Despite all warnings to look away and watch something else, I tuned into the final season of Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” this past week. The last seven episodes delivered what I think are a pretty satisfying conclusion to an adaptation of a book series I enjoyed reading as a kid. For those unfamiliar who are with the book series and haven’t started the show, it might be difficult to get into. But for those who liked the books, you’ll want to watch this show start to finish.
Before talking about season 3, I’ll give a brief summary of the show as a whole for those who haven’t started it. A good way to sum it up is like a darker version of Pixar. If Pixar is what adults watch with their kids as an excuse to cry, then this is what adults can watch with their kids as an excuse to think and talk about human nature and social issues. This show can make you laugh, and while it may not make you cry, you won’t leave any episode feeling at all warm or fuzzy. So if you’ve ever wished kids shows would do less sugar coating and deliver less happy endings, this could be your cup of tea — a phrase which here means that it will be uniquely appealing to you, provided that nobody has lost the metaphorical sugar bowl.
The third season, though it retains much of the overall feel of the first two, dialed the comedy down in favor of thematic development. Book fans have probably noticed that the show follows the plot of the books, while also making some significant deviations and showing things that aren’t found in the books. Small aspects of the story have been changed or presented differently, but the tone and theme of the source material is retained. This sort of deviation is the thing that I find to be often the defining aspect of the best movies and shows adapted from books, and it is my favorite thing about this season. I love that the show did this because it kept me guessing, and gave me hope that certain things might turn out differently than in the books and that the show could answer some questions that the books haven’t.
The characters we’ve come to love or hate return and pretty much deliver on what we’ve come to expect of them. I continued to be surprised by how genuinely funny Neil Patrick Harris is as Count Olaf. Although the actors playing Violet (Malina Weissman) and Klaus (Louis Hynes) have improved since season 1, they are still pretty annoying to watch. They don’t ruin it, but their wooden performances have always been the worst aspect of the show.
Esme Squalor (Lucy Punch) and the hench-people weren’t quite as good this season in my opinion, but the show also had a bit less room for them. The same goes for Mr. Arthur Poe (K. Todd Freeman), who continues to appear in every episode despite not being in most of the later books. Some of the other adult actors can be pretty funny as well, but some come off much more like the bumbling idiots who are portrayed in children’s movies. As with past seasons, some cameos are also made by famous actors.
Despite being a kid-friendly show, it definitely has a lot to offer to older viewers. The show discusses some deep themes and ideas that aren’t found in most other shows marketed towards kids. There are a lot of questions raised that, while are not really thought of as inappropriate or too advanced for young audiences, are topics rarely brought up around kids. From the very start of the show, there is a disparity of tone that jumps between light, humorous moments and tragic deaths. People give “Game of Thrones” credit for being unafraid to kill off people’s favorite characters, but it gives “Game of Thrones” a run for its money when looking at the body count across the series.
As the show approaches its conclusion, more secrets about V.F.D., a secret organization, are revealed. The idea that someone can be truly noble in a world full of wicked people is thrown ever further into question. The series is certainly not the first story to play with the theme of doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, but it does so more thoroughly than others have.
With Netflix coming out with new original content seemingly every day, it’s hard to figure out which are actually worth watching. If you’re looking for something light or something thought-provoking to binge this winter, I would definitely recommend that you try this very unique show.