On January 1st, 2017 Netflix aired its first season of A Series of Unfortunate Events. It was a good start to the series and proved to effectively blend in both comedy and tragedy. Like most adaptations, it had its fair share of deviations. And while the series as a whole is good the sum of its parts does have its fair share of flaws.
Got right: The twist with the parents
At the start of the series started we saw a mother and father played by Cobie Smulders and Will Arnett respectively trying to get to their children. Based on the way their journey coincided with the Baudelaires’ whereabouts we were led to believe that the Baudelaire parents were alive. By the end of Miserable Mill part 1 we are led to believe that they are about to be reunited. It turns out that the mother and father were actually the Quagmire parents. Fans of the books could understand this and it was a hilariously well-done yet heartbreaking twist as after all the Baudelaires have been through so far (and it only got worse) you really wanted to see them pull through.
Got right: Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf
There was a lot of concern about Harris being cast as Olaf as in the books the character was quite terrifying and Harris while a good actor people weren’t sure if he could bring that terror to life. While the makeup on him wasn’t the greatest at first it got better with the episodes. And Harris blends both comedy and menace into his performance. Even in his ridiculous disguises he still manages to sound frightening through his voice alone.
Got right: The theme song
Most shows don’t have theme songs these days and I almost expected this one not to have one either. Thankfully the show has one that proves to be quite the earworm in its tune. Harris sings it and while the lyrics themselves are good it is when he sings it through his disguised voice that it truly sounds appealing.
Got right: The Baudelaire children
While Louis and Malina had rather mixed acting chops in the first season they got better through the episodes and they have several moments. Their expressions of sadness through Uncle Monty’s death, making their way to Lucky Smells Lumber Mill alone, and the Not How the Story Goes Song at Prufrock really makes you feel the weight of their misfortune on them. Sunny Baudelaire also gets a special mention as her snarky attitude throughout the episode makes her incredibly enjoyable.
Got right: Jacquelyn
Mr. Poe’s secretary Jacquelyn was a new character that the series added. All throughout the season she proves to a brave and bold member of VFD and one of the few adults looking out for the Baudelaires wherever she can.
Got right: Uncle Monty
True to the books Uncle Monty proves to be the best guardian for the Baudelaires. Aasif Mandvi breathes a great deal of pleasantness into the character throughout the first part of the Reptile Room. Even though he’s not fully aware of Olaf’s intentions he is still quite adept in looking after the children’s best interests. In fact if you were to end the series after Monty tucks the children into bed it would have been fine. Alas that’s not how the story goes and seeing Monty’s love for the children makes it all the more devastating when Olaf kills him.
Got right: Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket
Warburton’s narration, while it can pop up one too many times throughout the series, is a good aspect that improved as the series went along and works to the show’s comedic and saddening charm. His deadpan narration can be funny but never is there a moment that when he narrates a dramatic moment that it ruins it. And as we see him outside his mere role as the narrator in the long run we see just how much Warburton is able to pull the whole thing off.
Got right: Not How the Story goes
The first season ends with a melancholy song that really adds a layer of sadness for everything that has happened. Aside from Mr. Poe, everyone, even Count Olaf just looks downright miserable wishing that things could be different. Olaf’s singing, in particular, served as a precursor to the depth he has in later seasons.
Could have been better: Mr. Poe
Let’s face it: Mr. Poe is downright horrible. Despite the Baudelaires being right multiple times he makes no attempt to even pay attention to them merely dismissing them as children. When the Baudelaires go missing due to Miserable Mill he’s devastated but not because the children are in danger but rather because he fears he fears he’s going to be fired and miss out on his promotion. His obliviousness and lack of care for the Baudelaires is sadly only something that worsened over the seasons. What’s worse is that he never suffers any real consequences for it.
Could have been better: Alfre Woodard as Aunt Josephine
While the movie isn’t as great as the show, Meryl Streep as Aunt Josephine truly embodied the character’s myriad of rational and irrational fears and phobias in addition to her obsession with grammar. And while Woodard tries she seems way to over-the-top in her grammar obsession and fears. Her death really loses its impact as Olaf merely pokes her to her death, which takes away from the weight of any feelings that the Baudelaires may have had about her.
Could have been better: Hurricane Herman
This is yet another aspect that the movie did better. The movie had all of Aunt Josephine’s fears coming to life and seeing the Baudelaires trying to brave through the whole thing was visually intense and it builds up brilliantly as they decipher her suicide note. The Netflix series makes the whole thing really goofy with the polka music and the CG on baby Sunny. The whole thing in the series all in all is rather restrained.
Could have been better: Olaf decides to work alone
After Dr. Orwell dies in Miserable Mill Part 2 Olaf happily says he’s a free man and vows to work alone. This is something that really doesn’t serve much purpose since the theatre troupe still stayed with him from there and the fact that book readers know that he’d recruit Esme in the next season.
Are there any other aspects you think the first season got right or could have been better? Leave them in the comments below!