When we last left the Baudelaire orphans, after a series of ‘Unfortunate Events’ with their previous guardians and near misses evading Count Olaf, Mr. Poe had dropped them off at Prufrock Preparatory School. Moved in to the Orphan Shack, teaming with crabs, the orphans discover they are not the only orphans at the school. The Quagmire triplets were also sent to the school and the children may have more in common than they first thought. But first, does anyone else think that the new gym teacher Coach Genghis looks awfully familiar?
Covering the middle four novels in the main series of novels (The Austere Academy, The Ersatz Elevator, The Vile Village and The Hostile Hospital, if you are reading along at home) these next eight episodes of A Series of Unfortunate Events are about the Baudelaire orphans trying to find out more about their parents' mysterious past and what is the connection to a secret society known at V.F.D. and how is Count Olaf involved in all of this as well?
I suppose it is what any good leader does (even if they are not a good person) is get others to follow them and to do their bidding. Harris’ Count Olaf seems to have very little to do in the first half of this second series; you may be like me and find yourself wondering when the real Count Olaf will stand up. With a song and dance number in episode four things do pick up a little and by the time everyone has arrived in the small town of V.F.D. in episode five things do pick up for Count Olaf. Harris is still wonderful, amazing, menacing and deceptively charming as the vile Count Olaf. As I said though, there is more of Count Olaf hiding in plain view and not really doing anything during those first couple episodes that left me wanting, Regardless, Harris is the consummate entertainer and his Count Olaf is still an awesome role for him.
What the show does really, really well is stock up on top shelf supporting characters. Though they may be in a couple episodes they are so good they leave a lasting memory. It runs the risk of having key characters overshadowed by such amazing supporting characters. To start Roger Bart and Kitana Turnbull are simply amazing as Vice Principal Nero and Carmelita Spats in the first two episodes of this second season that they run circles around everyone else. And that is with the Baudelaire orphans literally running circles in the school yard thanks to Count Olaf posing as the new physical education teacher at Prufrock Preparatory School.
After the Baudelaire children leave Prufrock (read run away from) Mr. Poe arranges to have them stay with Jerome and Esme Squalor, two very 'in' socialites, played by Tony Hale and Lucy Punch. Again, these two characters are played by the actors with such aplomb you almost forget that the amazing Neil Patrick Harris is in the show. Never fear, because by the end of the Baudelaire orphans' stay at 667 Dark Ave with the Squalors Count Olaf is in full swing, with his band of misfits (Jacqueline and Joyce Robbins, Usman Ally, Matty Cardarople and John DeSantis are all just wonderful) and a new member joining their crew (shh!).
Nathan FIllion has a wonderful and lionhearted turn as Jacques Snickett, brother of Patrick Warburton's Lemony Snicket, a member of the secret organization that the Baudelaire orphans' parents belonged to. David Alan Grier turns in a genteel and marvelous performance as Hal, who works at the library of records in the Heimlich Hospital. A role so genteel and dare I say grandfatherly you might just want to curl up beside him and fall asleep.
Credit has to be given to the production crew and the incredible artistic direction in the show. From the sets to the costumes and the makeup everything looks amazing. It all starts with Unfortunate Events' production designer Bo Welch and trickles down through the art, set, makeup and costume departments.
And while not exactly a comedy, this family adventure drama does have a few laugh out loud moments. With the bulk of the writing going to the original novelist Daniel Handler, screenwriter of the 2004 film as well, his adaptation of his own novels has filled me with dark delight. While I wish that entertaining and darkly delightful shows like this could go on forever, at the pace the adaptations are going, roughly two episodes per novel, it looks like the series will wrap up in the third season.