To look away, or not?

By Daniel Cheung


Look away, look away / This show will wreck your evening, your whole life, and your day / Every single episode is nothing but dismay.”

To an ordinary person, these lines may seem arbitrary and part of a random song on the Internet. But to the occasional Netflix-goer, these lines are from the opening song of the dark yet thrilling: A Series of Unfortunate Events.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, based on the critically-acclaimed book series by Daniel Handler, follows three Baudelaire children being left orphaned by a mysterious fire that claimed their parent’s lives and their mansion. The Baudelaires end up in the care of Count Olaf, who seem to be simply abnormal but turned out to be pure evil. After they flee from Count Olaf, they bounce from guardian from guardian, but Count Olaf is always one step ahead of them. As the story progresses, the children get caught up in a flurry of secret organisations, a sugar bowl, and a deadly fungus.

The characters in this show are very interesting, each with its own quirks. Violet, the oldest of the Baudelaire children, is an extraordinary inventor who can make anything with even with the most obscure materials. Klaus, the middle child, is a walking dictionary whose logic and literacy skills are unmatched. The youngest of the siblings, Sunny, is a baby with surprisingly hard teeth which can shape anything from rocks and can grate food. The main antagonist of this show, Count Olaf is an aspiring actor who has horrible disguises and a tendency to talk in poetry. The show is so carefully produced in a way that even supporting characters have their own traits. This is one of the factors that makes this show so captivating.
Another factor why this show is so entertaining is the clever, recurring jokes and one-liners.

Mr Poe (the Baudelaires’ banker in charge of orphan affairs): “Your parents have perished in a terrible fire.” (silence) “Perished means killed.” Klaus: “We know what perished means.”

This is just one example of many carefully thought out and cleverly built jokes. Some jokes include comedic timing wordplay, but most revolve around dark humour. Even though the Baudelaire children go through harsh perils with the extra burden of getting captured at every turn, the show somehow fits in witty jokes to make the Baudelaires’ trials not seem dangerous at all.

The iconic theme song that belts out at the start of every episode makes this movie all the better. The song is so cleverly written that “look[ing] away” as the song states, makes you want to keep watching and find out what is going to happen next. But the best part of the song is the middle verses, where the lyrics change in accordance with the episode, giving the viewer a short overview of what is to come.

Unfortunately, if you’re more of an old-fashioned person that prefers the books over the movies (or TV show), you might be a bit disappointed. The books are more mysterious and incomplete than the Netflix show. For example, in the show, we are told of all the characters’ whereabouts, but in the books, it ends on a more obscure note, where the reader is left unsure and perplexed of the conclusion.

The very first line of the show goes as follows: “If you are interested in stories with happy endings, then you would be better off somewhere else.” But, I beg to differ. Despite its grotesque and uncomfortable storyline, this show, A Series of Unfortunate Events, is a show well worth watching.