Self-proclaimed adolescent bookworms of the early 2000s: I come to you with enthusiastic tidings. Author Lemony Snicket’s––the pen name of Daniel Handler––beloved, bizarre children’s mystery novels A Series of Unfortunate Events are going to be adapted into a Netflix series. Upon hearing the news, my immediate reaction was one of pure excitement. This twisted, darkly comical collection of books was one of my most cherished literary treasures throughout elementary school and beyond. Like so many others, I loved the novels for their incredibly captivating story lines and narrative style that were unlike anything else in children’s fiction. As Netflix Vice President of Original Content Cindy Holland put it, “The world created by Lemony Snicket is unique, darkly funny and relatable.”
For those of you unfamiliar with the series––something that is truly unfortunate––it follows the darkly ludicrous lives of the three Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and Sunny, whose parents die in a fire that destroys their mansion. After being placed in the brief guardianship of their villainous distant relative Count Olaf, the children spend the rest of the series being pursued by Olaf as he disguises himself and concocts dangerous, absurd schemes to get his hands on the Baudelaire fortune that is supposed to be bequeathed to Violet when she turns 18. While a bit formulaic, the adventures that the children experience are strange, suspenseful and transfixing.
Apart from the plot itself, one of the best aspects of the series is the intelligence and resolve of the children. No matter how many adults dismiss their cries about Olaf in disguise and no matter how many friends of theirs Olaf kills in his pursuit to get their fortune, the children press onward with impressive courage. They constantly come up with daring ways to keep their family safe and out of Olaf’s clutches even when all seems lost.
I am sincerely hoping that Netflix will avoid any similarities in its production to the god-awful 2004 film adaptation of the series. The movie was kitschy and the humor was forced. The darker elements were ignored. The worst part was that the perpetually silly Jim Carrey portrayed the murderous, diabolical Olaf. In summation, the film was a trainwreck.
I have high hopes that Netflix will strive to successfully create a series that accurately reflects the darker elements of the stories along with the unique brand of mystery and dry humor that made A Series of Unfortunate Events so iconic, especially because the age demographic will primarily be teens and 20-something-year-olds. I’m definitely going to revisit the world of the Baudelaire children in print before I see it come to life on my computer screen.