STARRING: NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, PATRICK WARBURTON, MALINA WEISSMAN, LOUIS HYNES, K. TODD FREEMAN, PRESLEY SMITH | EPISODES REVIEWED: 1 - 7 (OF 7) | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW | WHERE TO WATCH: NETFLIX
The culmination the fantastically dark and dry humoured A Series of Unfortunate Events manages to add even more to what was already as good an adaptation of the novels as could be hoped for. The young adult books by Lemony Snicket (a pseudonym for author Daniel Handler, who is also an executive producer for the series) have been brought to life in a way that maintains loyalty to the source material in all its bizarre and confusing detail, while finding ways to subvert expectations with a unique style of storytelling.
The Season 2 finale saw Violet and Klaus Baudelaire hurtling to an apparently certain death in a rickety cart. The fact that there is a third season tells you that they get out of that. Their long-term nemesis, fortune stealer and appalling actor Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) is still after fame and fortune, but he also has problems of his own. Olaf’s mentors from long ago return to undermine him, his girlfriend Esmé Squalor (a hissable and pompous Lucy Punch) is sick of playing second fiddle, and even his loyal acting troupe are starting to lose faith.
As with the last two seasons, old characters are forgotten, new ones are introduced and others are re-introduced. Based on the final four books of Snicket’s series, a sense of dark adventure and steampunk delight always ensures that the story, however complex it may get, never fails to draw you in. The script runs with obscure literary references and overly-explained definitions that fuel the narration of the story. This narration comes once again from the fourth-wall breaking Lemony Snicket, a fantastic Patrick Warburton who continues to distinguish himself here and bags some of the best lines in the show.
The star, however, is undoubtedly Harris, who tightropes the fine line between criminal overacting and simply being criminal to give a towering performance as Olaf. This twisted villain, who can still make you laugh and despair in equal measure, keeps that crooked smile and brutality that make him such a relentless foe even when his support network seems to crumble. Harris has turned his performance into a fine art, and having anyone else in the role is almost unimaginable.
Like Olaf himself, A Series of Unfortunate Events is a dark tragedy with elements of pantomime and caricature. What would otherwise be a grim and gritty story is instead a colourful and inventive (but still dark) piece of storytelling. The extraordinary aesthetic of the final season, whisking you away to several different places, adds dressing to what is a fantastically told story. This is a show that can leave a legacy as some of Netflix’s finest original work to date.