“Series of Unfortunate Events” on Netflix

If you are interested in a Netflix show with a happy ending, you may want to stream something else. Naturally, when a book, or book series is transformed into a movie or a television show, much of the story and context is lost. Bits of the spectacular fiction is tainted among the director’s so-called “take” on the stories. This causes an outrage among fans and the chances for any future sequels are crushed under horrid reviews and the boots of disheartened fans.

In the Netflix take on “A Series of Unfortunate Events” directed by Barry Sonnefeld and based on the books by the same name by the illusive Lemony Snicket, the above statements do not apply. The series follows the lives of Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes), and Sunny Baudelaire (Presley Smith and voiced by Tara Strong), recently made orphans due to a mysterious fire in their home which takes the lives of their parents. The children are tossed around between different guardians due to the irresponsibility of Mr. Poe (K. Todd Freeman), the banker in charge of the orphans and their enormous fortune left behind by their parents. The first guardian they are given to is the evil Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) who is only after their enormous fortune.

The children are only able to find brief serenity with their Uncle Monty (Aasif Mandvi) a man who studies reptiles and was close with their parents. Even while they are there, Count Olaf is not far behind. When their time with their uncle ends they are moved to a new guardian after narrowly escaping the clutches of the villainous actor and his troupe. No matter where they go or who they are with, Count Olaf is almost always able to fool the clueless adults. The children see right through the troupe members disguises, but because they are in fact children, none of the adults listen to them. This appears to parallel the world around us where adults hardly ever take into the consideration the opinions of children.

Some may see it as a demonstration of how a family should stick together in the most brutal of times. As the Baudelaire orphans struggle from guardian to guardian, they stay together as a little family. The other view might be that the world is a horrid place and it is every man, woman or child for themselves. Whether it’s Count Olaf and his theatre troupe or Sir (Don Johnson) and his lumber mill, everyone must fend for themselves in dangerous environments and be on alert for dastardly villains.

There is something interesting in the show for just about everyone. It is fast paced and easy to follow along with, even if a viewer has never read the books. The audience learns secrets alongside the orphans and can attempt to make their own deductions. “Unfortunate Events” dives deep into the attitudes several people may have toward children and the world around them. Through Count Olaf the audience sees how self-serving the world can be and through Aunt Josephine (Alfre Woodard) they can view the world as a truly terrifying place.

Much of the plot is pushed forward by Harris’ portrayal of Count Olaf. Harris gives us a beautifully terrible version of the ever disgusting and creepy Count. His character is darker and much closer to how Snicket originally wrote him. He makes clever, if sometimes inappropriate, jokes and scares children and adults alike. As an ugly mirror of what society does not want to admit about themselves, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” reflects exactly those traits. Why anyone would watch this show is also a reflection of our own unstable thoughts of our world. Already renewed for a second season, Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” is off to a painfully beautiful start.

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