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‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ Season 1 Review

Amit Bachani, Editor

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In the opening credits to Netflix’s adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, the viewer is directly cautioned to “look away” by Neil Patrick Harris, who advises to avoid the extremely unpleasant viewership experience that follows. However, it can truly be stated that the likelihood of missing this impressive and dark spectacle would be all too much of an unfortunate event of itself.

Netflix’s latest original series is a magnificent and progressively dark take upon the first four books of the renowned children’s series from the early 1990’s, narrating the tale of the Baudelaire orphans-Violet, Klaus, and Sunny–as they attempt to escape the clutches of a nefarious mastermind who conspires to steal their family fortune following a great wildfire that claimed the lives of their parents. Through a multitude of perilous dilemmas that include murderous schemes, a room of dangerous reptiles, and a slanted residence atop a stark precipice, the intrepid children are able to overcome great adversity and foil Count Olaf’s (played by Neil Patrick Harris) numerous schemes as they travel to various guardians and attempt to solve the alleged death of their parents.

With the initial season consisting of eight episodes, each book is divided into two hour long segments, allowing the viewer to adore the tiny details that weren’t captured in the 2004 film adaptation. Director Barry Sonnenfeld excels in delivering a television series that not only retains the tone of the original series, but remains faithful to the plot of the tale in a manner that does not retract from one’s ability to appreciate the world that is establish. Rather, it vividly illustrates the dark and alluring world Snicket described through the combined efforts of the design and production crew. Produced by the author of the original series, Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler), each experience in the lives of the Baudelaires is presented through unique scenery and a fine attention to set design that simulate a contemporary and old world setting. Handler’s ability as a storyteller has improved greatly, making this his most assured and exquisite work yet.

When examined, it is the performances of the principal cast that make A Series of Unfortunate Events memorable. At the center of it all are the Baudelaires, who are essayed with the utmost conviction. Louis Hynes portrays Klaus’s studious nature with earnestness and Malina Weissman justifies the inventive Violet. Presley Smith, on the other hand, is convincing as the infant Sunny, but occasionally serves as one of the show’s minor problems as CGI inserts of the child takes away from the enjoyment of some scenes. However, the highest praise goes to Neil Patrick Harris, who is commendable in his performance as Count Olaf, a failed actor and notorious criminal with a deep appreciation for theatre. Harris is hysterical as he assumes the roles of various personas and leaves the viewer greatly entertained through each episode. After his work in the popular television series How I Met Your Mother, Harris dons the role of Count Olaf like a glove and brings the menacing antagonist to life on screen.

Joined by the principal cast is Patrick Warburton, who plays Lemony Snicket. Snicket serves as an omniscient narrator who investigates the history of the orphans, telling the story from a futuristic point of view and often breaking the fourth wall. Warburton offers a charming, yet solemn commentary to the woeful series of events that take place and contributes a sense of emotional resonance and a philosophical examination of critical themes in the lives of the Baudelaires. It is a role that not only captures the essence of the novels, but adds greater depth to the show and its inhabitants. An honorable mention also goes to Todd K. Freeman, Catherine O’Hara, Joan Cusack, Aasif Mandvi, and Alfre Woodard for their stellar performances as Mr. Poe, Justice Strauss, and Count Olaf’s troupe respectively.

Overall, Netflix’s adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is a faithful and remarkable adaptation of the book series that successfully delivers in terms of delightful performances from the cast, exceptional writing, and captivating sets. It is a fresh take on the beloved book series that takes into consideration its origins and what it aspires to deliver. The result is an experience that leaves you fortunate.

 

Rating: 4.5/5 stars.

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‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ Season 1 Review