It is with the utmost misfortune that Netflix has decided to release it’s newest addition, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, on this most ironically dreadful day. Fair warning readers: if you are reading this in hopes of finding a new series to occupy your time, then stay away from this series. If you are looking for an uplifting series full of characters with unwavering happiness in the face of certain despair, you will not find it here. Instead, the good employees of Netflix have, for some lugubrious reason, decided to infect their normally upbeat queue with a series of a most unfortunate and forlorn nature, a word which here means “pitifully sad and abandoned or lonely.”
Of course, this sorrowful story will leave you with anything but a depressed mood. Although Mr. Snicket would have you pick any other show but this one, it would be nearly impossible to stay away from such a unique take on his classic novels, which many readers have been familiar with ever since their childhood. For those viewers who find the books too erratic or too melancholy to suffer through, or those who simply do not enjoy reading, then the 2004 film adaptation would serve as an acceptable substitute, although it certainly dulled the darker aspects of the novels. Although Jim Carrey’s performance as the dreaded Count Olaf was hailed with praise, the film, like the first novel, was doomed right from the (bad) beginning: to encompass all of the subplots and characters from thirteen books into a two hour film was impossible. It did it’s best by arming itself with wonderful performances by the actors (including vivacious and certainly not “overrated” acting from Meryl Streep), the story ultimately had to wrap itself up before it even had time to dig into the gritty tragedies that plagued the Baudelaire orphans.
Enter, stage right, the figurative (Not literal, as the show makes a point to distinguish between the two words) “understudy” of the film. Where the film revolved more around the comedic nature of Carrey’s performance, this new rendition decidedly puts more emphasis on the intuitive and resourceful nature of childhood, juxtaposed against the seemingly uninterested, unthinking, and unknowing perspective that the adults have when trying to “listen” to these children, especially prevalent when they interact with Mr. Poe, the exceedingly frustrating banker from Mulctuary Money Management who never quite seems to grasp the idea that they are much more knowledgeable and understanding than he is, and quite possibly ever will be. The standout hit, however, comes in the form of the man himself: the great Neil Patrick Harris. Not only has he slipped into Count Olaf’s shoes so beautifully, he also steals every scene he appears in. To be able to act as a notoriously wicked man who himself also acts in different disguises is not easily done, but NPH has certainly set the bar high, probably higher than anyone else ever will be able to reach.
This is not to take away from Carrey’s interpretation; if he were to have returned to the role instead of Harris, there is no doubt that he would absolutely raise the stakes just as he did the first time. As I said before, however, this dismal yet hopeful story demanded to be told on the small screen. The story goes much further into more and more unfortunate territory. Carrey was fantastic, and Harris is equally spectacular, but as far as storytelling goes, Netflix takes the cake with their first release of 2017. As gloomy and bleak as it may seem, you won’t be able to stop watching.