This spoiler free review is based on all ten episodes of season 2 of A SeriesOf Unfortunate Events.
When the first season of A Series Of Unfortunate Events dropped on Netflix last year, it was met with praise and acclaim. The way it caught the feeling of the series by Lemony Snicket (or, as he’s really know, Daniel Handler) far dwarfed that of the 2004 film, helmed by Brad Silberling. Albeit there’s more screen time for the story to be fleshed out, the overall tone of the tv treatment just seemed to fit a bit more.
Add to that a fine casting, and staying true to the source material, the young fans of the books upon initial release, have all grown up and were ready to appreciate a fully formed version of their beloved book series.
The second season, released on Netflix worldwide on Good Friday, March 30th, carries on the narrative of unfortunate events, told in a manner that is a joy to watch. The series picks up right where the first left off, the Baudelaire children on a bench in the Austere Academy.
The three still have their nuances that made them so engaging the first time out. Violet (Maline Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes) and youngest Sunny (Presley Smith) are as interesting as they were the first time out. The difference is now we know just how frustrating it must be, being one of the Baudelaires. Throughout the first season, we watched time and time again as all the surrounding adults failed to hear or acknowledge their cries for help, that they were indeed being pursued by Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris).
Yes, the second series may hit some similar beats, but only because it sticks to it’s source like glue. But in doing this, we become more sympathetic towards the Baudelaire’s plight. The adults always feel as though they know all the answers, when they clearly don’t. Over and over again, we see the likes of Poe (K. Todd Freeman) almost outrightly refuse to believe what the children are saying, and it’s infuriating.
There are many more reasons to enjoy than those we had first time around. The addition of some fantastic characters will please fans of the books, such as the downright awful Carmelita Spats (Kitana Turnbull) as the prefect from the Austere Academy, or the devilishly handsome and trustworthy Jacques Snicket (the fantastic Nathan Fillion). There are also the 2 remaining Quagmire triplets, who the Baudelaire’s befriend along the way.
But the MVP of the new blood must be Lucy Punch as Esme Squalor. Squalor’s character has a lot to say as the second series ticks along, though we don’t meet her until episode 3. For not wanting to spoil anything, we’ll just leave it there, but now that Punch does a fantastic job as the queen of what’s ‘in’ and ‘not in’.
And we can’t talk about ASOUE without really giving some time to Count Olaf. Neil Patrick Harris is, once more, magnificent in the role. If season one was about him outplaying Jim Carrey as the creepy villain, season two is about showing that he owns the role, and it will go down as one of his best performances.
That said, once more, all screen presence is stolen by Patrick Warburton as the author himself, Lemony Snicket. His deadpan delivery to lines about death and demise simply can’t be bested. Warburton is the epitome of Snicket, embodying all you hoped you would see of the man on screen.
But ASOUE is much more than the many actors and characters that are laden throughout the story, there is the story itself. And the mystery of the fire which ripped the Baudelaire family apart does take some resounding steps forward as come to the conclusion waiting us next year.
There are moments of genuine terror here in season two to whet the appetite until then, such as one section in the library of a hospital. As before, 2 episodes take us through one book worth of narrative, and The Hostile Hospital was always one of the better books. Couple that with the Tim Burton-esque vision that has been crafted for us, anything taking place in the Heimlich Hospital was always going to be strange. Little did I think it would be as frightening as it was.
At the end of the day, season two is a great mid step in the tale of the Baudelaire’s. The story takes great strides forward, we get introduced to some great, important characters and, ultimately, these ten episodes are great television. The performances, set pieces and tone in which everything is told does justice to what was – and still is – a seminal book series for young adults. It was a very real introduction for people of a certain age to the fact that life simply isn’t fair, but rarely has it been shown to such success.
A Series Of Unfortunate Events is released worldwide on Netflix on Friday, 30th of March.