By Kat Riddler, Editor-In-Chief
“Look Away,” the title and refrain of the series’ musical intro, warns viewers over and over that this story is not a typical happy-ending story. But despite such dire and numerous warnings in the intro and from characters, it is hard not to binge-watch this series on Netflix.
“Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” joined the Netflix lineup on January 13 and follows the story of the Baudelaire children, who have recently become orphans. For those unfamiliar with the book series or the 2004 film, the deadpan humor of the narrator Lemony Snicket is similar in tone to the gothic humor found in the famed Addams Family comics of Charles Addams, which ran in “The New Yorker” magazine beginning in 1938. Snicket (Patrick Warburton) often breaks the fourth wall and interrupts the main storyline, adding a reprieve to the story with his dry, witty wordplay. His presence in the series serves to replicate Snicket’s own quirky, idiosyncratic narrative style that readers originally fell in love with in his books..
The Netflix adaptation of the book series was developed by Mark Hudis and Barry Sonnenfeld. The series is close to the book with interjections from Snicket in the middle of the show, once again advising viewers to look away. The eight episode series covers the first four books in the series, dedicating two episodes per book. The series was approved in January for a second season that will include 10 episodes to cover the next five books. A third season is expected to cover the remaining books by the author, but this is not yet confirmed.
The series has been in the news since Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) was cast in January of last year. Count Olaf is the first guardian that the Baudelaire children are left with after a mysterious fire kills their parents. He and his acting troupe hatch an evil plan to take the children’s family fortune, but he is foiled by the children, who are taken under the care of new guardians. Olaf, however, is not defeated that easily and continues his pursuit of the Baudelaire children as they try to figure out what happened to their parents. Harris does a fantastic job becoming the numerous characters that Olaf disguises himself as to bring humor to the macabre story of the Baudelaire children. Harris even throws in meta-commentary about watching a television series in the comfort of your own home, aka Netflix.
The production of the series is masterful as viewers are transported to a variety of landscapes. The house of Count Olaf is in disarray and stands tall and villainous compared to his neighbor Justice Strauss’ quaint house across the street. Aunt Josephine’s house delicately teeters on the cliff overlooking Lake Lachrymose, adding to the suspense of the story as Josephine explains the flesh-eating leeches that live below them in the lake. The world is brought to life from the book series and works well with the cast and writing. The surreal feel of the show is augmented by the superb staging and sets, a cross between a steampunk fantasy and the Broadway stage.
So, despite being told numerous times to “Look Away”—don’t. It is simply too hard to do that when watching this Netflix series. The writing, acting, and production are expertly executed, making this series an easy binge session. Overall, I give “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” an “A.”