To those who grew up in the early 2000s, you may remember visiting the library and seeing a set of 13 books: beige, with spines of mute colors, and unsettling artwork on the cover. One of the most underrated book series of the early 00’s, A Series of Unfortunate Events was a favorite of both teachers and children alike. The series manages to take every common stereotype of what makes books popular, and do the complete opposite. Yet, the books were still read by millions and awarded on multiple occasions (Colorado Children’s Book Award, Nevada Young Readers Award, Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award, and Quill Book Award). Instead of the clichés of ‘the hero’s journey’, a coming-of-age story, or a tragedy which leads to a new beginning in a life of adventure, readers were told the tale of children with no superpowers, no magic, and no mission, other than to stay alive.
The story begins with the three children. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire, born to parents who are incredibly wealthy and live in a mansion in a vague time period of the mid-1900s. They have the ideal life, until one day their every advantage is taken from them in a fire. They lose their home, their parents, and their financial security, as their ‘enormous fortune’ is not to be used until the eldest child, Violet, who is 14 at the time of the fire, comes of age at 18. A banker, Mr. Poe, is responsible for carrying out the wishes of the Baudelaire’s parents, including securing the children with a new guardian. Without giving away too many spoilers, each book of the series details the “unfortunate events” that happen to the Baudelaires and follows their journey from guardian to guardian. This twisted story garnered a large enough fan base for a movie to be made depicting them in 2004, starring Meryl Streep and Jim Carrey. The movie received some mixed reviews, as fans wanted more accuracy to the books, but many were just delighted that the book series was receiving mainstream recognition. It took over ten years for the book series to be given another chance at an on-screen portrayal, as the first season of the Netflix adaptation was released in early 2017, with much more of a popular response.
The Netflix show is designed to be enjoyed by former readers of the series and the average millennial binge-watcher as well. Season One covered the first four books of the series: The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, and The Miserable Mill. I speak for most of the viewers by saying the first season of the show was outstanding. Obviously, some things cannot be translated from the pages of a book to the frames of the screen, but Netflix spent their budget for this endeavor wisely as far as casting and scenery were concerned. The narration from Patrick Warburton, who plays Lemony Snicket, adds another dimension to the show which was missing from the movie. Some of the more devout readers will even be able to recognize direct quotes from the books being told by Warburton throughout the show. The monochrome set and costumes give the audience an immediate feeling of darkness, if the intro song “Look Away” did not deter them from continuing their viewership. The scenery in addition to the acting, the outlandish sets, and exaggerated adult figures coordinate to create a satirical outlook on the world from a child’s perspective. The episodes are created in such a way that the viewer feels immersed in the world of the Baudelaires and feels how unhelpful adults truly are, to the point where some of the exaggerations stop feeling so exaggerated.
After the well-deserved success of the first season, the fans of the show were given the fortunate event of a release date of March 30th. If you have not seen the new season, I highly recommend it. The episodes go into another level of the Baudelaire’s lives. It no longer simply tells the story of the unfortunate events, but rather, gives more detail as to why those events are occurring. The events do stray a little further from the books within Season Two, which covers events all the way up the ninth book, The Carnivorous Carnival. However, despite minor backlash about these changes, the new season has gotten an overwhelming positive response, and for good reason too. The portrayals of the more dramatic scenes were incredibly true to the book, and some more actualized problems (child abuse, harassment, and mental abuse) were implied, giving older viewers of the show an additional level of darkness that the younger watchers may not recognize. My verdict on the new season is everyone should keep A Series of Unfortunate Events on the top of your list for your after-finals binge watching.