completely fabulous in her deviousness. Lucy Punch is already a great comedic actress but it’s wonderful to see her take a larger part than is usual for her and run to the moon and back with it.

Netflix’s adaption of A Series of Unfortunate Events continues to be a delightfully dark and faithful retelling of the series, with some adaptational changes which are very welcomed for the most part. If you love series or dark comedies, you’ll watch this sorry tale until the end and won’t be able to look away, to Lemony Snicket’s dismay.