A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017) - Season 1 (TV)

11:13 AM

Secrets will be revealed, one unfortunate event at a time.
 A Series of Unfortunate Events is the latest serving of binge-watching from Netflix. The show is based off of the series of books of the same name by Lemony Snicket. The TV series has numerous directors throughout (like usual) but stars Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother, Gone Girl), Patrick Warburton (Family Guy, The Emperor's New Groove), Maline Weissman (Nine Lives, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and Louis Hynes as the recurring lead characters. "After the loss of their parents in a mysterious fire, the three Baudelaire children face trials and tribulations attempting to uncover dark family secrets'. Netflix has come quite reliable in recent years for providing quality entertainment that gets people talking - is A Series of Unfortunately Events upholding that or is it unfortunately time for Netflix to have a misstep? 

I'm not actually someone who finds it easy to get into TV shows and I usually hate the idea of binge-watching - I like to take a breather from whatever world I am in no matter whether there is a cliffhanger or not. However, ASOEU changed me in that respect as I started it on Saturday (14th) and finished it last night (17th) so 3 days for me is rapid time and must say something about the quality of the show. I think it was helped by the season being just 8 episodes long with those all having running times of give or take 45 minutes. ASOEU is humorous, dark (but not heavy), fun entertainment that is good for all ages - it definitely has a Tim Burton style to it that I will go into later. However, there are some flaws that are typical of small screen entertainment such as iffy CGI and some uneven acting. I also found a couple episodes a little harder to get through than others as the whole thing was becoming a little repetitive. 

This is definitely Neil Patrick Harris' time to shine and he does an excellent job as Count Olaf - in his many different disguises. Harris made the character witty, rightfully unlikeable, creepy and simply bizarre. I think if enough people see this series, this will become a role Harris is known for a la Depp in Pirates or Jolie in Maleficent. I also thought Harris did a good job of playing an actor - it is a hard job to act whilst acting as you kind of have to convincingly portray more than one character at a time and I think Harris pulls it off. I didn't have a huge problem with the child actors - I thought they were generally impressive - Maline Weissman and Louis Hynes are both likeable leads and each of their characters bring different qualities that compliment each other. I also believed that they were siblings as they had a great chemistry. Yes, they do have their weak and uneven moments but I think they generally do a very good job - a series like this is asking quite a lot from young actors and I think they do a terrific job - I can't wait to see more of them. Patrick Warburton was probably my favourite out of the bunch however - I don't know whether thats because I liked his witty commentary on the show but I found his character the most grounded - maybe because nothing unfortunate was repetitively happening to him onscreen. I found the character of Mr. Poe incredibly irritating but I think K. Todd Freeman did a solid job. Each of the three stories after 'The Bad Beginning' all came with their own new character. Aasif Mandvi was good as Uncle Monty - I thought he did a solid job. Alfre Woodard was probably my least favourite performer in the whole series - I didn't find her performance wacky enough - she was trying but it all felt a little forced. Someone like Helena Bonham Carter would have been perfect here and a true scene-stealer which I feel this character could have been. Finally, I was very impressed with Catherine O'Hara who is the only villainous one of the new additions and I have to say, that really suited her as she did a terrific job! 

The storyline of ASOUE didn't go where I thought it would as a whole when I first began watching the show. However, the show did become very repetitive with the orphans moving from home to home after each 'story' (2 part episodes) - they would somehow overcome Count Olaf's latest scheme but he would escape in time before he was caught and would follow them to their next location. I found 3 out of the 4 stories interesting - I'll mention the one I wasn't so keen on soon. However, the conclusion of the season was surprising but looking back it should have been expected - there was never going to be a happy ending so its no surprise that the orphans are now in a boarding school where Count Olaf will likely find them soon. However, there are more interesting developments that do make me really excited for the next season (which has already been green-lighted) - the red-herring that was their parents - we thought we were seeing what their parents were up to in the little sneak peaks we would get towards the end of each episode, we were wrong. Those parents were of another set of children who also had connections to the secret organisation and those children become orphans and are now at the same boarding school! I can't wait to see the Baudelaire siblings find out they are not alone and they finally have people experiencing the same things as them. There were also many hints throughout the season and although we never found out what this secret organisation was, I can't wait to find out more. I also liked how self-aware the show was - there would be little comments about the rise of streaming and just funny, witty humour. 

