A Series of Unfortunate Events Season 1 Review

Does the Netflix series live up to all the hype? How does it compare to the movie released in 2004?

Netflix released Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events on January 13, 2017. Each episode lasted between 43 to 64 minutes, with two episodes spanning each book. To me, 1.5 to 2 hours per book seems a little excessive. This, however, is better than when 3 books were crammed into a 1 hour and 48 minute movie in 2004.

The theme song of the series, entitled “Look Away,” is amazing. Written by Daniel Handler and performed by Neil Patrick Harris, it has a central part that is always the same, as well as a section that incorporates what happens in each episode. In true Lemony Snicket style, the lyrics urge you to stop watching the show, explaining all the negative events that will occur. I love this part of the show and think it was a great touch.

In this rendition of the series, Lemony Snicket was portrayed by Patrick Warburton. I did not like his style in the first few episodes, as I feel he speaks in run-on sentences during which he never takes a breath, whereas I imagine Snicket to speak eloquently and in proper sentences, much like Jude Law did for the movie. However, his portrayal of this regretful and sad storyteller grew on me throughout the season, and I feel he did well in the role.

Count Olaf, portrayed by Neil Patrick Harris was hilarious, as he is perfect for the part. He is a “good actor pretending to be a bad actor pretending to be a good actor” (Daniel Handler, interview on Vulture.com). At times I felt like this character was exactly the same as his Barney from How I Met Your Mother, but most of the time I believe he did a very good job of playing the character he was attempting to portray.

The scenery of the entire season was gorgeous and gloomy, giving just the right balance of dreary and beautiful to the moody world of Lemony Snicket. Much like the movie from 2004, the sets were dark and brooding, but also pretty captivating.

Above: photo from A Series of Unfortunate Events, 2004; photo from A Series of Unfortunate Events, 2017

The Miserable Mill, the fourth book in the series, has never been seen on screen before, and I think they did a perfect job of making it look how readers such as myself imagined it. They stuck pretty closely to the storyline, making this episode enjoyably accurate.

Something Netflix did completely right was that they incorporated VFD into the storyline. For those who are unaware, VFD is a secret organization hinted at throughout the entire series. I feel this is a big step up from the 2004 movie, which completely ignored its existence. Even Movie-Olaf’s eye tattoo was different from the one in the books, which had everything to do with VFD. I assume they might have had trouble with it for the movie because they were never going to make any sequels, and it would inspire too much mystery and leave loose ends. In this case, I bet it was a directional choice. However, I think Netflix is doing a phenomenal job of including it, as it should be.

Above: photo from A Series of Unfortunate Events, 2004; photo from A Series of Unfortunate Events, 2017

There are a couple of things that occurred throughout the season that weren’t true to the books, which will annoy die hard fans (such as myself). These fabricated storylines did add more dimension to the series and bulk up the storyline, but I don’t think that was necessary, as the episodes were long as it is. There was a sub plot that tricked viewers into believing one thing when it wasn’t what was really going on, and this is not something that occurred in the books. There was also a small part that revealed the Baudelaire father’s name, which was also never mentioned in the books, and this may not be significant in the Netflix series, but you never know. People who don’t know the series well won’t know any different, and these changes are not extremely drastic, nor are they that big of a deal, but if I could take them out, I would.

The season included a few political jokes (“There’s nothing villainous about free healthcare!”), inappropriate jokes (“Land ho!” “I told you to stop calling me that!”), and Netflix jokes (“Why would anyone want to go to a movie theater when they can just stream television?”). ENOUGH. The number of times actors mentioned streaming television and the fact that the season was ending was eyeroll inducing. I see why some people think a show with characters who are self aware may be funny, but this was a bit of overkill.

There is no word yet from Netflix on whether or not the series will be renewed, but it seems likely, given the positive reviews and feedback, the fact that Daniel Handler has commenced writing scripts for season 2, and the obvious setup for season 2 that would lead directly into the storyline from The Austere Academy (book 5). My question is how long will we have to wait to see this season? I saw speculation on whats-on-netflix.com that Netflix will wait until January 2018 to release, or maybe bump it up a month to give it the Christmas spot. What?! This season was 8 episodes long. Granted, it must take a lot of production, time, and effort to put out a series as visually stunning and well edited as this one, but does it really take a whole year? Especially if they continue on with another 8 episode season.

 

 

FINAL SCORE

7/10

Overall, I believe Netflix is doing a marvelous job of bringing this nostalgic series to life. The stunning imagery, talented actors, and perfect background music (which reminds me of Pushing Daisies – a similarly produced show) make it very fun to watch and satisfying to see played out on a screen. With only a few things I disagree with, I think the outcome was very pleasing.

+ Awesome theme song

+ Incredible casting

+ Unique style and dreary feeling, unlike other shows on TV/Netflix

– Initial episodes were too long, got better after the first two – probably to set up background and initial storyline

– Made up storylines and changed details, making it not completely accurate to the original stories in the books

 

 

Jamie LeRoy is the head Graphic Designer and Photographer at The Geekiverse. She likes piña coladas, getting caught in the rain, and binge watching shows on Netflix.

 

Check out Jamie’s video series in which she unboxes geek jewelry from the Fandom of the Month Club in Jamie’s Got Mail!

 

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