Season two of Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events premieres this week and we’re pleased to announce the series’ dark wit and whimsy remains undiluted. The Baudelaire children remain on the run from their nefarious Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) out to steal the fortune their parents left them. The first season covered the first four books in the acclaimed literary series, and season two will cover the following five in ten episodes – The Austere Academy, The Ersatz Elevator, The Vile Village, The Hostile Hospital and The Carnivorous Carnival.
Geek got a sneak peek at the first half of the season, and as with season one, half the fun is meeting the revolving door of beneficent, predatory and often oblivious people who come into the lives of the Baudelaires. Speaking to Geek at WonderCon this past weekend, Nathan Fillion, one of the many exciting new additions to this season’s cast, expressed his excitement to enter Barry Sonnenfeld’s dystopic but undeniably charming adaptation of the Daniel Handler books.
The sheer visual just the visual nature of this program is so beautiful in its ugliness. When it’s ugly, it’s gorgeous. I wanted to be a part of something so cinematic. I mean it is so beautiful. Its words are eloquent there’s rhythms that are fantastic… It drives me crazy when people talk to kids in a higher voice. Hey are you good? It’s a way of telling kids “I think you’re stupid,” and this show doesn’t dumb it down a lot for kids. And it is dark and it is dramatic. I think it’s a fantastic introduction to younger audience to the fact that bad things happen in life, man. Sometimes things shake out and its awful.
Fillion plays Jaques Snicket, narrator Lemony Snicket’s brother, and when asked if his fate would match that of so many other characters out to help the Baudelaire children, he was predictably vague:
Well, I haven’t read the books, I don’t know how bad it gets for Jaques. Without spoiling anything, I could say, I sure hope things work out well for Jaques, but my want is to say it’ll probably be unfortunate.
The looming dread that permeates the series is actually its greatest strength. As Violet, Klaus and Sunny deal with the enormity of the tragedy that follows them around, their resilience in the face of adversity makes the story incredibly hopeful and astonishingly resonant. This is in no small part due to the offbeat humor Sonnenfeld brings to all of his work. As bad as things get, they’re almost always funnier than they are upsetting, and that contributes to the overall otherworldliness of the show’s universe — often the thing that allows us to keep watching as these children are victimized over and over.
That said, if you’re just tuning in to see what cartoonish villains pop up episode to episode, you won’t be disappointed. Roger Berg (Episodes) appears as Vice Principal Nero, a trollish little man from The Austere Academy, who attempts to live up to his namesake even to the points of screeching out terrible violin performances instead of actually running his school. Tony Hale and Lucy Punch are delightful as the wealthy, mismatched couple who take in the Baudelaires in episodes three and four (following the events of The Ersatz Elevator).
While most of the people who turn up in the Baudelaire’s world are two-dimensional, the rapid pace with which the series moves through each chapter of their lives ensures we don’t stick around long enough for anyone to become too grating. And even if things did feel sluggish (they don’t), the enormous talent of the Malina Weissman (Violet), Louis Hynes (Klaus) and Presley Smith (Sunny) would more than carry things through.
All three actors (yes, including the baby) are a testament to the fact that while occasionally child actors can be the weight that drags an otherwise good story down, in some cases, they’re its engine. It’s no easy feat to manage to balance the reality of how dire their situation is with the sheer absurdity of it all. They do so, so successfully, that we’re almost looking forward to what horrific fate befalls them next if only to see how they use their wits to fight their way out. And we supposed Neil Patrick Harris deserves some credit too for refusing to allow his wily Count Olaf bits to get at all stale. His partnership with a deplorable spoiled brat at The Austere Academy is easily one of the highlights of the season.
If you’re a returning fan of this oddly adorable little series, you won’t be disappointed. And as a matter of fact, if you’re a newcomer and don’t have time to binge season one, you can pretty easily jump into season two (though we don’t know why you’d want to deprive yourself of any of it).