Apr 20, 2018

[TV] A Series of Unfortunate Events: Season 2 Review

The first season of Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate Events was a revelation in itself. I was a little nervous that it would just be a weird rehash of the Jim Carrey movie adaptation. But it managed to find a way to be a completely different spin on the story and one that is pretty darn amazing.

The second season of A Series of Unfortunate Events continues the miserable adventures of the Baudelaire orphans well beyond what the movie had been able to cover. And thus things can only get worse as we are right in the middle of a relevision adaptation of a 13-book young adult series of rather dark novels.

And this second season is quite the meaty one as it tackles more "books" than the first season did with an equal amount of love, devotion, and punny humor. So many annoyingly clever puns.

It's hard to get to explaining why this is brilliant entertainment coming from a paragraph like that, but here we go!

Synopsis: A Series of Unfortunate Events is an American black comedy television series developed for television by Mark Hudis and Barry Sonnenfeld. As before, the series is based on the series of children's novels of the same name written by "Lemony Snicket".

The second season covers the next five books in the series - The Austere Academy, The Ersatz Elevator, The Vile Village, The Hostile Hospital, and The Carnivourous Carnival. And thus we follow the Baudelaire orphans as they try to stay ahead of Count Olaf's (Neil Patrickn Harris) plans given all the other adults in their lives seem to have no interest in what they have to say.

The first season could feel a little optimistic as compared to this one as at least their guardians were still people who honestly cared about the orphans' welfare as they were somehow related to them but it's not quite clear why. This season has no such guardians and it feels that every new chapter of the larger story involves things getting worse and worse. And all the more the Baudelaires need to rise up to the challenge of staying alive...but at what cost?

What I Liked: First, the series continues to bring these amazing books to life in a truly memorable way. The aesthetic has touches of Tim Burton but are also a distinct style of its own. There are a lot of sequences in this series that feel like direct translations of the books and others that are completely original but still feel right at home. And this blending of the familiar and the unfamiliar keeps the series pretty fresh even for those who have read the books before.

And while the V.F.D. angle was part of the books as well, the way things have been handled in the first season and now completely elevated in this second season has been, in a word, stellar. It's an original narrative that one cannot predict based on book knowledge and it's a great one that nicely compliments the original story of the books. Add on the way certain stories have been twisted around to have incidental characters having somewhat bigger roles have also come together nicely.

What Could Have Been Better: I'm still a little confused about how they've been handling the actual "Lemony Snicket" narrator as played by Patrick Warburton. It's witty at times and he has a wonderful speaking voice but when I think of the somewhat more specific scenes in the books versus what they've done in the series, it hasn't been quite as fun.

And then there are times when the more active role V.F.D. is playing can be taking over things a bit more. We're having more scenes of the orphans being helped or rescued instead of them managing to find ways to fully save themselves on their own as was depicted in the books. These are both minor points but I needed something to bring up here.

TL;DR: A Series of Unfortunate Events continues to be an amazing television experience and one that is enjoyable whether or not you've read the books. It has somehow managed to stay true to the books while taking the narrative into a completely new direction that elevates things quite nicely. And so this season gets a solid 5 not-so-clever disguises that Count Olaf and his associates use and yet always seem to work out of a possible 5.

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