As someone who has always been into crime books and shows, few conversations with my colleague got me interested in classics especially children’s classics. I then began my journey exploring all the popular children’s classics from Alice in the Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz. A couple of months back, I came across a book called “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Lemony Snicket. I had picked up a random book from the series with no clue that it was actually a series. Yeah, I know, it’s in the title itself, “A series”. I didn’t notice it then honestly. Anyway, when I realized I had bought the 7th book, I kept it aside for the future. On my mind, I wanted to do it the right way, read it in the right order. Fortunately or unfortunately, then came my way- the television adaptation of this series of books. The trailer looked amazing and I couldn’t stop myself from watching the show. In a way, I can start reading now that I know what happened before the 7th book.
“A Series of Unfortunate Events” follows the lives of the Baudelaire children- Violet (Appx 15), Klaus (Appx 12) and Sunny (Definitely less than a year). The sudden death of their parents in a house fire, when they were away, makes the children orphans. Arthur Poe, a bank officer, is in charge to put the Baudelaire children under the rightful guardian. And only when Violet comes off age, she and her siblings will inherit their parents’ huge fortune. Enters the wicked and cunning Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) who is, without any surprise, behind the Baudelaire’s fortune. He weaves plans with his dumb theater group to lay his hands on the fortune. Every time, the kids, in one or the other, escapes from his clutches and saves themselves and the fortune.
The series is narrated by the author of the books, Lemoney Snicket. He warns and warns and warns multiple times about the sad fate of the kids and how there are no happy endings all the time. He even asks the viewers (and the readers too) not to continue watching (reading) expecting a happy ending. The series have 4 stories of 2 episodes of each. Every story is an adventure for the Baudelaire children as they continue their fight against Count Olaf, who disguises himself in every story.
Before going into every story, let’s see something about the characters. The children. Violet is the eldest. She is a calm, smart girl with an excellent talent to invent things out of nothing and everything. She is responsible and takes charge most of the time. Klaus is the middle and is an intelligent boy. He is a voracious reader (I love him for that!) and has knowledge about everything. Sunny is the youngest. Cute and chubby, she has the power to chop hard things- from rocks to metals. Now, that was indeed very hard to believe out of everything but- it’s a fantasy story. The three children are rock solid together- compliments and supports each other. Count Olaf is the other central character. Vicious and ambitious, he is ready to do anything to get the fortune. He doesn’t hesitate to harm the children if needed too. He makes sure as viewers/readers, we absolutely hate him and we do!
Now to the stories. As I mentioned before, there are four.
- The Bad Beginning: It’s the sad beginning of the lives of the Baudelaire children. It begins with the children getting to know about their parents’ death and being put under the care of Count Olaf. In this story, Count Olaf decides to marry Violet to acquire the inheritance. The children outsmart him brilliantly.
- The Reptile Room: I absolutely loved this story. My favorite. After the truth about Count Olaf’s intentions are out, Arthur Poe puts the children under the care of Montgomery Montgomery. Yes. This interesting guy has the same first and last name. Monty, as the kids lovingly call him, is a loving and concerned person who really cares for the children. Hence, when Count Olaf appears disguised as Stephano, his assistant, Monty immediately sees through. He tries to help the children out but in vain. But as before, the children escapes on their own accord.
- The Wide Window: Out of the four, this was my least favorite. The kids are now put under the guardianship of Aunt Josephine, who is a loud, scared, grammar-particular woman. The kids, during their exploration find out that their parents, Josephine, Monty were all part of some secret group. Count Olaf enters as Captain Sham, a single legged pirate captain. The rest of the story revolves as usual around the kids and their escape.
- The Miserable Mill: The last story of the series, after escaping from Captain Sham, the kids run away on their own and enters this strange mill where they find out their parents had been in the mill and had caused a deadly fire resulting in the death of many. The kids determine to prove that their parents are innocent. Count Olaf is Nurse Shirley here and lot of hypnotism is involved in this. The mission is the same. How the kids escape?
When I look at the series as a whole, I find myself really saddened and disappointed. Why? Because the story didn’t have a happy ending. But is that necessary all the time? Probably that’s what the author talks about. The kids, even in their times of despair, fight their problems with positivity and determination. Their parents are dead. They are dealing with it. They don’t have anyone else. They are dealing with it. They know their lives are in danger but they are dealing with it. In such situations, we always hope for miracles. But it’s just a hope. There is no surety. And when there is no surety, we just have to move on in our lives. The kids do the same. There is a lot to learn from the show. Yes. It is about courage and determination. But it’s also about trust and togetherness. In spite of the author warning about no happy endings, I continued with the hope. I understood at the end that there is no end for hope. I hope the kids found happiness. I hope there is another season. I hope there will be a happy ending then.
Coming to the performances- the kids are great. They emoted the distress and sadness really well. Neil Patrick Harris is excellent as Count Olaf. The wickedness swam in his eyes. My favorite disguise of his was Stephano. The rest of the supporting cast has done a marvelous job too.
The writing is consistent for most part. There are some very dramatic lines by the children which comes out overdramatic. Otherwise, it’s neat and smooth. The cinematography is top notch. The gloominess is captured very well. The music plays a very vital role and it adds so much to the mood of the show. The costumes and make up are very well done especially for Count Olaf.
This show is an excellent watch but as the author said, don’t watch it if you are expecting happy endings. Highly recommended.