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A Series of Unfortunate Events - Season 1 - Review: "Look away, look away!"

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The world of Baudelaire children is a dark and dangerous one. That’s probably what makes it even more incredible that translating such a tragic story into a TV series could turn out to be a truly entertaining experience. And it absolutely was for me. From the breathtaking cinematography, through the attention to the smallest of details to the wonderful performances by the cast, led by Neil Patrick Harris. It was one of the best performances of the last season and Count Olaf’s character ended up being even more nefarious than on the pages of the books.

Speaking of them, when I first heard of the idea for the show I decided to read the entire book series I once stumbled upon years ago. It became pretty clear early on that it’s not a simple story to transfer on the screen. One of the most characteristic and interesting aspects of the books is the narrator who also happens to be one of the main characters of the story. His comments and involvement provide us with a closer look at the background, history and even the future events in the life of Baudelaire children and everyone they encounter. The author’s constant “interruptions” in the books, requests to take a step back and search for a more cheerful story to read, they offer a series a different outlook than most and are not easily copied. So even though it can’t be quite the same on the show, I still enjoyed Lemony Snicket’s presence during these eight episodes and all the great quotes and life lessons he shares with the viewers.

The one thing that was never such a significant aspect of the books but opens a new door to that world on the show are the events happening around the children but not directly to them. In the Netflix series we are invited to take a closer look at a secret society that takes an interest in the children’s fate and we follow the actions of several of its members as they work in the background to help and protect the Baudelaire family from Count Olaf. While we do not know the details or their motivations, the addition of such characters provides a more mysterious plot to the series and actively engages the viewer to pay attention. Without adding any spoilers for the books, I just want to say that I’m happy to hear and learn more about this “spy” organization and despite all the tragedies, it still seems like the presence of these people offers some hope for these kids lost in the dangerous world.

What surprised me the most about the show was the plot involving Mother and Father trying to find their way back to their children. The series makes the viewers believe that they’re the Baudelaire parents, but knowing that there was no such reunion at Lucky Smells Lumbermill in the books, I was very interested to see where this story leads to. I really liked this addition, I have to admit, it was a mystery for all to solve, something unexpected with great actors to carry the story and make things more meaningful. Of course in the end their kids become quite an important new chapter in Baudelaire siblings’ life, as signaled by the finale scene of the season. But still, that ending of episode seven, when the reunion between parents and children takes place… Even though I knew it couldn’t be true, it was still heartbreaking to realize that the meeting was not meant for Baudelaire kids. Really well done on the creators’ part.

Now for the rest of the characters. Count Olaf, Mr. Poe, Justice Strauss, Uncle Monty, Aunt Josephine, Sir and Charles – all the children’s guardians, so fundamentally different making each of their stories bring new challenges and experiences for the Baudelaire siblings.

First there’s Mr. Poe, the family banker of the Baudelaire parents who is tasked with finding them a good home. Even though from the outside he might seem like a nice man doing his best to support the kids, I’m quite certain he’s one of the worst people for this job. In fact, he’s greedy, pretty cold with severe lack of compassion and understanding when it comes to the children’s needs. And as if that wasn’t enough, he’s not nearly as smart as he believes to be. He misses the most obvious disguises of Count Olaf and the dangers the Baudelaire kids have to face. Knowing that he’s the one constant in their life at this point is honestly one of the saddest news for them. And let’s not even get to his wife… Violet: “Can't you see that? Anyone can see that.” Sunny: “Except Mr. Poe, of course.”

Justice Strauss and Uncle Monty, on the other hand, are surprisingly good options for Klaus, Violet and Sunny. Unfortunately they both get easily tricked by Count Olaf and are not able to protect the kids the way they would want to. They did truly care about them, though. And in this case, that means the world for these three orphans. If they could have stayed and lived with either of these two, the kids might actually get some peace, hope and love they needed so much in their story. Sadly, Justice Strauss lacks confidence and courage to fight to stay with them and they have to part ways. And Uncle Monty… his ending is one of the saddest on the show so far. And he also happened to be a favorite of mine. The beautiful and brilliant “Reptile Room” was quite a highlight of season one and this character is one of the reasons for that. The short life the Baudelaire children shared with Uncle Monty was something they really needed and hoped for. His death was absolutely heartbreaking and their reactions said it all. Klaus’ quote about Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, when they need to say goodbye and leave the house gets me every time. “He was more than that. He was much, much more than appropriate.” Yes, he loved them. It makes sense that Uncle Monty would be different than the others. He’s the one the Baudelaire parents chose as their children’s guardian in case of their death, after all.

As for Aunt Josephine, I was never a fan of the character, in both the book and the show. She used to be an incredible person, it would seem, but when we meet her all her fears completely took over her life and that strong and brave friend of the Baudelaire family is long gone. The wonderful Alfre Woodard does a great job with the character’s portrayal but Aunt Josephine’s house is not a good stop on the kids’ journey. I was surprised by her last-minute change, though. It was the only time I actually believed she might have cared about the children, but it was simply too late to change anything. Meanwhile, Sir and Charles are quite an interesting duo. Hard to believe two people so different can actually work as a couple. But despite their few interactions, it seems like they surprisingly do. Sir is no friend of the children, or people to be honest. He uses the workers at his Lumbermill to earn money but gives them nothing, really nothing, in return. It’s cruel, unjust and not right in any way. Charles is clearly the one with actual empathy and he offers the children some support when they find themselves at the mill. But again, it’s too little and he’s not even willing to take a stand in the end. Yes, he’s kind to them and wants to help. But is that truly enough?

Finally, let’s talk for a moment about Count Olaf and his theatre troupe. They’re clearly not good people, but at the very least their motives are known. And Olaf is actually smarter (and more nefarious) than one might assume. As I already mentioned before, Neil Patrick Harris truly captures the powerful, strange and cruel nature of the character. He’s absolutely brilliant on the show and brings so much life to the story. Each of his (terrible) disguises provides a new opportunity to see through the dangerous plan and actions of the deadly group and the actor is just so good in all the little things that make this character so uniquely memorable. Count Olaf is certainly not just another villain in the story.

Last, but definitely not least, I have yet to mention more about Klaus, Violet and Sunny. And these children are the main reason why there’s so many chapters of the series and it’s worth to follow their story. There’s an impossible aspect of the Baudelaire siblings’ life and it’s not just all the tragedies that follow them on every step. It’s the simple fact that they’re absolutely brilliant and unique, and their talents go far beyond their age and surroundings. Violet’s an inventor, quite a master of mechanics, Klaus’ knowledge and understanding of the many, many books he’s read in his quite short life offer the kids solutions more often than we might think and finally Sunny, even though she can’t even talk yet, she says and knows so much, and her teeth are unnaturally strong. These three together can achieve the impossible and even though they’re alone in the darkness, their hope and strength comes from each other. As long as they’re together, there’s not a thing they can’t face and that’s where the heart of the story truly lies for me. Can’t wait to see the rest of the show and what new surprises and brilliance awaits the viewers there.

What did you think about Season 1? Any favorite or least favorite characters or moments? Have you read the books or are you new to the story? What would you like to see next?

Don't miss Season 2 of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" to be released on March 30th, 2018, on Netflix.

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