Netflix’s take on Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is a melancholy masterpiece, that stays true to the source material and brings the original books to life. Centred around three young orphans, the story takes us through their journey after the recent death of their parents, whilst they try to find a suitable home and parental guardian, all whilst attempting to free themselves from the abominable Count Olaf, a horrid man hell-bent on getting his hands on their inherited fortune.
Each book in the series is split across two episodes, with the season consisting of eight in total, and this allows for the writers to really sink their teeth into the quirks that make the books so lovable. This will also allow the series to last at least another 16 episodes to cover all the books. The details involved in each episode is really what makes this show so great. It is visually stunning, like a Wes Anderson and Tim Burton crossover that so suitably matches the dark storyline and unique themes.
Of course, the shining star of this show is Neil Patrick Harris; he’s someone who viewers were indifferent about in the run up to the show being released, but who really grasped onto the identity of this character. Unfortunately, due to the previous film’s involvement of Jim Carrey, comparisons are impossible to avoid. Harris generally makes the character his own, using different elements of comedy so as not to be a rip-off, however his portrayal of the alter-ego ‘Captain Sham’ in the Wide Window episodes draw too many similarities to Jim Carrey’s own comedic tropes. Harris sounds like a Jim Carrey (with a hint of Sean Connery) impersonator rolled into one, which can become a bit distracting, however does not affect the overall quality of the show.
The remainder of the cast also do an incredible job, especially when it comes down to the finer details of the character they are portraying. Mr Poe particularly, who is played by K. Todd Freeman, is an insatiable man with an extremely odd coughing habit, which is remarkably kept up throughout the season without any explanation. It is the simplest of things which can make a show so pleasing to watch, especially one which delivers on aesthetics more than most. Seldom do we get to see such an emphasis on the steampunk style, and when we do it is so refreshing, despite its dark and gloomy core. It’s almost a disappointment that this is a show made essentially with children in mind, as the dark stylised approach would work so well if it was for an older audience, like many of Wes Anderson and Tim Burton’s pieces of work are.
A downfall of the show was the opening song. It was a bit lacklustre and not a great start to each episode, considering that there was no opening scene before the credits started – however it was an enjoyable detail that it changed with each set of two episodes so as to remind the viewer what situation we would find the characters in.
Also, it didn’t quite seem to fit Netflix’s model for a binge-worthy show – it can be watched all in one sitting, but the lack of thrills compared to other Netflix Originals makes it harder to consume all in one go and you might find yourself needed to take more breaks than usual. This isn’t a bad thing, but if you do plan to see it in one or perhaps two sittings, it may not be quite as exciting a watch as other shows around today.
However, A Series of Unfortunate Events is like nothing else that has been released in recent years, and does a better job stylistically than a lot of films do. Overall, we’re giving it 4 stars and hope that when the next season is released, they keep it as true to the books and true to themselves.
Aside from the minor points mentioned above, the people behind this show have created a visually stunning and somewhat comical gem that will be a timeless piece, and the same approach must be taken for the rest of the series to be as successful and pleasing to watch.
See the trailer here. A Series of Unfortunate Events is streaming on Netflix now!