I know what you’re going to ask: no, I didn’t finish rereading A Series of Unfortunate Events. In fact, the last one I told you about (number nine, The Carnivorous Carnival) was the last one I reread.
I’m okay with that for a few reasons. First, nine books in two weeks is still hella impressive. Second, I only chose to reread them now because of the Netflix series, which only goes through book four so far, meaning I’m ahead.
Since people have asked, I have watched the Netflix series. I could start and end with “it’s better than the movie,” but I’m going to ignore that atrocity and talk about the new show as an adaptation of the books. It is a bit different, and this is NOT a spoiler-free zone.
So far, each book got two 43-minute episodes apiece, leaving enough time to tell the individual book’s story, set up the longer mystery at play, and add a new related storyline.
The song that opens each episode is reminiscent of the letters on the back of each book, and each new pair shows the book’s dedication, which will end up being important if they get through all thirteen books. Lemony Snicket, played by Patrick Warburton, narrates with the same style I loved so much in the books: defining words in context, urging the viewer to stop watching when something bad is about to happen and, most importantly, respecting his protagonists despite the fact that they’re children.
The main plot, over eight episodes, is Count Olaf trying to steal the Baudelaire fortune. Neal Patrick Harris perfectly balances humor and horror as Olaf.
In the first four books, that is the only plot that matters because it is told entirely from the children’s point of view. The show is told from a wider lens, allowing the view a more thorough understanding of what is happening. As such, the mystery of their parents’ secret organization is introduced earlier than it is in the books. We see some of the gears working with characters who aren’t in these books, like Jacquelyn and Gustav, and even with characters who are in the books but whose secrets were revealed until later, like Uncle Monty and Aunt Josephine. The subplot with Will Arnett’s and Cobie Smulder’s characters ties it all together and prepares the viewer for the next season. It’s also just really entertaining.
These are the threads tying the episodes together but each third episodes is based on a new book and introduces new characters and locations. The format allows them to fully develop all of them, even Olaf’s henchmen who are flat in the books. I had more fun watching the first season than I did rereading the books it is based on. I can’t wait until they get to the books I actually enjoyed the second time around. The Netflix show was exactly the right format to bring these books to screen.