Netflix review: An overt opinion

Elizabeth Shewan, Staff writer

Overt is a word which here means bravely and publicly stated, for which the humble journalist should not be subjected to ridicule.

The Netflix original series “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events” premiered this month. Based on the 13 children’s books by Daniel Handler, better known as Lemony Snicket, the series adapts each of the first four books into two 45 minute episodes.

The story revolves around the three Baudelaire children, Violet, portrayed by Malina Weissman, Klaus, played by Louis Hynes, and Sunny played by Presley Smith.  The children lose their parents in a fire that destroys their home, and are passed between a series of guardians.

The children are  pursued by Count Olaf, played by Neil Patrick Harris, who is trying to steal the enormous fortune left to them by their parents.

Along the way, the children learn about the mysterious secret organization their parents were a part of, VFD.

As someone who read and loved “A Series of Unfortunate Events” as a kid, the Netflix series did not disappoint.

It appealed to both my childhood memories and my now more adult taste in television.

The series takes a number of elements from the books such as frequently and sincerely encouraging the viewer to stop watching in order to avoid the miseries of the Baudelaires, and defining words with a sentence starting with the phrase “A word which here means…”

The series, supposedly full of “nothing but horror and inconvenience,” also manages to be clever and humorous.

A large part of this is Harris in the role of Count Olaf.  Count Olaf is a despicable, dreadful and unwashed person, however, Harris makes the character undeniably funny and appealing in his villainy.

The children are all competently portrayed, and they really come across as the kind, intelligent, very unlucky children they are. Even Smith as Sunny, an infant, has a distinct personality.

Besides being a faithful adaptation of the material from the books, the series also expands upon the world from the books.

The books are limited to the perspective and experiences of the Baudelaire children but the series is not, an opportunity which it uses to develop upon VFD, a mysterious secret organization, and its agents.

The series shows VFD’s operatives decoding messages, using secret passages, and tangling with villains, an interesting perspective for one who is familiar with just the perspective of the children.

There are also several clever references to the canon of the books, just subtle enough to pass unnoticed to one who did not read each of the 13 books several times over.  You know, if such people exist.

One of the worst parts of a book adapted to a TV show or movie is  usually how drastically different the show is from the book.  This series did a fantastic job combining canon and new material into a show that readers and watchers alike would want to watch.

Visually, the show is striking. The sets are slightly fairy-tale-like, contrasting light and dark elements, overall creating a pleasing and atmospheric effect.

Altogether, given the place of the books in my childhood, my expectations were high and Netflix did not disappoint.

A Series of Unfortunate Events stands up to watching, and re-watching, and nicely invokes nostalgia while also making an excellent show.