The visual effects in terms of CGI were of the standard of your typical TV series. However, that standard is no longer acceptable in a world of Game of Thrones and Stranger Things were CGI is just as good as it is on the big screen. Too much green screen was used throughout the season and actually made some scenes less exciting than they could of been - like when the characters are faced with a storm whilst trying to sail a boat. However, when actual sets are used - the production design is brilliant and the whole show has a very Tim Burton style to it - it is wacky and I would actually compare the first couple of episodes to the recent Miss Peregrine. I am actually surprised they didn't try and get Burton on to help produce or at least direct one episode (e.g. the pilot or season finale) - they were certainly paying homage to him. 

Let's go into a little more detail with an ranked list of the episodes:

8. The Wide Window: Part One - 6 episodes into the show and it was becoming clear that the story was becoming a little more repetitive and it was too predictable what was going to happen come the end of Part 2. I also really didn't like Count Olaf's disguise a sailor - I thought it looked pretty cheap and this was probably my least favourite of Harris' performances. I also didn't like their guardian and thought the character was a bit of a missed opportunity - Alfre Woodard really didn't have me on board. 

7. The Wide Window: Part Two - From here on, I can say I liked every episode. This is mainly this low down because of the repetitiveness as well despite this arguably being the most exciting episode of the season. It does have a big action sequence in the second act but ultimately I didn't care because I knew what the end result was going to be. I had similar problems with this as I did to Part One in terms of Harris and Woodard but it is slightly higher up because their is a reveal towards the end of the episode which does feel pretty exciting and intriguing. However, my favourite quote of the series was said at the end of this episode - 'It doesn't matter if we made the right choice. What matters is what happens'. 

6. The Reptile Room: Part Two - I put this here because I'm not a fan of snakes or reptiles and they were a big part of this storyline. I also thought this episode and its predecessor both had quite slow paces. The character of Count Olaf just became even more unlikeable so I think this is why my feelings aren't as strong to this one.

5. The Miserable Mill - Part One - It also takes quite a while for this storyline to go anywhere but once it does, it is entertaining and the stakes actually feel quite high. 

4. The Reptile Room: Part One - I really liked this episode as there were times when the children were actually happy. However, when they go to the movie theatre, twisted things start to happen and I think this is where Count Olaf's accomplices really get to shine. 

3. The Miserable Mill - Part Two - The finale of the season and even though it went off with a negative and disappointing ending for the characters, that is to be expected. I liked the musical song at the end and I really liked the plot twist which made me really excited for season 2. The stakes were also raised towards the end and the children get to solve a problem that doesn't just effect them - making them true heroes. 

2. The Bad Beginning - Part Two - This is probably the darkest and most twisted episode of the whole season and I kind of liked it. The fact that Count Olaf tried to (and was very close to) marrying Violet, a young girl, for money was a little creepy to watch. Olaf's plan was also well thought out - so much so even I questioned the children's resolution to this situation - if you write with the hand you don't usually write with, that falsifies the marriage?

1. The Bad Beginning - Part One - The introduction to this mad world and crazy characters is probably my favourite. We get to see Count Olaf in all of his evil glory without any silly disguises or annoyance from guardians not realising who he is. Harris has a fun musical number and I think all of the characters are introduced well. I have to say, I first tried to watch this episode on the Friday and had to turn it off 10 minutes in because it was a little wacky but I gave it another shot and I am glad I did because it was wacky and fun. 

This isn't going to be the best TV series you've ever watched and it has an 88% success rate with just one episode being a little hard to get through. The acting from Harris is a career highlight for him and I think this also starts of these young actors' careers well - they are probably not getting the credit they deserve because of the superb acting in Stranger Things from child actors last year. Yes, the visual effects may not be amazing but if we step back and look at shows such as 'Once Upon a Time' - it is probably of the standard of that. The story does become a little repetitive and tiresome for episodes 5 and 6 but the series certainly picks up pace again for its penultimate episodes. A Series of Unfortunate Events is wacky, fun, Tim Burton-y and leaves you wanting more. 

66
/100

What did you think of A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS? How does it compare to the books and the 2004 film? - COMMENT BELOW

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