To begin with, I must say that it is very difficult to properly review A Series of Unfortunate Events. The latest addition to the already-impressive roster of Netflix Originals, which here in this moment means that, like all series on the world’s most popular streaming service, is currently available in its entirety, has made itself virtually critic-proof in that it literally tells you not to watch it.
This fact isn’t a joke at all, although the tone of the first paragraph absolutely was in reference to the overall tone of the series, as introduced through the dry, melancholy voice of its narrator Lemony Snicket (Partick Warburton of The Tick, Family Guy), no, this show actually, seriously tells you –multiple times, even – not to watch it, and to (as the series’ opening theme outright says) “look away, look away.” It’s pure, dark meta-humor at its finest.
A Series of Unfortunate Events tells the story of the Beaudelaries, three brilliant, and recently-orphaned siblings who, after the death of their parents, are sent to live with various relatives (all of which completely unknown to them). The oldest sibling, Violet Beaudelaire (played by Malina Weissman of Supergirl) is a master inventor, while her younger brother, Klaus Beaudelaire (played by Louis Hynes of Barbarians Rising) has a near-limitless knowledge of books and infant sister Sunny (Presley Smith in her first ever on-screen role, obviously) has an uncanny and humorous ability to not only communicate via subtitles, but also to chew through just about anything.
Of all the aforementioned relatives the remarkable children are sent to live with, none are as horrible or as recurring as Count Olaf (played by none other than Neil Patrick Harris) – the vile, sinister, and highly eccentric failed stage actor who is after the children’s hefty family fortune. Throughout the entire season, Count Olaf follows and torments the children in various disguises, and various corrupt plots, all with varying degrees of tragic endings, which our humble narrator tries again and again to warn us of and try to convince us to stop watching.
Season One covers the first four books in the 13-book series of Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” saga, splitting each book into two episodes clocking in at roughly an hour each. Worth mentioning is the fact that Lemony Snicket, despite being published as the author of the books, isn’t actually a real person – he’s a character all his own, and the pen name of author Daniel Handler, who also writes and produces this series under his real name.
Having the actual author of the series in charge really helps capture the essence of the story and transition it from page to screen, and cinematographer Bernard Couture fantastically crafts each visual scene with expert precision. If you’re a sucker for great visuals, you will absolutely not be disappointed here. I really can’t say enough how beautiful each shot is, and how amazingly well-done the contrasts are presented in visual form – literally bringing the books to life.
However, as you might expect, the series isn’t exactly perfect, either. There are some issues with some of the acting, and more than a little bit of nonsensical storytelling at work, but these issues are very minor when analyzed against the rest of an otherwise excellent overall product. Considering that it’s somewhat difficult to discern what’s intentional and what isn’t here with these things, I’ll just leave them alone, and simply say what does stand out, acting-wise, is the performances of the main characters. Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, and Malina Weissman, in particular, are outstanding in their respective roles, and absolutely everyone on the production side of the camera are masterful in their execution.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, A Series of Unfortunate Events is a very enjoyable series, that’s well worth the now-commonplace practice of “binge watching” that Netflix may or may not be entirely responsible for, if they didn’t outright coin the term. It’s a real treat for anyone that enjoys a good story, dark meta humor, stark contrast, and beautiful visuals on TV. It’s got that “spooky cute” thing going on in a big way, and is perfectly suitable for children, while at the same time not insulting the intelligence of its viewers or “dumbing anything down” as many others do. Highly recommended. – 9.0/10
Editor/Staff Writer: Nerd Nation Magazine