We did warn you…
A series that capitalises on reverse psychology would normally have a short shelf (or streaming) life.
Constantly being told to avert our eyes or seek stories that are more pleasant does get repetitive, but it serves to act as the hook that keeps reeling us in.
Violet, Klaus and Sunny are precocious children who are respectively an inventer, a bookworm and a biter of sharp objects. Initially their skillsets are curious schticks, but soon they act as resourceful survival kits that narrowly allow them to escape just about every hair-raising situation that their guardians place them in. This varies from dealing with deadly snakes, to losing a house off the edge of a cliff and even concludes in a Stalinist gulag where the workers are brainwashed.
Yes, the adults are in charge, but they are bumbling and incompetent to the point of outright negligence.
The reason these children go from place to place, guardian to guardian, is because of a mysterious fire that engulfs their family home and their parents too.
Soon it’s clear that there’s a dark, secretive organisation that is linked behind all these events, and just when we think we’re on top of the clues, they are snatched away as soon as they’re revealed.
Literature, and the search for knowledge, is prevalent theme in the series. A sure-fire way to know if characters are good is if they have a library, whether they be a judge, a herpatologist or a grammar nazi. Look out for the sneaky canon references to the classic novels of the 19th century.
There are so many characters that it gets hard to keep track of who’s who, but particular acclaim must go to Joan Cusack as kindly neighbour Justice Strauss, Rhys Darby as apologetic doormat Charles and K Todd Freeman as careless banker Mr Poe.
Tying them all together is Neil Patrick Harris in the role of Count Olaf, the “closest” living relative played with such evil delight and theatricality it seems hard to believe that he once played Barney Stinson. Each one of his disguises are as hilarious as they transparent.
Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton) reminds us that he won’t go easy on us just because children are involved, and the brief moments of happiness are indeed fleeting and fickle.
It would be unfortunate to miss this one.
A Netflix Original Series
Side note: Do read the books, all unlucky 13. Even a series that is split in two for each episode can’t possibly fill the blanks.