TV Review: “A Series of Unfortunate Events” Season 2 – Overwhelming

Written by Matt Butler June 01, 2018

a series of unfortunate events

A Series of Unfortunate Events is exhausting. I’m not saying it’s bad. I’m not saying it’s hard to watch. But it does feel its length. Especially in this second season. It’s a weird feeling for a longtime fan to have, much more so to write. But as with all my reviews, it’s my way of making sense of how movies and shows, unfortunate or otherwise, make us feel.

Let’s start with the positives. Most of these compliment the series as a whole, but they’re worth noting nonetheless. First off, this series captures the spirit of the books to near perfection. It understands what people love about the books and follows that to a tee, a phrase which here means they copied the formula of the books so well, it’s as if the author was a producer on the show (and wouldn’t you know). This formula is largely comprised of adultish children, childish adults, inquisitive strangers in disguises and a myriad of explanations of literary devices. If you couldn’t get enough of these in the first season, there’s plenty to go around this time. But perhaps too many?

“Does this seem like a nightmare? Because that’s the effect I was going for.”

Apart from the Wes Anderson aesthetic, these factors are what give SUE its trademark charm. But I think there’s only so far you can go. At some point or another, these devices wear thin (a phrase which does not mean these devices wear thin clothes, but rather that these devices can get old). Worse yet, they can feel repetitive. This is a consequence of the narrative, each book in the series is essentially the same story but with a new setting and characters. The Baudelaire orphans are sent to live with a less-than-adequate new guardian. Count Olaf shows up in a disguise, but only the Baudelaires are smart enough to see the truth. The orphans find themselves in terrible danger, but through their wits and determination, they escape, only to find themselves in an even worse situation in the next book.

a series of unfortunate events

Consistency is key. It’s honestly incredible just how much watching this show feels like reading the books.  But the books are excessive. They’re packed with witty banter from beginning to end, and the show is no different. It’s all the style with twice the substance. The effort’s appreciated, but it’s not needed. Sometimes we just need to take a breath. But with its wall-to-wall dialogue of constant commentaries and literaries, A Series of Unfortunate Events runs itself breathless.

“We have eyes everywhere, and we are always watching.”

Even still, the cast works fine with the wordy material. Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton) is still my favourite character in the series, with his warm affectations that betray his forboding lamentations. Neil Patrick Harris, of course, steals the show as Count Olaf (already a scene-stealing actor himself). But while he fits the role, I don’t think NPH is as funny here as he thinks he is. Like the series’ formula, Olaf’s antics can run themselves silly, veering away from playing a character and into playing for laughs (never a good idea). It’s even more overbearing when Esmé Squalor (Lucy Punch) enters the mix. She tries to match NPH’s madness but falls just short of it (a phrase which here means she’s not as good as NPH). But much like everything else, it’s direct from the book, so it’s hard to fault without it feeling like an issue of taste.

a series of unfortunate events

It’s only in the Carnivorous Carnival that things really start to pick up. We finally get some insight into long-awaited secrets, and questions finally get answered. I guess the old carrot on a stick trick worked. Netflix, you’ve done it again! I just wish the journey was worth more than the prize.

“Look away.”

I know I sound dismal about this, but I want to stress that these are good problems for a show to have. For once it’s not about a badly written story, but a ceaseless amount of good. There’s a great deal to enjoy in A Series of Unfortunate Events, it’s just a lot to take in. Its plot is underwhelming, but it’s overwhelmingly witty. It might overstimulate, but that might also be the point. And that might just be the most positive problem I’ve ever had with a TV show.

My Rating: 7/10

a series of unfortunate events

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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