By: Jennifer Russell
The Netflix original A Series of Unfortunate Events artistically captures the bleak yet hilarious world that was first created by Daniel Handler (AKA Lemony Snicket) in his novels. Even though the story focuses on the lives of three orphan children whose parents died in a fire, the casting, art direction, and writing make this show entertaining and appropriate for all ages.
The entire cast makes this show exciting and comedic, but Patrick Warburton and Neil Patrick Harris deserve additional praise. Warburton plays the narrator, Lemony Snicket, and faithfully captures the same charismatic style Daniel Handler executed throughout his novels. He constantly begs the audience to look away from the horror presented in the story, and he also offers definitions of words and phrases in his narration in a similar manner to how he does so in the novels.
Having Warburton walk through the various settings and engage directly with the camera further makes the narration engaging and compelling. Rather than having Snicket speak through voice-over, Warburton’s physical presence pushes his narration towards breaking the fourth wall.
In addition to Warburton’s character and performance, Neil Patrick Harris plays Count Olaf perfectly. His character is goofy yet disturbing, although maybe it’s just the unibrow that’s off-putting. Harris truly brings out Olaf’s wit and silliness working alongside Esmé Squalor, Olaf’s trendy lover, played by Lucy Punch.
The sets, props, and costumes also contribute to the joys of watching this series. They make use of colour to better set the tone, using lots of greys to make scenes feel gloomy. The extravagance of some settings, such as Aunt Josephine’s house and Esmé’s “fashionable” penthouse, make the show more aesthetically pleasing and captivating. The props even bring to life some of the most unrealistic elements of Handler’s story — such as the self-sustaining hot air mobile home.
The costumes are also extravagant, and they add further comedy to the story as Olaf and his crew dress up time and time again to successfully conceal their identities. Olaf has some of the most absurd outfits . . . but I’ll let them be a surprise!
What makes this show a true piece of art is the writing. I like to attribute the wit and story to Handler, but adapting those novels into only a couple of episodes each is a difficult task that deserves praise. The episodes have a fluid, forward momentum; there are no filler episodes that leave you begging for them to get to the point. The story captures the style of Handler in a short picture of time.
If you enjoyed the book series, you have no excuse. Watch the first two seasons of this Netflix series as soon as possible!