This review contains minor spoilers from the books.
It’s been a couple of months since I sat down to watch Netflix’s final season of ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events,’ based on the books by Lemony Snicket.
I’ve said a lot about this show in my reviews of Season One and Season Two. I’m not sure there’s much more I can add when it comes to the acting, set design, or cinematography. The actors are still charming and Lemony Snicket’s dark humor is bursting through every scene.
But as the weeks have flown by, there’s really only one thing about this season that sticks out to me above everything else.
Simply put: Netflix gave us fans the ending we waited over a decade to see. And this isn’t about how Nickelodeon never completed the movie adaptations. I’m talking about the books themselves.
I spent countless hours as a kid reading these books. Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling opened the door to reading for me. Lemony Snicket pulled me in further. I loved those books. They were witty, sometimes scary, and smart. Snicket (who in real life is author Daniel Handler), doesn’t treat his readers (read: children) like idiots. While there was the straight-forward plot of unfortunate events occurring in the lives of the Baudelaires, there was a much more complicated and subtle story unfolding as well. It was a story of friends falling out, loved ones making sacrifices — a story of corruption and betrayal and despair but also of hope and education and the importance of trust in, above all, family.
And you had to really search for it.
The story was told in little clues, small throwaway lines that Snicket injected in the middle of the action. It was found in the book’s dedications, in the letters to the editors at the end of each story, in the companion books of Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography and The Beatrice Letters. I combed through each of these, grasping on to each clue, learning all the codes and deciphering each secret.
When the final novel, The End, hit shelves on Friday, October 13, 2006, I read the entire book in one day. I had done so much research and I was ready for the answers.
If you’ve read The End, you already know what I found in that book: more questions.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a sense of closure at the very end. There is. But it’s also left so open-ended. On the one hand, I loved that Snicket hadn’t answered all the questions. Again, he was leaving it in the hands of readers to come to their own conclusions. And it made the story feel so much more real. Snicket himself is a character in the books — an investigator trying to put all the pieces together. Naturally, at least in real life, there are going to be some loose ends in an investigation like that. Not everything can be wrapped up in a neat bow. I understood that and appreciated it.
Still, my investigation continued.
There were some things I was able to figure out about the ending, in large part thanks to The Beatrice Letters. I knew the young Beatrice we met at the end would eventually separate from the Baudelaires and conduct her own investigation to find them. I knew she would try to make contact with Lemony, but whether or not she’d succeed was unclear.
So when Netflix’s show chose to answer all those questions, I surprised myself by suddenly becoming emotional. In particular, the final scene left me shocked and a bit dazed. Everything rushed back to me and it felt real again. And that’s what continues to stick out to me about the show as a whole. It answers the questions and delivers the closure we all wanted from The End. It gives the characters a proper send-off.
I’ll close by saying this about the TV series: It captures the essence of the books and then some. No, that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect one-by-one adaptation (Season Three, in particular, divulges from the books more than the previous seasons). But the soul of those books is so present in the show that it makes up for any changes to the plot ten-fold. What’s more is that the show feels like a companion to the books in the same way The Beatrice Letters and The Unauthorized Autobiography are. You need to experience all of it — the novels, the companion books, the show — to fully appreciate the story.
It’s as though, a decade later, Lemony Snicket walked back into our lives to say, “I’ve learned more about the Baudelaires since we last spoke. Here’s what I’ve found
(but please don’t listen if you can avoid it).”
For the fans who, all those years ago, fell in love with those three orphans and desperately wanted to know what came next, this show has the answers and (because of that) is a treasure.