TV Review: Lemony Snicket’s Netflix Premeir

This story has no happy ending, no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle. It is the story of the three Baudelaire children. Three wealthy children, whose parents died when their home is burned down. This is a story of the Baudelaire’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events”, as presented by Netflix in its newest original programming.

Now available in its entirety, the show covers four of the books (A Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window and The Miserable Mill) written by Lemony Snicket. Snicket, who writes under a pseudonym, is played by Patrick Warburton in the series.

Borrowing from the novels, one of the shows key strengths is in how each of the children represents a strong central character. 14-year-old Violet (Malina Weissman) is an expert at building inventions, 12-year-old Klaus (Louis Hynes) is a bookworm and well educated on all subjects. The peculiar baby Sunny (Presley Smith) has an often-used strong bite and the mental capabilities of someone much older, despite not being able speak yet. The story follows them as they travel from guardian to guardian, attempting to escape the villainous clutches of Count Olaf, played by Neil Patrick Harris.

The orphans are told about their parent’s unfortunate end by a constantly coughing, oblivious banker Poe (K. Todd Freeman). The character is consistent with his representation in the novel, but on the screen his quirks come off as grating. Poe incorrectly assumes that the Baudelaire orphans are supposed to be taken care of by the Count, an imposter relative. Count Olaf ends up being a cruel host who is out for one goal: the grand inheritance the Baudelaire will receive once Violet comes of age.

Only after a few minutes of episode one, “A Bad Beginning,” it is clear that the audience is in for an outstanding narration. This narration allows Snicket’s humor to be delivered perfectly to the audience with Warburton’s deadpan delivery and exceptional timing in many situations in the show. Warburton’s narration becomes the backbone of the show that brings it all full circle. The actor does a great job establishing the persona of Lemony Snicket through a great sense of sorrow down-to-earth personality.

Even though it takes some time to adjust to his performance, Neil Patrick Harris’ acting as the evil Count Olaf brings back the hatred and despise felt toward the character in the book series. It’s almost bodily, the sort of sniveling anger he inspires as he crawls across the screen, his vocal work paramount’s to selling the despicable character.

“A Series of Unfortunate Events” mixes comedy and grim moments to create a dark humor that spreads through every shot of the series. In “The Reptile Room,” Olaf balances between goofiness and a more sinister character. Despite Olaf’s obvious disguise as Uncle Monty’s (Aasif Mandvi) assistant Dr. Stefano, Olaf brings many dark moments in the two episodes where he plays the alternate role. In these two specific episodes, the show emphasizes from the beginning a “dramatic irony” toward Monty’s death. The character of Monty is loving and caring, but the episodes are so dark and gloomy that the marriage is poetic.

The show follows a familiar plotline for the first four episodes: Olaf attempts to overthrow the Baudelaire’s for their inheritance, the children must follow the adult’s orders despite their cries and pleas for help, the current guardian meets an unfortunate end and the orphans somehow find a way to beat Olaf in his evil plans. The show breaks away from that rhythm towards the end with “The Wide Window” as the Baudelaire’s arrive at a lumber mill with a well written and performed ending to the first season.

The Baudelaire’s acting feels sincere and real, no matter what environment or characters they find themselves with. Many of the adults in the show have a hard time believing when the children are in danger, so the orphans must take matters into their own hands, speak up, ask questions, and solve problems by themselves in order to be the heroes of the day.

If you loved the novels, you will certainly fall in love with Lemony Snicket’s tale of the unfortunate.

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