♪ Look away, look away – there’s nothing but mediocre writing and spoilers on the way ♪
It is my duty to inform you of the conclusion of this serialised melodrama – a phrase which here refers to the numerous trials and tribulations of the Baudelaires in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. This year’s conundrum of esoterica followed the last of the thirteen books, featuring The Beatrice Letters.
We left our intrepid orphans driving away from the ashes of Caligari Carnival with Sunny kidnapped by Count Olaf, and Violet and Klaus on a literal cliffhanger. The Slippery Slope sped swiftly onwards from there, with the discovery of the VFD headquarters and the survivor of the fire, Quigley Quagmire (Dylan Kingwell). Sunny (Presley Smith) shined as she volunteered to spy on Olaf, tying her hair up to signify her ability to invent something to escape. Ever evolving, this series moves away from the format of clueless custodians and hopeless homes as the Baudelaires investigate V.F. D, clues to find The Last Safe Place. Following Quigley’s journey close behind them, and Kit’s (Allison Williams) misadventures across the mountains (in a dragonfly hand-gliding outfit, wow), it’s clear that the Baudelaires are no longer alone in their journey.
The Grim Grotto was an underwater detour as Fiona Widdershins is also on a hunt for the infamous sugar bowl. Though her romance with Klaus, like Violet’s private romantic interlude with Quigley, is faithful to the books and sweet, it did seem heteronormative and particularly rushed, with little to justify Klaus’ sudden belief in Fiona’s goodness. This chapter was needed to establish key plot points like the revelation of Hooky as Fiona’s lost brother Fernald and the introduction of the Medusoid Mycelium, but personally, this duo of episodes were my least favourite. However, highlights included Sunny’s progression from ‘biter’ to ‘chef’ and Esmé Squalor’s (Lucy Punch) ability to produce an ‘in’ wardrobe for any given climate – credit to costume designer Cynthia Ann Summers.
Penultimate Peril was my favourite installment in a while, moving away from the previous desolation to the Hotel Denouement. As the Thursday meeting approaches, it is filled with familiar faces including the charming duo of Babs and Jerome who *plot twist* aren’t partners, but have met same sex partners elsewhere. Max Greenfield’s Denouement triplets: villain Ernest, volunteer Frank and the elusive Dewey, Bo Welch’s actualisation of the library of rooms and the unnerving clock chiming ‘WRONG!’ created an excellent, mysterious atmosphere. The return of Joan Cusack’s Justice Strauss maintained her well-meaning yet clueless streak, her legal case exploring the philosophical dilemma of Olaf’s evil deeds and the retaliatory actions of the Baudelaires.
The End was only one episode, a wise decision considering the irrelevance of the island people, instead favouring the main storyline – the Medusoid Mycelium infection, Kit’s pregnancy, the return of the Incredibly Deadly Viper (what a legend) and the legacy of the Baudelaire parents. Morena Baccharin’s Beatrice was an entrancing opera singer and seeing both of them in the island flashbacks really brought home how they loved their children and everything they taught them.
This series may have achieved the most perfect balance of staying true to the text and providing something a little more, framing The End with the meeting of Lemony and little Beatrice, rather than just coded letters. Realising that Lemony sacrificed his freedom for Beatrice the first and spent his life searching for and documenting the bravery of her children is such a powerful arc that puts Severus Snape to shame. The earlier controversial decision to cast Patrick Warburton rather than use an anonymous voice made far more sense, and seeing his backstory brought emotive weight to his narration.
Daniel Handler’s heavy involvement in the producing and writing, the charming casting throughout and the design of this suburban gothic reality have all played their parts in producing an adaptation that every bibliophile dreams of. We got 25 gorgeous episodes that quoted the books almost verbatim, the reassurance of peaceful reunions to counteract the bloodshed, and most of all, the appropriate actualisation of so many iconic characters. I grew up looking up to Violet, Sunny and Klaus, so I’ll always want to know about the female Finnish pirate adventure, but I take comfort in knowing: “Sometimes the chapter might end, but that doesn’t mean the story is over, and some stories go on, even after the storyteller has stopped telling them.”
by Fatima Sheriff
Fatima is a third year biomed at the University of Sheffield. For insight into her personality, her favourite films are: Bright Star, Paddington 2, Taare Zameen Par and Pride & Prejudice and in 2017 she listened mostly to the Hidden Figures soundtrack. Mainly she is an avid TV watcher, particularly shows with original concepts, witty writing and diverse casting. Examples include Legion, Gravity Falls, The Hour, Gilmore Girls, Sense8... and for more, her Twitter and TVShowTime are both @lafatimayette.