Love It: Kyle “I watched this whole season in one sitting last weekend and I'm gonna do it again this weekend” O’Hara
"A Series of Unfortunate Events" is the book series that taught me about love, tragedy, and innovation (that’s all there is in this world, right?) I was fascinated by Lemony Snicket’s love for Beatrice, and Violet was all I wanted to be—the original bad b*tch. Other than the books themselves, there is nothing better than Netflix’s new remake of the series. I sat down on Saturday intending to watch the first episode with admittedly low expectations, and I was amazed by the quality. I ended up shooting through all of the episodes because I just couldn’t tear myself away.
I will admit to being skeptical at first. "A Series of Unfortunate Events" was one of my favorite book series as a kid, and I was heartbroken when that terrible movie covering the first 3 books was released in 2004. Like seriously. I’m pretty sure the people who made the movie just looked the series up on Sparknotes because for having gotten the gist of the plot right, it was shockingly untrue to the text. (I study Hist and Lit so I’m an authority on these things and I triple-dog-dare you to fight me about it.)
So, going in with low expectations, I was blown away by how well this show combined Lemony Snicket’s style of narration, the overarching drama of the secrets of the world (including Beatrice and what exactly happened to the Baudelaire parents), and the kids’ daily struggles to escape Count Olaf. From the first moment of foreshadowing in which Klaus can’t understand a Proust quote about grief and he and Violet decide that it might be just an error in translation, I was hooked. Netflix may say this show was made for kids, but I believe the cynical college student who grew up with the books is actually the target audience. Can we take a moment to talk about the cab driver’s lamentations on "Moby Dick" as he drives back and forth from Josephine’s house to the town? Iconic.
"A Series of Unfortunate Events" was clearly meant to be adapted into a TV show, and the fact that they even attempted to make a movie out of it was dumb. Like, that community college in New Haven dumb. But at least someone finally figured it out. The fact that they even tried to make a movie of it was dumb, but finally someone figured it out. There is nothing to dislike about this show other than the fact that there isn't more of it (yet).
In short, the redux of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" is everything we as a society need (but probably don't deserve). At least one thing is going right in 2017.
Hate It: Megan “I watched this whole season in one sitting last weekend and I'm absolutely not gonna do it again this weekend” Ross
"A Series of Unfortunate Events" opens by telling you to “look away”, advice I wish I’d heeded. I was too blinded by the love I’d had for the books as a child, wanting so badly to find in this Netflix series a better adaptation than the 2004 film. Admittedly that was what I found, but being better than that silver screen trainwreck isn’t exactly an achievement. If the movie was guilty of not being true enough to the source material, this series perhaps clings too closely to the format of the books, and it just doesn’t make for good television.
Violet, Klaus and Sunny Baudelaire are three really smart kids whose rich parents died in a fire that destroyed their mansion. I feel bad for them, obviously, but it’s hard not to cringe at them when they’re peppering their speech with literary quotes and SAT words (or letting an adult know that they don’t need such a word explained to them). I have nothing against being well-read (#STEMmajor) but if this came across as a little forced and stilted in the books, it was even worse on screen.
Like Kyle, I too aspired to be like Violet Baudelaire as a child. She’s smart, inventive, and an overall strong female character. However, much like the on-screen portrayal of other great female hero of my childhood, Hermione Granger, I found myself hoping I wasn’t as annoying at her age as the girl I was watching. While I thought Louis Hynes’ Klaus was more compelling, Malina Weissman—though she looked the part as Violet—delivered her lines too melodramatically for me to take her seriously.
Aside from that, I just wonder how well this series would be able to engage someone who, unlike me, hadn’t read the books already. I assume a lot of the children who watch it won’t have done so, and probably not many of their parents either. It’s like, I get that it’s neat to have so many references to VFD scattered throughout the first season but many of them would surely go over the heads of anyone who doesn’t already know what that means. I get the sense that this TV series was trying harder to appeal to the people who already know how the story ends than to the people who’ve never heard of the Baudelaires before.
In all, this was a pretty disappointing series. Watching this wasn’t the worst life decision I’ve ever made—it was still miles better than the movie—but I’m also glad it came out over winter break and I don’t have to feel bad about giving 8 hours of my life to it.