By Joanna McCoy (@jojohugstrees)
Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, boasting a strong cast, clever writing, and a lot of Neil Patrick Harris, all makes for a delicious television recipe. The series is split up into two episode tales creating a total of eight episodes. Starting with the first two episodes, The Bad Beginning: Parts 1 and 2., the show opens with a gloomy introduction from the author himself, Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton), who wastes no time in warning the audience to immediately watch something else for the tale of the Baudelaires is sad and just...unfortunate. Nothing good can come of this show he states, but despite the caution, most of us choose to continue to play the episodes.
The first two episodes introduce us to the Baudelaire children: Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes), and Sunny (Presley Smith). Violet is the inventor, Klaus a bookworm and Sunny, well, she enjoys chewing hard objects with her razor-sharp teeth. We find the Baudelaires in an unfortunate situation. They've just received the news from Mr. Poe (K. Todd Freeman) that their parents have died and they are going to stay with their “closest living relative,” as was described in their parent’s will. However, after a night with the Poe family, they are not given to their “closest living relative,” much as we'd understand the term but are instead placed with Count Olaf, who is neither related to the children nor likes them very much, just happens to live closest to the Baudelaires. Count Olaf is an aspiring actor and major kudos to (IRL) master actor Neil Patrick Harris for hilariously switching between looks of disgust and annoyance when dealing with the orphans. The Baudelaires are to inherit a large sum of money once Violet turns 15 and it is this sum of money that Count Olaf wants access to. They are placed in his although large, run-down mansion where they are given only one bed to share among the three of them, barely any food, and difficult chores to complete on a daily basis. They find comfort in their neighbor, Justice Strauss (Joan Cusack), who has a beautiful library that the children like to spend time in.
We get to meet Count Olaf’s band (or shall we say gang in this case) of actors who are just as horrible at acting as he is. They are comprised of two twin elderly women, a tall man with no hair and small teeth, a guy with a bowl haircut, and his henchman, a man with no hands. It’s quite an interesting crew. He gives the children the task of making a meal for the troupe and sends them over to Justice Strauss’ house to peruse her library for recipes. While there, they find a recipe of puttanesca sauce and homemade pasta, and go to the grocery store to collect the ingredients. They come back to the mansion where they are greeted by a song about Count Olaf, to which they begrudgingly clap for and begin making dinner for Count Olaf and his friends. After serving the actors, they reach Count Olaf who rebukes the dinner, saying that he wanted roast beef and not pasta. The scene escalates and ends with Count Olaf smacking Klaus across the face who responds that their condition isn’t better than nothing. The first episode ends with the Justice Strauss reading a book on adoption law and shows a book from earlier in the episode, The Incomplete History of Secrets still sticking out on the bookshelf; a possible clue to explain the symbol of the eye on both the Baudelaire’s telescope and Count Olaf’s ankle. But, lo and behold the surprise at the end of the first episode, it looks like the Baudelaire’s aren’t orphans after all and both their mom and their dad are alive; possibly kidnapped, but alive nonetheless.
In episode 2/part 2 of The Bad Beginning, Mr. Poe opens the scene with a coughing fit, which seems to be getting worse. Lemony Snicket appears telling a brief summary of the Baudelaire children’s story from episode one and the awful, sad story that lay ahead in the second episode.
Count Olaf is on his way to the bank to pay Mr. Poe a visit. He gathers his costume from multiple people on the street and makes his way into the bank where he adopts the fake name of Yessica Haircut and takes the Baudelaire file from Jaclyn to Mr. Poe. We find out that Jacquelyn (Sara Canning), Mr. Poe’s receptionist has the same telescope as the Baudelaire parents and makes her way to spy on who she suspects is Count Olaf’s crew. She is tied up to a tree in a remote park and left there by the actor’s largest crew member.
The children make their way over to Mr. Poe to tell him that they cannot stay with Count Olaf and the physical threat that he is to the kids, citing Klaus’s slap on his face. Mr. Poe defends Count Olaf, explaining the word, "In Loco Parentis," which is Latin for acting as a parent, which is what Count Olaf is doing, or says that he is doing.
We further find out that Mr. Poe’s new secretary is actually one of Count Olaf’s henchman, who has hooks for hands, and takes the Baudelaire’s back to Count Olaf’s. Count Olaf is waiting for them there with raspberry cupcakes and a proposition, to be actors in his play, The Marvelous Marriage by Al Fonkoot. It is the story of a man, Count Olaf who is to wed a bride, played by Violet. After devouring a raspberry cupcake, he sends the children to Justice Strauss’ house. They find her in the library and begin their research on the theater, which expands into research on marriage. After staying up all night and doing what he does best, reading books, Klaus reads the book to find the real reason behind Count Olaf’s play, to marry Violet and claim the Baudelaire fortune. He tells Count Olaf of his discovery, and Count Olaf show’s the children the rest of his plan. Up at the top of the house they find Sunny in a birdcage outside the window tied up and duck taped. If Violet doesn’t marry Count Olaf, then Sunny will be dropped. With her back against the wall, Violet agrees to marry Count Olaf, but Violet has other things in mind. That night she attempts to rescue Sunny using one of her inventions, a grappling hook, only to be found out by the handless henchman.
The show goes on nonetheless and the next night, Count Olaf conducts his play. In the audience we see Mr. Poe and his journalist wife as well as Jaclyn and Gustav who appear to be a part of a secret hidden society who know of the Baudelaire children and their well-being. Near the end of the show, Count Olaf and Violet enter the stage to perform their marriage scene led by Justice Strauss who has no idea of the realness of the marriage ceremony. Justice Strauss marries Count Olaf and Violet, making them sign a marriage license which turns out to be real. Count Olaf announces the marriage to the audience who is aghast in horror and dismay. Sunny and Count Olaf’s henchman show up together, but now the henchman is duck taped and tied up because he lost in a poker game to Sunny. But wait! Lo and behold, Violet tricks Count Olaf. She signed the marriage license with her left hand. After debating whether the marriage is legally binding or invalid, Justice Strauss claims that she doesn’t know which way it goes, and Klaus enters the stage (literally) and gives a compelling argument citing why the marriage is invalid. Justice Strauss rules the marriage invalid, but before anyone can catch Count Olaf, the stage goes dark and Count Olaf whispers into Violet’s ear that he will claim the Baudelaire’s fortune and rip the kids limb from limb after he gets it.
He escapes through the underground tunnel with the rest of his troupe, fleeing to a vigorously fixed destination. The children say goodbye to Justice Strauss and travel to their next destination, an uncle they’ve never heard of, Dr. Montgomery. All seems to go accordingly until we see Gustav shot with a dart and fall into a pond at his destination. But while Jaclyn and Gustav are struggling to save the children, the Baudelaire parents are fighting to get out of their cells; Mrs. Baudelaire making a grappling hook and Mr. Baudelaire carving a door into the ground. We will find the children at their vigorously fixed destination in episode 3 at The Reptile Room: part 1.