A Series Of Unfortunate Events

24 Jan 2017

In the words of Count Olaf, "hello, hello, hello." Yes, finally - the Netflix show that the nation has been waiting for is out! A Series Of Unfortunate Events has been teased for what feels like years, but the first season is up now for us all to watch. I was so excited for it, as I was a HUGE fan of the books when I was younger and was a bit disappointed by the 2004 film, so when I heard there was going to be a show, I nearly cried. I also think that this is the quickest I've ever consumed a TV programme, so surely that says something in itself!

I'm aware that some people might have never heard of A Series Of Unfortunate Events or were too young to read the books when they were popular, but the story is about three children, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, who become orphans after their parents die in a fire. It follows them as they are passed between guardians and chased by Count Olaf, a villainous actor with a monobrow and a bad attitude. Honestly, the book series was one of my absolute favourites when I was growing up, so I'm pretty sure I was annoying J all the way through each episode when I'd say "ooh this was in the book!" or "do you know what that means?" or "wait a minute, I'm certain that this wasn't in the book."

As I mentioned, there was a film made in 2004 based on the first three books, and while there were a ton of big name stars involved, it just fell pretty flat with me. I thought Jim Carrey was an excellent Count Olaf and Billy Connelly was the Dr. Montgomery that we all needed in our lives (seriously, who was that imposter in the Netflix show?), but that was probably about it. I didn't think that the children matched the kids in the books and there just wasn't enough Lemony Snicket interaction - but I'll get on to that a little bit later.
So first of all, let me just talk about the styling of this show, and while I'm pretty certain you could write a whole entire essay on this, I'll try to keep it short and sweet. I thought that the colouration of the whole thing was just perfect. I loved how the settings were so dark and gloomy (except from Justice Strauss' house, as you can see above), yet the children were kept relatively vivid. I think this could say a lot about the characterisation of them, but put short, I think it is a reflection of their positivity and drive. Even the sections where Lemony Snicket had his own piece to camera were dull, reflecting his sombre mood. It just really worked for me and I thought it totally captured the mood of the books!

As well as the colour, I thought that the tone within the scriptwriting was on point. There was an odd mixture of slapstick and sadness, which made room for plenty of sarcasm, dark humour and deadpan delivery, absolutely nailing the books on the head. To people that haven't read the books, I think this is something that can be quite difficult to wrap your head around, but to those of us that loved the books, it's just perfect.

Now, I know I said above that Jim Carrey made an excellent Count Olaf. Well, I think Neil Patrick Harris takes the ultimate trophy. Right from the get go, he was just the right amount of silly and sinister throughout the whole thing. It's difficult to try and push the image of Barney Stinson out of your head, but I feel like that just adds to the character in a strange way. He's obnoxious, loud and foul, just like Count Olaf in the books, so he was a real winner to me. Another of my favourites was Violet, as played by Malina Weissman. While her acting wasn't great, I thought she just was Violet. I can't quite put my finger on it, but to me, she just embodied everything that Violet is. Of course, I have to talk about Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I absolutely loved the way he narrated pretty much every episode and popped up every and now then. Not only did it guide the story much more smoothly, but it also provided a few laughs, a few thoughtful moments and the need to have more Patrick Warburton in my life. Sorry Jude Law, you just don't make the cut! And finally, my last word on characters is what on earth happened to Uncle Monty? I have such a soft spot for Billy Connelly and obviously I knew he wasn't going to be in the show, but it just didn't feel right to not have him as Montgomery.
One thing that I found to be a bit frustrating, but also quite interesting, was the amount of things included that weren't actually in the book. When Jacquelyn first made an appearance, I was like "who is this?! Why have they done this?" but she quickly became a solid character to me. She was charismatic and drove the story forward, until she just faded away from the show. I'm hoping she'll make a comeback in any later seasons, but right now, I'm a bit disappointed that she's gone! Another character that is in the book, but just doesn't feature as heavily as he does in the programme is Gustave. I wasn't sad that he had a rather large role because my goodness, he was handsome! There was the massive question of "are the parents actually alive?" thanks to Will Arnett and Cobie Smulders, which just doesn't happen in the books. You're explicitly told while reading that there's absolutely no way that the parents are alive and they are 100% dead, whereas with the show, we're teased with these snippets of two parents trying to get back to their kids. There's a big twist and I know that it'll all make sense when the next season is released.

Also, how great were all of the references? I feel like many of them would just go over a child's head, but James Brown, Herman Melville (call me Ishmael), the Virginian Wolf spider that could beat you to death with a typewriter, and Georgina Orwell the optometrist that works in an eye-shaped building? So clever.

To sum up, if you want something Burtonesque, with themes of grief and abandonment, black comedy, a twisting plot, worldbuilding from the get-go, and postmodern suburban steampunk, then this is for you. If you're looking for a story with lots of lore, eye tattoos, flying lizards, vocabulary explanations, inventions, lots of biting, libraries, a depressing lake and big budget sets, then this is for you.

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