Season two of the Netflix series “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” or ASOUE, was released on March 30. Despite the theme song’s warning to “look away,” viewers will not be able to because of the show’s well-crafted plot and clever storytelling techniques.
Based on the book series written under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket by Daniel Handler, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” follows the tale of the three Baudelaire orphans Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes), and Sunny (Presley Smith), who are pursued by the villainous Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) as they move from guardian to incapable guardian.
This is not the first adaptation of the 13-book-long series. A movie was made in 2004, and a video game based on the books and movie was released in the same year.
ASOUE gained a new lease on life 10 years later when Netflix announced plans to produce a TV series in 2014. Season one premiered on January 13, 2017, covering the first four books of the series in eight episodes.
Season two picks up right where season one left off, and the Baudelaire children’s woes continue in its 10 episodes.
Like the first installment of ASOUE, season two contains numerous elements that set it above most children’s shows. For one, the overall dark tone and messages about morality are topics heavier than the usual fare for children’s television.
Freshman Durga Mannam says, “I love the themes about good vs. evil in the show, plus the emphasis on the importance of reading and taking action against evil whenever you can. The life lessons in the show encourage kids to be more independent because, in the end, adults won’t be able to protect you from the world – only you can.”
Much like the books, allusions to both literature and pop culture abound. It’s a treat to find what references the writers sneak into each episode, be it Count Olaf’s disguise as “Detective Dupin” in a place where “the Nevermore Tree” grows or a one-liner delivered by Neil Patrick Harris referencing his role in “How I Met Your Mother.”
Foreshadowing is another of the show’s considerable strengths. Eagle-eyed fans will delight in finding repeated symbols and motifs that hint at an intricate plotline that comes to life in season two.
Clues about the mysterious organization known only as “V.F.D” are brought to light in season two as the Baudelaires continue to search for the truth behind their parents’ suspicious deaths. Additionally, the significance of a mysterious recurring symbol is further teased at.
Season two significantly picked up in terms of action by introducing new subplots and side characters. Focusing on different settings and characters allowed the plot to keep moving and allowed for a richer storyline. This added depth to the plot, which could be somewhat formulaic at times in season one.
What really stood out, however, was the show’s masterful use of breaking the fourth wall, which is a device where a creative work acknowledges the viewer.
The books used this to great effect, containing sections in second person where the author spoke directly to the reader. The TV show is just as delightfully meta, and the characters, especially Lemony Snicket and Count Olaf, broke the fourth wall in both subtle and conspicuous ways.
The most obvious way this tactic is used in the show are the parts where Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton) speaks to the audience.
Both a narrator and a character, Snicket often prefaces episodes by appealing to the viewer to stop watching because of the sheer scale of the tragedy in the Baudelaires’ lives. He also intermittently appears in the middle of various scenes to provide the definition of a word used by a character or explain what is going on.
Snicket’s deadpan tone often serves as a well-timed comic relief, but it also provides foreshadowing that deepens the plot and draws viewers further into the show’s complexities.
Freshman Hannah Segal says, “I love when Lemony Snicket comes onscreen because I know that I will be getting a humorous monologue, meaningful insight into the show, or both. For me, his narration really improved the show.”
Another aspect of season two that raised its overall quality was the stellar acting of both the original main cast and newly introduced characters.
Neil Patrick Harris plays Count Olaf with enthusiasm and brings humor to the role without ever letting the audience forget he is a villain, and the child actors playing the Baudelaires show talent beyond their years with their skill at showing emotion.
New characters Jacques Snicket (Nathan Fillion) and Olivia Caliban (Sara Rue) shine because of the actors’ chemistry. Additionally, Lucy Punch’s performance as Esmé Squalor puts a new spin on the notorious character.
It seems that for every secret uncovered by the unlucky Baudelaires, another mystery is revealed. Foreshadowing, mysteries and reveals in “A Series of Unfortunate Events” entwine to create a layered story that definitely keeps viewers wanting more long after the screen turns black.
If you both read the ASOUE books and watched the show, which did you prefer? Why?