The Baudelaire Orphans Escape Doom and Search for Answers in Final Season of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’
“A Series of Unfortunate Events” has finally reached the end of the classic series of novels penned by Daniel Handler A.K.A. Lemony Snicket. This final season of one of Netflix’s great entertainments showcases everything that has made it a true gem. It is a children’s story told with wicked humor, lots of adventure and doses of darkness. There was a time when children’s entertainment did not shy away from being dark and even express a bit of despair. “A Series of Unfortunate Events” has followed the orphaned Baudelaires as they have faced immense evils and despairing traps. Now in this final chapter they come close to finding answers about what happened to their parents, while the villains get some just desserts.
When we last saw the Baudelaires, Violet (Malina Weissman) and Klaus (Louis Hynes) were hurtling down a mountain road in a circus wagon, while the nefarious Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) had taken their baby sister Sunny (Presley Smith) hostage. As the season opens the wagon flies off a cliff, plunging Violet and Klaus into the frozen woods while Olaf and his minions take Sunny up to the peak of a gigantic mountain in order to plan their next course of action. Desperate to save Sunny, Klaus and Violet bump into a troupe of wandering scouts which includes the ever so annoying Carmelita Spats (Kitana Turnbull). But they also meet a mysterious masked kid who might be able to help to find answers about the fire that killed their wealthy parents, first by using a code based on Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.” Meanwhile Olaf is facing his own dilemma when The Man with a Beard But No Hair (Richard E. Grant) and the Woman with Hair But No Beard (Beth Grant), who were the fiend’s mentors at one point, reappear to admonish him for not having killed off the Baudelaires. Olaf of course wants the orphans’ fortunes. Unsatisfied, the Man with a Beard and the Woman with Hair might decide it could just be time to find another evil disciple.
This third season of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” indeed hurtles forward like the final book in a series that has been building up steam. Season two began with an ominous, observant tone as Klaus and Violet were thrown into a private school from hell. But now the orphans are out in the wild, on their own and having to figure out how to survive. This is the part of the story that really is all about them, after the previous seasons, which were fantastic, tended to be taken over by the colorful side characters that would parade through the plot. Now the Baudelaires take over much of the story space. But the supporting roles are still delightfully absurd and funny, like Hook-Handed Man (Usman Ally), who is tasked with watching over Sunny and does a little ice fishing with her. As always the tale is narrated by Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton), but playing a prominent role in the action is his sister, Kit Snicket (Allison Williams), who manages to jump off cliffs and fight bad guys while pregnant. This is also the season where Olaf, played with such perverse glee by Neil Patrick Harris, is put in his place by his mentors. Part of this season’s life lesson is that there are always bigger sharks out there. Olaf is not as powerful as we’ve been made to believe, and there is a moment where he even seems to show some sympathy for Sunny when The Man with a Beard and the Woman with Hair demand she be thrown down the cliff.
In classic final chapter fashion, season three also features the return of quite a few characters, nearly everyone the orphans have run across in their long journey. A final court battle will ensue, set in a hotel, where notables like Tony Hale, Joan Cusack, and Patrick Breen return as it must be decided who is truly responsible for all of the chaos and carnage of the last two seasons, Olaf or the Baudelaires. There are also some great set pieces to finish off the series including an underwater submarine adventure complete with sea monsters. But the show never loses the intelligence of the novels, using sly humor to promote the need for reading. When one character mentions that avid readers tend to be less evil, the unbearable Carmelita doses off murmuring that she only watches network TV (a possible dig from Netflix?). During the big, final trial, Sunny murmurs “Scalia” when discussing how the trial judges are interpreting the situation.
One of the joys of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” is that it has both hope and just enough darkness to help younger viewers explore how life isn’t always pretty. The Baudelaires are constantly facing moments of happiness suddenly brought down by moments of sheer hopelessness. This is a world where there are good people like the Baudelaires, and then there are the Carmelitas who will cheerfully throw someone off a cliff. One of the driving themes too is that the adults are not always right, and can be prone to be worse than the kids when it comes to being cruel and selfish. Olaf doesn’t mind keeping a baby hostage to get his money, while in another episode the Baudelaires are almost blocked from urging blindfolded people from escaping a fire due to some absurd law.
Do the Baudelaires discover the truth about their parents? If you have read the books then you know, and if you haven’t then it would not be fair to spoil. “A Series of Unfortunate Events” ends just where it should, at the point where the source material itself closes. Now available to be viewed as a whole we can appreciate its boundless creativity, savage humor and more importantly, the lessons in the tale which are just as meaningful for adults as for its intended, younger audience.
“A Series of Unfortunate Events” season three premieres Jan. 1 on Netflix.