The Netflix adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events is poised to be a whimsical take on the children's books by Daniel Handler when it's released on Friday, Jan. 13. The dark series spans thirteen (ooh, spooky!) books, which incorporate absurdist and gothic fiction, mystery, and steampunk elements to flesh out the story. One of the series' signature quirks is that the narrator, Lemony Snicket, regularly interrupts the tale to warn readers of how terrible it's about to become and to advise them to stop reading. These six unfortunate events that happen in A Series of Unfortunate Events come from the first four books in the series, which make up the first season of the show.
Much like the 2004 movie adaptation of the books, Netflix decided to split the installments up to give themselves a multi-season arc. The film tackled the first few books, with filmmakers intending to churn out a franchise of sequels quickly (since the Baudelaire children do not age throughout the series, but child actors, unfortunately, do). Sadly, the second film got held up in production and they lost their shot at a franchise. Hopefully, the first season of the Netflix version is successful enough that we'll get to witness the whole series' worth of unfortunate events. But for now, here's what we have in store. Warning, book spoilers ahead!
1. The Baudelaire Parents Die
Like any classic children's story, A Series of Unfortunate Events opens on parental death. In this case, both parents of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire die at the outset of the story, giving us both sympathy for the protagonists and a sense of the adventure to come. The Baudelaires die in a house fire, which also destroys the family home. This leaves the children to fend for themselves until Violet turns 18 and can inherit the family fortune.
2. Count Olaf Receives Custody Of The Children
Mr. Poe, the banker in charge of the family fortune, leaves the children in the care of our story's antagonist, Count Olaf. He's basically the worst parent-substitute ever, with his foul temper, draconian child-rearing methods, and constant hustle to steal the children's fortune.
3. Justice Strauss Can't Take Custody Of The Children
Justice Strauss offers to take custody of the children after Count Olaf botches his plot to try and marry Violet and steal the Baudelaire fortune. This could arguably end the whole story and lead everyone to live happily ever after. But, Mr. Poe points out, the children's parents left specific instructions in their will for what should happen to the children and leaving then with Justice Strauss doesn't honor the legally binding will. So they cycle through a disastrous queue of caretakers instead.
4. Count Olaf Murders Uncle Monty
The first benevolent caretaker with whom the children are placed after escaping Olaf's clutches is their uncle, Dr. Montgomery Montgomery. He works as a herpetologist and the children love their new life! But obviously, another ~unfortunate event~ is just around the corner, and it comes in the form of Count Olaf, masquerading as the Dr. Montgomery's new assistant. The children see through the disguise, but no one believes them and Uncle Monty winds up murdered at the hands of Count Olaf, who, of course, escapes before he can be arrested.
5. Aunt Josephine "Commits Suicide"
The children are then placed with their kindly Aunt Josephine who is admittedly a little eccentric and has some phobia issues. She gets charmed by Count Olaf in disguise as a sea captain, who later stages a scene to make it look like she committed suicide and left the children in the his care.
The children discover that she isn't really dead by deciphering a code in her "suicide note" and set off to find the cave where she's being held captive, but they get caught in a hurricane along the way. They brave the storm and manage to give Olaf's henchmen the slip, but when they finally rescue Aunt Josephine, they're attacked by leeches. (Because of course they are.) A ship comes to their rescue, but it's captained by Count Olaf who leaves Aunt Josephine to die, escapes capture again, and leaves the children guardian-less once more.
6. Klaus Breaks His Glasses At The Lucky Smells Lumbermill
This leads Klaus to a visit with the local optometrist (in cahoots with Olaf, who is disguised as the receptionist Shirley). The optometrist hypnotizes Klaus and forces him to cause accidents at the lumbermill at which the children are working. This leads their new guardian who owns the lumbermill, Sir, to write a memo declaring that if there is one more accident, then he will place them in — you guessed it — Shirley's care. By the time the plot is revealed, Sir is too overwhelmed by the drama following the orphans around and gives up custody of the children.
And all this goes down in only the first third of the books, in case you had any lingering doubts about whether they were aptly titled. It's a dark road for the Baudelaire children, for sure, but their grit and relentless ingenuity is part of what makes the series so great.