On March 30th, 2018 Netflix aired its second season of A Series of Unfortunate Events. The first season established itself as a comedy through its various scenarios and Neil Patrick Harris’ performances. This proved to be a double-edged sword as while it works, it took away from some moments that were supposed to be legitimately serious. But the series was good enough. Season 2 continued that trend and succeeded in mixing some dark factors and strong emotional value along with it. As is with most shows it has its fair share good aspects and aspects that could have been better.
Got Right: Jacques Snicket and Olivia Caliban
Both Jacques Snicket and Olivia Caliban were one-off characters in the books who died in their respective debuts. However the show builds them up from the first episode as brave and noble people willing to take up the fight against Olaf and the arsonists in various ways. Seeing Olivia come so far in VFD becoming a fortuneteller capable of fooling Olaf for so long is incredible. Seeing the two fight so hard and come so close yet so far makes their ends met by Olaf all the more devastating. Jacques’ way of saying “time to take up the torch” to Olivia bears a vast difference to the way Olaf says it to the disguised Baudelaires and really makes him distinct member of VFD. Both Nathan Fillon and Sara Rue gave their characters likable chemistry and gave a whole new flare to the VFD members.
Got Right: Esme Squalor
Lucy Puch’s performance as Olaf’s girlfriend throughout the entire season blends in the perfect amount of vanity and villainy in the character. Punch gives the character a chilling and creepy edge particularly when she is confronting the Baudelaires such as after pushing them down the elevator shaft, the chase in the library of records, and confronting Klaus for the sugar bowl.
Got Right: Olaf’s Disguises
This is something that was great in season 1 and greatly expanded upon in season 2. This season was the last set of books in which Olaf dons a disguise and they made each one a high note giving a different and humorous style to each whether it be as a religious gym teacher with an over-the-top southern accent, an indefinably foreign auctioneer, a cool and hip detective, and a doctor speaking like a 1900s radio presenter.
Got Right: The Hostile Hospital Episode
This was the first episode marking the Baudelaires on the run and they knew how to make their experiences of being in a world with no one to help them but themselves horrifying. The Baudelaires wind up having to betray the friendly record keeper Hal, are chased by Esme through the library of records, and ultimately wind up secretly hitching a ride with Olaf in order to survive. Having Olaf visually appear as opposed to only being heard like in the books was one of the show’s strongest deviations and his persona here proves to be his scariest. Just the way he utilizes the hospital tools and breaks the lights combined with his typical demeanor in and out of character give a sense of creepiness and dread.
Got Right: The Quagmires
Dylan Kingwell and Avi Lake breathe a very likable life into both these characters. Having the Baudelaires and the Quagmires not only help each other through Prufrock’s hardships but also having them learn about their connection through VFD early on helps drive their relationship. In yet another deviation from the books it also leads to some legitimately cute and affectionate moments between them. These aspects make truly make it devastating in the episodes that follow when the Baudelaires come so close yet so far in their efforts to rescue them and even more when eventually the Baudelaires finally do, are ultimately forced to separate from them to save them.
Got Right: The Baudelaires finding out about VFD
In the books the Baudelaires don’t find out about VFD until Slippery Slope. Here however they find out a book early from Olivia’s video files. The music, the suspense, and the way it is shot is played perfectly as they see new people and discover new facts such as Lemony (who makes a very clever Easter egg to All the Wrong Questions) Snicket and Gustav combined with those they already know like Dr. Orwell, Uncle Monty, Jacquelyn, and Larry in addition to the picture of all of those from the organization. This whole moment marks one of the few moments of triumph for the Baudelaires after they have been put through so much.
Could have been better: The Baudelaires fate at Prufrock
In the book, upon learning that the Quagmires took the Baudelaires’ place for Genghis’ S.O.R.E exercises Vice Principal Nero accuses them of cheating and has them all expelled. In the show however after Olaf escapes with Duncan and Isadora, there is no mention (until season 3) of why they couldn’t go back to Prufrock and Mr. Poe just takes them to the Squalors. Just one mention of Nero expelling them would have sufficed.
Could have been better: Olaf instantly turns up in Ersatz Elevator
In the books it was a couple days before Olaf turned up at the Squalors’ house. However in the show he’s there almost immediately after the Baudelaires arrive with no prior mentions as to how. This really takes away the time to fully go in depth to the Baudelaires’ lives with the Squalors and while it was surprising to see him so soon, it takes away any surprise that Olaf and Esme are in league together.
Could have been better: Ringmaster Olaf
After Matthias, Olaf disguises himself as ringmaster Olaf calling himself “a different Count Olaf than the one you’ve read in the paper.” With Olaf being presumed dead there is almost no reason to do this. Particularly when in this disguise, Olaf doesn’t make much of an attempt to change his appearance or alter his voice. This would have been a great way to ease us into next season where he uses any disguises less frequently.
Any other aspects that were done well and could have been done better? Drop ’em in the comments below.