Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate Events: A Fan's Perspective
The word “love” can mean very different things. For example, one might say love is a word meant to bind two people forever. One may also use the word love to refer to a pumpkin spice latte. Needless to say, this can make the word love almost meaningless.
So let me be clear when I say, I love the book series 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' in the only the way a child who spent countless nights straining his eyes beneath his blanket, trying to squeeze in one last chapter before his parents caught him, truly can.
When Netflix announced they were going to be making a TV show based off of Lemony Snicket’s series, I was excited, yet trepidatious, a word which here means, cautious because of that terrible movie adaptation which came out in 2004.
To cut to the chase, I loved the Netflix series, both as a fan of the book, as well as a fan of good TV.
I’m not going to waste your time writing about the acting or set design (which were all great), there are experts who have written those sort of reviews, who write them far better than I ever could. You’re more than welcome to check them out.
My review will be more about my perspective on the Netflix series, as a die-hard fan of the novels.
Before I go into what I think of the Netflix version, I think I should first explain my love for the original series.
As a kid I don’t think I realized this, but looking back at how 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' constantly markets itself as a book where horrid things happen to these three children for no reason, and as the intro song to Netflix series goes, you should “look away.”
However, while these warnings are true, they also ring false. Because, despite the darkness, not only do the children always escape through the use of their “gifts”, but the humor, which is essential to the novels, brightens the mood considerably. Not just the ridiculousness of Count Olaf’s disguises, or Mr. Poe’s incompetence, but the outside narrator Lemony Snicket.
He constantly interjects with deadpan remarks and macabre humor. Every book starts with a dedication to Lemony Snicket’s love Beatrice, and they each have a humorous twist. Like: “My love for you shall live forever. You however, did not.” There is darkness everywhere in this book and this outsider is letting us laugh, not just at the Baudelaire’s pain, but at his own. This was an important lesson. Laughing at the darkness is okay.
This is why, in the Netflix series, you would be selling Patrick Warburton’s Lemony Snicket character short, by just calling him a narrator. Yes, this is the story of the Baudelaire orphans, but this is also the story of Lemony Snicket telling the story of the Baudelaire orphans. We follow him as he runs from unknown forces, and as he traces the footsteps of the Baudelaires. He also sets the tone for the viewers when he delivers monologues, that are pretty funny in a deadpan voice.
And so we get it. We can laugh at Count Olaf’s initial attempts to try and be intimidating, and then be terrified, for the children when he hits Klaus, or whispers into Violet’s ear that he’ll “Rip their family to pieces.”
Count Olaf wears that ridiculous Stephano disguise and a voice that belongs in a cartoon, but when he pulls out his knife and threatens to cut off Sunny’s toes we know to take him seriously. The tone is set perfectly. This is a dark story, but that doesn’t mean it’s not ok to laugh at it, nor does it mean nothing funny ever happens.
There are also plenty of little Easter eggs for us book readers. A certain harpoon gun gets introduced, we meet Ishmael, a mention of the reflecting pool, and various other tidbits here and there.
I would be remiss if I didn’t say how the series deviates from the books, how the mystery of VFD is introduced much earlier on, how the life status of certain parents is questionable, who gets hypnotized at Lucky Smells Mills, or the race swapping, and what I suspect may be a gender swap, but we won’t know until later. All these changes were fine. They worked fluidly with the story and never felt forced in.
In conclusion I can say this: I cared about what happened to the Baudelaires, and despite their narrow “victories” over Count Olaf, they exuded the proper emotions for the situation, and there weren’t any ham-fisted attempts at feel good moments (looking at you movie).
The series has its flaws, but as a hard to please fanboy: a term which means someone who is hopelessly in love with some medium that can never return that love, the Netflix series hit all the right spots, and I highly suggest everyone go see it now.