Netflix’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” is satisfyingly melancholy

Netflix's

By Kim Fleming, Round Table opinion editor

Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” has been a popular children’s book series ever since author Daniel Handler published “The Bad Beginning” in 1999. There is a total of 12 books in the series. On January 13, Netflix released its television adaptation of the books. People who grew up reading the books, much like myself,  were more than excited for the premiere.

The show splits each book into multiple episodes, the first book being four episodes and the next two books in the series being two, for a total of eight.

Although I was delighted to watch the show, I was slightly worried that the producers would ruin the books and leave out many of the details, like movie adaptations of books tend to do. Handler’s style of using a pen name of Lemony Snicket and writing him into the story as a narrator was brilliant and it added so many details to the story that the ready would not normally get.

This characteristic lives on in the show. Patrick Warburton plays Lemony Snicket, the ominous narrator who knows all but tells little. He narrates the show in a monotone, newscaster-type voice that adds to the overall mood of the show. Much like in the book, Snicket adds small details, such as how the air “smelled of horseradish,” as well as major points of the plot. He also foreshadows what is yet to come, but raises suspense with the phrase “But we aren’t there yet.”

For anyone who has not read the books or seen the show, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” follows the story of the Baudelaire orphans Klaus, Violet and their baby sister Sunny. Their privileged life is turned completely upside down when they’re informed that their parents died in a tragic fire. In case of a situation such as this one, their parents left them a hefty fortune, only to be accessed when the oldest child, Violet, comes of age.

Their banker, Mr. Poe, an obtuse man who does not notice what is clearly right in front of him, is in charge of where the children will be placed. It is said in their parent’s will that they are supposed to go to their closest living relative, but a consultant (later revealed to be Count Olaf in disguise) tells Mr. Poe that a man by the name of Count Olaf is related to the children.

Count Olaf is a wretched man with a strange tattoo of an eye on his ankle who is solely after the Baudelaire fortune and doesn’t care about the children whatsoever. Olaf is relentless in obtaining the money through any means possible, even murder. The children are absolutely miserable in Count Olaf’s care, and they have no clue how to escape from such a horrible man.

Unbeknown to the Baudelaire orphans, this would be the first of many, many unfortunate events in their lives.

In my opinion, Netflix nailed the casting of this show. Each actor resembles the character exactly as they were described in the books. From Violet’s hair ribbon to Sunny’s extremely sharp teeth, and even Count Olaf’s unibrow, the costumes and personalities of each character matches up almost perfectly with those from the books.

I do admit, I was slightly thrown off by Neil Patrick Harris casted as Count Olaf, as he is known for his comedic roles in television sitcoms like “How I Met Your Mother.” I felt like his personality couldn’t encompass such a despicable man. However, shortly after beginning the show, I found him to be a fabulous Count; he truly sold the role.

The show’s writers paid homage to the books with their screenwriting, too. Each scene correlates to a certain part from one of the books. This was extremely pleasing and my worries of the books being ruined quickly went away.

One of the few downsides to the show were the poor special effects. A green screen is obviously used in most scenes, and it doesn’t look realistic at all. I understand that the budget for the show was probably limited, but the poor quality of the background makes it seem all too cheesy.

Despite this small discrepancy, the show was enthralling. Once I began one of the 45 minute episodes, I never wanted to look away. The mixture of thrill and emotion that the story contains held my attention the entire time I watched it. Viewers most often feel suspense, hoping that the next event is not as unfortunate as the previous one.

However, in the words of Lemony Snicket, “Taking one’s chances is like taking a bath, because sometimes you end up feeling comfortable and warm, and sometimes there is something terrible lurking around that you cannot see until it is too late and you can do nothing else but scream and cling to a plastic duck.”

It is this philosophy that keeps the viewer coming back to watch the next episode, no matter how low-quality the show may seem.