by Kate Seaman
Look away if you want a story with happy endings. For those of you still here, let me recount the story of Netflix’s interpretation of A Series of Unfortunate Events.
The show, released on Jan. 13 and adapted from the ever-popular book series, follows the lives of Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire (Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes and Presley Smith). These parentless children move from the homes of their distant relative Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) to their Uncle Monty (Aasif Mandvi) to their agoraphobic Aunt Josephine (Alfre Woodard) to working at a mill in a desolate town. The series is narrated by the fourth-wall-breaking author, Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton), who shares new details about the characters.
The show does not sugar-coat grief and handles it with humor. It does not dwell on the loss the children have incurred. It shows that pain is normal; everyone is allowed to grieve and feel scared. The series’ uniqueness comes from the orphans’ experiences and growth, inspiring young kids everywhere and escaping the horror of Count Olaf.
Harris plays Olaf with such gusto and outrageousness that viewers can’t help but feel the sadness of the Baudelaires through the screen. At the same time, viewers can’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness of the situations Olaf creates.
Violet is calm and innovative; Weissman plays her with a sincerity and concern that makes girls everywhere feel empowered. Klaus is consistently ready with a quote or fact and Hynes delivers them with wit. Sunny is cute enough to make viewers love her, funny enough to keep them alert for her next quip, yet scary enough that they would not want to mess with her.
The show’s set design reflects the attitudes of the characters and foreshadows the personalities and events that lie ahead. For example, a “good” character will have a brightly colored house with lots of light, whereas a “bad” character will have a dark setting with grey overtones.
The music of the show is sinister and adds to the mood of the children and the theme of the show. However, when the viewer listens to the lyrics carefully, they hear Harris’ subtle quips about the situation as he persuades the audience to “look away.”
Contrary to the theme song, A Series of Unfortunate Events is nothing to “look away” from. You can watch it on Netflix when you need a good laugh or some life perspective.