A Series of Unfortunate Events returned to Netflix this month with its long-awaited second season, and by golly, the showrunners haven’t half gone dark!
When we last left the Baudelaire orphans, they had seemingly escaped the clutches of the devilish Count Olaf and his traveling troupe of bumbling henchmen for good! But, as the title tune so often tells us, every single moment of this TV show is nothing but dismay, so it’s no surprise that their new lives with wealthy guardians are not ones filled with happiness and childish aplomb. Quite the opposite in fact, as they quickly realize that Olaf has escaped capture by the authorities and is hot on their heels once again. But this time he’s not just out to get his hands on their immense fortunes, oh no – this time Olaf wants the Baudelaires dead and he’s willing to go to any lengths to make that happen.
Based on the incredibly popular series of stories by Daniel Handler, A Series of Unfortunate Events was one of Netflix’s sleeper hits of last year, seemingly coming from nowhere and landing the streaming service its first true ageless hit, appealing to adults and kids alike. But whereas season one was heavy on the comedy – albeit black – the follow up is infinitely darker, with a shift in tone around the mid-season mark that foreshadows a potentially macabre 3rd act later down the line.
The tonal change is no bad thing, though. It is a welcomed switch much like we saw in the latter Harry Potter movies. Sure, your kids are still safe to watch by themselves, but be prepared for a few sleepless nights as they come to terms with the increasingly terrifying presence of the abominable Count Olaf – a career-defining turn by Neil Patrick Harris that completely erases any memories of Barney Stinson or Doogie Howser M.D.
Joining the cast this season is genre favorite Nathan Fillion as the hunky and heroic Jacques Snicket and Sara Rue, who captivates as librarian-come-spy Olivia Caliban. Lucy Punch, Roger Bart, and Tony Hale are amongst the other big names brought on board to pad out the already stellar cast. And fear not, for those of you who need your fix of his deep tones, Patrick Warburton is back as narrator Lemony Snicket.
The only criticism anyone can truly have with A Series of Unfortunate Events is that it is very much a rinse and repeat formula. Count Olaf shows up in some ridiculous disguise that fools everyone except the orphans. He is outwitted at every turn. The Baudelaire’s escape, only for the same thing to happen again and again and again. Fortunately, the performances (and that includes those of the Baudelaires, who are brilliant instead of annoying), great writing, and beautiful visuals are enough to keep you suitably entertained, rather than bored. Season 2 starts out pretty much the same way, but this time the writers have given Olaf that true sense of menace he was lacking before, and you truly begin to feel like you shouldn’t have dismissed all of those warnings from Lemony Snicket throughout his narration.
There are currently no dates available for the third (and final) installment of the series, but rest assured it is happening. Netflix confirmed almost as soon as season 1 landed that it was committed to completing the story. So while you’re waiting for that to materialize, we’d recommend revisiting the whole saga so far just so you can see clearly how much the show has evolved since its premiere. We described season 1 in our review (below) as being “fortunately an unmissable series,” and we stand by that here, but unlike before, A Series of Unfortunate Events season 2 really hits home how unfortunate things are going to get and for us viewers that guarantees some great TV.
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