Death of the Critic

A Series of Unfortunate Events - Review - Season One

Written by: Carmen Schwierking

"If you are interested in stories with happy endings, then you are better off somewhere else.”


When the Netflix television show adaptation of
A Series of Unfortunate Events was announced, I was hesitant. Like many other fans I remembered the trainwreck that the movie adaptation became and I went into the show with trepidation. I’m so happy to say that the TV show has surpassed all of my expectations.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a book series that follows the story of the Baudelaire children, three siblings that become orphans after a fire destroys their home and kills their parents. The novels follow their journey while they are passed between guardians and bleak circumstances. The Baudelaires have been left an enormous inheritance and because they are children, many villainous adults try to snatch the money with easy schemes. But the children are described as “unlikely, but clever,” and they find out there’s more than what is easily seen.

The beauty of this adaptation is how alike it is to the source material. The script of the characters is usually directly pulled from the dialog in the books and it never sounds out of place. Most of the scenes directly line up in setting, tone, and pacing with only minor changes to more fit a visual interpretation. When elements do deviate from the books, they never feel too out of place from the universe of the novels or the show.

Most of the outer moments in the show revolve around extra character interactions. This works well with the excellent casting of all major and minor characters in the show. Neil Patrick Harris does a wonderful job showing the many sides of Count Olaf, from the wacky bad actor to serious and sinister villain. While it could be said that Count Olaf is rarely a funny character in the books, the more comical interpretation fits well in the television universe.

The rest of the cast also seem to be a perfect fit. And while in the book illustrations, many of the main and side characters appear to be Caucasian, the show has opened up to a much more diverse set of roles. I was overjoyed when I saw that K. Todd Freeman was playing Mr. Poe as he is one of the characters that appears over and over again. Even characters that only appear in one or a few books are played by non-white actors such as Usman Alley, Cleo King, Alfre Woodard, Aasif Mandvi, and several others. As a multiracial person, the diverse casting means a lot to me and directly enhanced my enjoyment.

I had some worries about the direction of the show as I watched the episodes. The end of the first episode seems to imply that the parents are actually alive. That was something never hinted at in the books at all and, as it was similar of the main twists that ruined the movie, I was quite wary. However, I tried to take each extra scene at its value in the show and the end of that plot line was one of the most gratifying twists I could have received as a fan of the novels. I don’t know if it will be as satisfying to viewers that are unfamiliar with the books.

It does need to be stated, if one did not like the books at all, it is very probable that they will not enjoy the show. It is so faithful in content and tone that it cannot easily be separated.

My one major complaint has to do with the CGI in the show. Computer graphics are not bad by themselves, and most of the time, they are well done by the production team. The main problem is the lack of consistency with the intended tone. Many moments of the show have CGI elements that are realistic and quite believable. Other elements are played up in their ridiculousness as compared to the world we exist in. Some moments, however, are jarring and took me out of the show due to either the wrong tone or the technology just not working like it was supposed to. I hope the next seasons can work out a consistent tone for the effects.

A good place to start would be with Sunny Baudelaire. She is the youngest of the three siblings and an infant. As one would expect, there are practical difficulties in having a baby as one of the main characters. She is played by Presley Smith for all of the acting sequences and in her “speaking” parts is voiced by Tara Strong. It is clear sometimes that Smith did not do what the directors were hoping as they use CGI on her face to varying degrees of success. It is also sometimes noticeable that the other actors are holding a baby doll and not a real baby. The characters also often put Sunny on a chair or some place out of frame from the other actors. It seems strange after a while that she is always placed to the side when she is an integral part of most scenes that she is in throughout the books.

I hope that the CGI lends to the more ridiculous side in the following seasons. It would add to the more comedic areas of the show and work well with the established tone. With all of the bizarre things that do happen in the books, I was surprised that some things were left out. In the climax of the fourth book, a sword fight breaks out between a villain’s cane saber and Sunny Baudelaire’s sharp teeth. That moment is sadly nonexistent in the episode.

Despite some weird moments with animated effects, I was left with almost nothing but good feelings as I finished each episode and the season. If you are a fan of the books, watching this is essential. If you’ve never read the books, you won’t find a more faithful adaptation of anything anywhere. I would recommend this to anyone to watch and I cannot wait for the next season.


Our review code can be found here for information on how we write and score our reviews. If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or concerns, please contact us at


Carmen E. Schwierking is the artist and designer for Caramel Comics and a preschool teacher. If they have any free time, they might play a video game or eat a meal.

You Might Also Like:
Rogue One - Review

Anatomy of a Scene - Sicario

Suicide Squad - Review

blog comments powered by Disqus