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Review: “A Series of Unfortunate Events Season 2” Entertaining and Well Acted

I’ve not always been an enthusiast of A Series of Unfortunate Events and the adventures of the Baudelaire orphans. When the movie initially came out, it was a bit disappointing. But when Netflix re-imagined the books as a series, I was sold. The cast is brilliant and it has been highly entertaining, with an engaging plot and thrilling cliffhangers.  Netflix recently released the second season and I want share what I thought of the show.

Second season starts where the first season left off, with the three orphans, Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes), and Sunny (Presley Smith) being driven to yet another home by Mr. Poe (K. Todd Freeman), this time a boarding school. Their situation is not improved, the vice principal Nero (Roger Bart) making cuts in the school budget and forcing them to live in a shack. The children do make friends, with another pair of orphans, Isadora (Avi Lake) and Duncan (Dylan Kingwell) Quagmire. They soon learn that Isadora and Duncan have faced losses similar to theirs, losing their parents and their triplet brother in a fire. They also have a spyglass that is a match for their own. But the seemingly safe school is quickly infiltrated by Count Olaf and his crew of henchpeople in disguise.

Count Olaf makes things go from bad to worse. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are made to run circles every night. The children are in classes that teach them nothing important and yet are required to pass. Luckily, Violet, Klaus and Sunny compare notes with Isadora and Duncan and get assistance from the school librarian, Olivia Caliban (Sara Rue).

The series continues, plunging the children from one bad situation to another. They end up in a with a rich couple, village full of crows, a hospital and finally a carnival. They receive unexpected help from both Olivia Caliban and a mysterious taxi cab driver, Jaques Snicket (Nathan Fillion). They have little help from Poe, who while arranges their homes, does not listen or ultimately see through Count Olaf’s many disguises. But Olaf continues to track Violet, Klaus and Sunny down, getting rid of people who can help them, even kidnapping the Quagmires at one point. The question is will the Baudelaire’s figure out the spyglass and heir parent’s secrets before Olaf captures them or does worse to them.

Second season is almost as entertaining as the first season. A series allows for more of the story to be told then the movie ever could and personally, I like the actors better. There are several reasons I love this show, starting with the plot. Based on the books, the story builds on the mystery of what the Baudelaire’s parents were hiding, both why they were killed and what secrets they knew. I love the way that little details add to each element of the story. In addition, while some of the events are far fetched, the truth is children are often dismissed by the adults around them. It is feasible that when they are dismissed, Violet, Klaus and Sunny end up having to figure out events for themselves. It is occasionally silly, over the top but always engaging. I can never stop binge watching the show.

It is truly the acting that sells this show though. First, Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket is absolutely the perfect choice. His deadpan delivery makes every episode even more thrilling as you try to put together the pieces of clues that he provides as well as what the children find out. Neil Patrick Harris is slimy and hilarious as Count Olaf, even occasionally threatening and scary. His scenes with Nathion Fillion have the flavor of Dr. Horrible’s sing along video without the singing, giving the viewer a hint of Olaf’s background and motivations for chasing after the Baudelaire’s. Harris manages to give you the illusion that Olaf might turn back to good but there’s always a twist with emotion that heightens the tension of the scene.

Beyond the two men, it is the children themselves that carry the show. Malina Weissman is strong and capable as Violet and Louis Hynes intelligent. Presley Smith is adorable without being too cute, her bits some of the funniest as she uses teeth in unique ways. I love the way the show utilizes the children’s strengths but there are moments of vulnerability as they struggle with trying to do so much on their own without the support of caring adults.

Probably one of the few things I dislike is the cliffhangers, not because they don’t keep me watching but the opposite, I end up binge watching the show and then at the end of the season, sad that I have to wait months or even a year until the next season comes out. There is some predictability to the show, but this is part of what makes it fun and entertaining. If the viewer can’t put together the clues, it wouldn’t be half as exciting. The plot did meander and was a bit slower than first season and took longer to get to the heart of the story.

This series always makes me laugh, always makes me think and I love putting together the mystery of the show. The thrill of watching the children escape time and again, wondering when and if they’ll be caught by Olaf is part of the excitement of the show. I can’t wait to see what creative way the story will come up with to get the children free of their latest predicament and resolve the cliffhanger at the end of this season.

Rating: 4 spyglasses out of 5.
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