I’ve just finished the first episode of the new Netflix adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and from the start, it is not what I had expected. What drew me to the series was, above all, the cast. I am by no means an authority on the original book series, or even the 2004 movie adaptation (which I have seen, for the most part, but in bits and pieces). I know enough to have the basic understanding of the premise. I appreciate the series, particularly for its uniqueness, but as I said, I came for the performers. Comparing him to his feature film counterpart, Niel Patrick Harris’s Count Olaf has a far more sinister presence. He makes no effort to appear to care for the children, hardly trying to convince anybody that he’s only in it for the money. He’s crude, and he’s cocky. For those who will benefit from the reference, it’s as if Dr. Horrible and Captain Hammer were merged into one person, and it is an entertaining combination to say the least. Patrick Warburton truly shines as the narrator, with his deep, iconic voice, and his sincere, stony gaze. While most of his lines and scenes seem silly, he occasionally has to deliver more than words. He must also convey a concern or pity for the Baudelaire children, while never directly interacting with them on screen. Between Harris and Warburton, I was easily drawn to the series already. However, looking down the roster, I see we also get appearances by Aasif Mandvi, Rhys Darby, Will Arnett, Cobie Smulders, and, while I could really take it or leave it, I feel like it’s been quite some time since I’ve seen Joan Cusack in a fitting role. While the remaining cast may be only peppered throughout the series, they will still be welcome faces on screen.
While the Count and the narrator are powerful characters throughout the first episode, it’s quite the shame how the Baudelaire children are portrayed. While I understand that they are meant to be set apart and isolated, they really don’t feel like they fit in to their positions well. They are, from the very beginning, odd, calculating, awkward children who could almost have been computer animated, or even cardboard cutouts, with the drastic manner in which they stick out in every environment the episode had to offer. The children’s reactions to the situation they are forced into seems unrealistic and unnatural. The other peripheral characters we are introduced to feel similar. Nobody seems engaged in the events transpiring. Everyone is so awkward and detached, it feels like a Wes Anderson film. Not that there’s anything wrong with Wes Anderson, but it doesn’t work for me in this world. Count Olaf is far too animated, and his character too strong for everyone else to brush him off the way that they do. Another matter that frustrated me was the setting for Olaf’s home. His house, by itself, is fitting to what I understand it is supposed to be. Perhaps a little more run down in comparison with the movie, but still has the same effect. However, I seem to remember his home being much more isolated from the rest of the town in the movie. However, in the series, his house is within a neighborhood of nice, quaint little suburban cookie cutter homes, and then there is this large, beat up, decrepit home in the middle of the street. This means that he is also surrounded by neighbors who know nothing about him, and question practically nothing about the situation, save for one woman, who still takes him at his word all too easily.
While I was not thoroughly impressed by this premiere episode, I must recognize that, while it features some of my more favored performers, and it is made to be entertaining to all, this is ultimately a show aimed at a younger audience, rather than my particular age and demographic. Full disclosure, my initial viewing of the first episode was interrupted by the call to drink with some coworkers. I turned off the episode with four minutes left of the episode, and as I was returning to finish it, I had convinced myself that I did not care to continue with the series. However, the closing of the first episode seems to have pulled me back in. Between Patrick Warburton’s closing monologue, and a sort of cliffhanger ending, I may need to stick around and see how this plays out.
How about you? Have you watched the series yet? Were you familiar with the books or a fan of the original movie? Let me know your thoughts below.