So after 3 years of waiting, it is finally here. A Series of Unfortunate Events. The Netflix version. The TV adaptation. When news first broke back in 2014, everybody I knew from high school linked me to that article, knowing how obsessed I was in this book series. ASOUE consumed me and my waking days, so much so that I had a notebook (ASOUE merch) that detailed all my findings about the mysteries surrounding the VFD and the Baudelaires. I also had my future house plans drawn up and had wings dedicated to each of the Baudelaire orphans. Since it wasn’t as merchandise heavy as Harry Potter, I made sure to buy EVERYTHING related to ASOUE. It wasn’t a lot, but I was still missing an ASOUE themed magic eight-ball which was out of stock on Amazon. I almost purchased an autographed copy of The Bad Beginning for 100 pounds, and I’m kind of regretful I didn’t… But needless to say, I was OB-SESSED.
Now here I am in New Zealand, in Matakana which is essentially a province. My cousin is getting married in a few hours and I’m still up at 2 am. I have a shitty internet connection here with a maximum bandwidth of 4gb. Netflix isn’t loading a single second from the series, so I had to find streams that would work but nothing ever did. Until I took a chance on a torrent that had zero seeds as of the time I downloaded it, and after a few minutes, seeds grew to around 2,000 +. After an hour and a half of waiting, I finally got to download Episode 1. Just one. But that’s more than enough for tonight!
Anyway, here’s my lengthy review of the series based on the FIRST EPISODE only. I will write a review per episode. At least, I will try. Because that is how much I am devoted to this series.
Okay. Here we go.
The series is visually stunning. Even though they decided to heavily use CGI to support the graphics and world-building (to the point that it looked almost cartoony and intentionally unrealistic in some parts) - I still didn’t care too much. The whole thing is eye candy. It’s a balance of saccharine and macabre and the entire 40ish minutes or so was very screencap-pable.
The theme song
I don’t like it. Was it still made by The Gothic Archies? I never liked their music although it certainly has that vaudeville (what is the right term) tone to it. I wish I could’ve pitched a theme song. I feel like a melancholic music box tune would work? I’m just so detached from the theme song - it doesn’t excite me at all. It seems like its only purpose is to make possible viewers reconsider their decision of watching the series (in theme with the reverse psychology marketing strategy) but I imagined the opening sequence to be more compelling and engaging (much similar to the “fake / fanmade” ASOUE trailer Eleanora Poe released in Youtube).
I really REALLY loved Thomas Newman’s work on the ASOUE 2004 movie’s OST so I really wanted to see more of that (or at least something similar) in an expanded manner. Granted, I’d love to make a song inspired by the series after I wrap this first season up. I’m definitely going to.
Violet, they say is a spitting image of Emily Browning. I have to say I agree, but that wasn’t exactly the first or second thing that came to my mind when I saw her. Having seen her acting, I just fell in love with her. I think the Violet in the film WAS too grown up, was too moody, was too gothic - but since it’s the Violet I grew up with, I couldn’t find anything wrong with her until I finally had someone else to compare her to. First off, I love Malina’s speaking voice. It’s deep and intentional - she does sound very wise for her age. I love how she is believably good natured and positive, yet realistically reacts to glum and dire situations that call for disgust or anger or shock. In the film, Violet was too stoic and indifferent about everything (even when she was about to get married to Cound Olaf for heaven’s sake!), Klaus was the one reacting to things, though in an entirely unconvincing manner. This Violet is cute, smart, and super likeable. I love her.
Klaus sounds exactly like what book Klaus should sound like. As a teenager, i was blinded by Liam Aiken’s charms therefore I was led to believe he was amazing as Klaus. But this Klaus (Louis Hynes) is so believable. He looks smart. He sounds smart. He talks rapidly as if trying to catch up with his brain. He’s reactive, he’s stubborn, he’s resentful in appropriate times - just as I would imagine a middle child would be. He raises his voice when the situation calls for it. He grits his teeth in irk when he’s annoyed. In short, these kids are not merely there to please all the grown ups and avoid trouble. They really are kids stuck in an unfortunate situation after unfortunate situation - and THEY ARE MAD! They are fricking mad! I love how believable these kids are. At first, I had my doubts when I first saw the few photos because Violet & Klaus appear to be much younger than their movie versions are - although much more faithful to the book ages (14 and 12/13). Perfect casting for me.
Sunny is cute but I don’t like how the sounds she make never match her lip movements. I know it’s a lot to ask from a baby, but COME ON! Also, the way she bites things and how she shivers like some sort of grizzly bear when she does it is frightening to me to be honest. I think there could’ve been so many better ways to execute that without it being disturbing…
Justice Strauss by Joan Cusack is spot on. I think that’s really how I imagined Justice Strauss in my head. The thing I appreciated about her is she wasn’t just a dismissible character in this first episode at least. She was given ample backstory for you to root for her. She’s not as clueless as the movie and the book made her out to be. She’s a lonely woman longing for a family, and her efforts to nurture the children can be much more appreciated knowing that. I love her little moment with the children when she showed them her beautiful private library, as well as at the back of the train when she said that the word “mitzvah” meant “blessing” and that sharing a meal with a new family is just that.
