Best to start with a confession: I haven’t read a single book of the A Series of Unfortunate Events book series, so I can’t compare the tv series to the book. However, I have seen the film more times than I care to admit. And while I enjoyed the film very much, I kind of knew deep down it wasn’t a good adaptation. So when Netflix announced they were adapting it for a series, I knew it was in good hands.
Just in case you don’t know: ASoUE follows the Baudelaire: 14 year old Violet is an optimistic inventor, 12 year old Klaus is a pragmatic reader and baby Sunny is a straight talking biter. The three find themselves bounced around from ‘relative’ to ‘relative’ after their parents tragically perish in a fire. However, now heirs to a massive fortune (when Violet comes of age) they must escape the clutches of their evil ‘uncle’ Count Olaf who intends on stealing their fortune and disposing of the Baudelaires. In between trying to find a (semi) normal guardian and escaping Count Olaf, the Baudelaiers try to uncover the mystery that surrounds their parent’s relationships with these relatives and the meaning behind the looking glass Klaus found amongst the debris of their home.Something the film and the show (and I assume the books) have in common is the distinctive style. Not quite applicable to a certain decade or era in history, it only adds to the mystery surrounding the premise. It’s enchanting and exciting and really appealing; the cinematography was wonderful and the overall aesthetic really conveys the Baudelaire’s emotions. The people they encounter are weird and wonderful and the producers have got that balance perfect. Viewers are warned in every episode to look away, (look awayyyyy) but it’s almost impossible to. This may also be down to the acting; the cast were picked perfectly. I’ve had a couple of people tell me the acting was dry or wooden and I keep explaining that it’s intentional. The world created by Daniel Handler transfers easily to the small screen; it’s dry, ironic and whacky and the cast are excellent at putting that across. Almost everything feels like a wink to the audience, especially where Lemony Snicket is concerned. Patrick Warburton’s Lemony Snicket exudes dry, melancholy and pessimistic with his low, sombre voice and I absolutely loved it. It took some getting used to at first, but by the end of the first episode it was perfect. Neil Patrick Harris, who doubles as a producer, is definitely the right choice for Olaf. His perfromance in Dr Horrible’s Sing Along Blog proves he’s fit for the job of an evil, yet bumbling villain and his disguises are great (a personal favourite was Shirley). Weissman and Hynes play well together and their chemistry as brother and sister is believable and nice to watch. Overall, the show has a really strong cast; I love Olaf’s minions and thought Asif Mandvi as Monty was great (however, I do love Billy Conolly’s version). It was also nice to see Catherine O’Hara back in this world playing, hypnotist-cum-eye doctor, Dr. Orwell but I much preferred Joan Cusack as Justice Strauss. Being that the show splits each book into two episodes makes the pacing good, it gives more time to explore each messy situation the Baudelaires find themselves in without spending ages actually getting somewhere. Because I’d seen the film, I knew what to expect from the first three episodes, but was still surprised at the subtle differences and how much more involved I was this time around. The wonderful thing about the series is it foreshadows everything, here ‘foreshadows’ means told explicitly. For example, before Uncle Monty dies, we’re told Uncle Monty is going to die. And then he dies. But that doesn’t stop the writers throwing curve balls. I won’t spoil if you haven’t read the books; but all I will say is the revelation at the end of the 7th episode messed with my head. It’s clever writing. That’s all it can be described as.
Ultimately, the gritty and dark tones mesh well with the whacky and outrageous to bring a very decent show. I think Netlfix was the perfect platform for the show, mainly because I could binge watch it over a weekend, but also because shows on Netflix can breathe, they’re not as restricted as ones on actual television and I think A Series of Unfortunate Events has had too many restrictions in the past. Overall, a worthy watch and left me hungry for more with its promising ending. Let me know what you thought!