Look away, look away, this review teems with dreadful themes and overwhelming dismay.
Look away, look away for reading this will surely ruin your entire day.
By this point, I hope you realise that I am – of course – joking. Lemony Snickets books have never been filled with happiness, joy and glee, this was no different with 2004’s movie starring the enigmatic Jim Carrey as the dreadful ‘Count Olof’, this theme survived and is highlighted in the 2017 Netflix series which puts Neil Patrick Harris in the role as the count.
As anyone who is familiar with Lemony Snicket’s work will be aware, this story is not one for children, nor is it for adults of a nervous disposition. It is my sad duty to recall the events of the Netflix series, which is narrated and presented by Patrick Warburton (Joe from Family Guy among other well-known characters), it follows the story of the ill-fated and unfortunate Baudelaire orphans as they lost their parents, are chased by an awful man named Count Olof and try to unravel the mystery behind their parents lives, fortune and deaths.
The series begins in largely the same way that we expect, the orphans lose their parents to a house fire which empties out the house of all belongings bar one small thing – a piece of an eyeglass. The fire takes place as the children are sent away to the beach for the day – despite it being cloudy and grey. The children are enjoying the day as there is no-one around the beach due to the weather being so dismal, this allows the Baudelaires to rest down in any spot of their choosing. As they begin to do so, they see a small figure descending the steps leading from the promenade onto the beach – it is Mr Poe. As long-time followers of the series will know, Mr Poe is the incompetent bank manager put in charge of the Baudelaire fortune and ensuring it’s safe delivery to the orphans by placing them in the proper care of legal guardians who were chosen by the Baudelaire parents before their untimely infernal demise – demise, in this case, is a word which means death, or end of. Mr Poe informs the children that their parents are dead – he literally says they perished and then describes what the word perished actually means. The orphans are understandably shocked and taken aback by the news, but Mr Poe informs them not to worry as they are going to live with their legal guardian. This man has been chosen by the Baudelaires as the BEST opportunity for the orphans to live a normal life with a loving parental figure in a home where they will be treated with respect and given all of the attention they need to grow as humans into the adults which the parents always wanted them to be – alas this is not to be, as the man that has been ‘chosen’ to care for the Baudelaires is none other than the villainous, the abhorrent, Count Olof himself.
Now is the time where we stop discussing the plot because, as you may already know, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, so go and feast if I have sold you well enough. If not, how about a second helping covering direction, visuals and casting? Well okay then.
One look at the Burtonesque locations within the series is enough to be assured you are in a world of no joy and very little colour. Lake Lachrymose is dreary and dull, the old mill is bleak and monotone and the Count’s mansion is a dreadful place filled with filth, broken furniture and decorated in horrible colour schemes which bring to mind a bygone era of distaste in decor. These sets are deliberately chosen to highlight the plight and horror which befalls the orphans experience after experience. When colour is used, it is done so very cleverly and is placed intentionally to instill hope and anticipation within the viewer – like when we first meet Uncle Monty with his Tan survival kit and mansion which is filled with bursts of colour throughout, but we all know what happens to Mr Montgomery now don’t we?
Every scene within the series is true to the original source material and out of 13 books, the series has thus far covered 4 – plenty more to come. Most of the series is written by none other than Snicket himself – Daniel Handler to you and me. This creative influence proves the betterment of the series as it is able to highlight and explain each plot point in a way which the 2004 movie struggled to do within its 107-minute runtime. Handler’s fingerprints are splattered throughout the series, love, care and attention have been poured into each episode which he has written in a way that only a writer could achieve. While watching it is worth taking note of the writer choices which distinguish Handler from the veritable repertoire of other writers who were courted to help write other episodes of the show.
As with the sets, the costume design is absolute dreadful – by which of course I mean dreadful, therefore in keeping with the tone of the series. Each character is dressed smartly – even when scruffy, their costumes are accented with drops of colour – be it a hat with a small white line or a red dress with a silk outline – each one has a drop of colour, I assume in order to try and alleviate the dreadful tone of the overall production.
Whoever it was who decided that Neil Patrick Harris would make a good Count Olof deserves a raise, flowers or a cuddle from someone. Every episode which we see him in is absolutely mesmerising. Jim Carrey managed to nail down the menace and malice perfectly in the 2004 movie however always somehow just missed the ability to bring to life the more ‘camp’ and pantomime elements which make Count Olof the modern villainous character which we all know him to be. It has to be said that with a character as iconic as Count Olof, it can be very easy for an actor to try to mimic and emulate a previous performance in order to assemble the character onscreen for themselves – something which we saw in Jared Leto’s Joker from Suicide Squad.
Every episode is teeming with dread, dismay and – you guessed it – misfortune, this is usually brought about by the awful Count Olof as he schemes in order to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune.
Overall the production is solid, every joke lands perfectly – the first time you hear it and every ‘horror’ is just scary enough so as to be discernible but not too frightening so as to scare away any young viewers. NPH gives a career-best performance as Olof and we see three wonderful rising stars in the shape of the Baudelaire children. While not a perfect piece by anyone’s estimation, the series will no doubt rekindle your love and passion for all things Snicket, so long as you can look past the minor faults of direction and pacing which some episodes seem to suffer with.
Definitely add this to your list of ‘things to watch soon’ and check back very soon for my take on Kiefer Sutherland’s newest role as POTUS in the critically acclaimed, Designated Survivor.
Any comments are welcome and if there is a show that you are DYING to know more about, drop me a DM on Twitter or comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as I possibly can, until then, I bid you adieu and happy binging!