NPH as Count Olaf - predictable. When I found out, it made so much sense. The thing that weirds me out is, they really used the 2004 film as a backbone of this series. A LOT of aesthetic elements from the movie was taken from the book (esp Count Olaf’s manor) and even his demeanour + dark humour was almost directly lifted from Jim Carrey. There were a lot of lines repeated, similar angles reshot, and I can safely say the movie served as a huge jumping off point for the series. They didn’t have to start from scratch. Essentially, the used the beautiful 2004 movie as framework for the new series, and enhanced it more knowing what they know now.
I am lukewarm about Olaf now. He has made me chuckle out loud while watching though. He definitely has funnier and smarter lines this time around. The only thing I fear is that he might stick too much to the Jim Carrey version that I cannot differentiate them the way I can distinctly tell Richard Harris’ Dumbledore from Michael Gambon’s. But as the series will progress, I am optimistic to see how NPH goes form disguise to disguise. I’m especially excited about his portrayal of Shirley, a character from Miserable Mills we haven’t seen in the movie. His makeup is so convincing and NPH as an ugly, vile receptionist is downright scary, it gives me the chills.
Mr. Poe, Mrs. Poe, Edgar and Albert - the kids were an unexpected touch. They were twins in the book, I believe. I didn’t expect to see faces to those three other characters in Mr. Poe’s family so that was a nice surprise. Surpreeez!
IS GREAT! While I’ll forever be in love with movie Violet’s wardrobe with the ball skirt and fishnet sleeves, let’s be honest. That outfit was very impractical for a day in the beach (and she never got to change her outfit too, except for the wedding?). The wardrobe here is so much more faithful to the books, and very age appropriate without being ordinary. The cut and collar of Violet’s dress is crisp and sweet + you can see little whales speckled in its sparse navy pattern.
I didn’t notice what Klaus was wearing but the only important thing for me is that he has glasses and that’s good enough for me. That was the biggest, most fatal mistake the movie made.
Sunny wears baby clothes and I am okay with that. In the movie, Sunny wears this cute but ridiculous goofy dress that seemed heavier than she was. It had buckles around her arms, which looked gorgeous but come on, would a baby really wear that? To the beach??
I still prefer the Jude Law narration just because it was so compelling, so full of heart in contrast to Warburton’s neutral, newscaster-y manner of narrating. He doesn’t emphasise on the right words, and I’m still trying to find the dramatic pauses in between his sentences for effect - but he doesn’t give that away for some reason - maybe in a great effort to veer away form the 2004 incognito version of Snicket. I am still lukewarm about him, though I think giving Snicket a face is the right decision. I cannot wait to see him interact and converge with the actual happenings in the series itself.
The story + story telling
I think Netflix made a very wise decision in giving the books 2 episodes each. I think it’s just the right amount of time to give each book justice but I do not know how feasible this format is as the series progresses and grows into more eventful stories. I am very optimistic that ASOUE would be around for at least a Season 2 (but goddamn they better FINISH THIS THING OR ELSE) as they’ve already cast the Quagmires and that makes my heart sing an opera.
The easter eggs
I AM IN LOVE WITH THE EASTER EGGS. One of the best things about this book series as I was reading them is the delight I got from finding all the possible easter eggs I can find and delving into each egg in full detail. I’ve learned so much about poetry an literature because of all the obscure references Snicket would throw around (starting with the first book, Edgar and Albert Poe was a shoutout to Edgar Allan Poe) etc etc. I didn’t expect the last scene to be in some sort of an underground tunnel / abandoned subway with all the last names of the people in the VFD. Snicket, Quagmires, Anwhistle, Spats (omg), Montgomery, Orwell, Strauss, FERNALD (which isn’t a last name, but I already know to be Olaf’s hook handed man from Book 11). It seemed as if Snicket was in an underground tunnel that led to their hideout, and each home had a trap door that led directly to that passageway. This is exactly the type of visual and detail missing in the books, as the series just gave up on a lot of the mysteries it introduced for the sake of ending it with a very underwhelming bang. I feel like Snicket knows his misgivings and is trying to remedy that through solving all the mysteries and tying all the loose ends via television form.
ALSO, GASP. I CANNOT BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW at the ver end of Episode 1. The series implies that both Baudelaire parents are ALIVE, and being held captive. This is one thing never mentioned in the books, as the parents are just entities that float around in the children’s minds.
ALSO, the dad is played by Will Arnett. HAHAHA I love it although I can never see him play a role outside of Gob Bluth.
I AM SO EXCITED FOR EPISODE 2 AND THE REST OF THE EPISODES. I AM SO EXCITED TO REWATCH EVERYTHING WITH MY SISTER ON TV WHEN I GET HOME. AHHHH!