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A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS Recap: “Room” for a Change

A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS Recap: “Room” for a Change

I am sorry to tell you, dear reader, that this recap of the A Series of Unfortunate Events episode “The Reptile Room: Part One,” has spoilers in the beginning, spoilers at the end, and very few moments of non-spoilage in between. Should you prefer to be surprised, it is suggested that you navigate–which in this case means “browse elsewhere”–away from this page, to something happier like the Nerdist Podcast.

The first thing anyone watching the third episode in Netflix‘s series will notice is that the lyrics of the theme song have changed, and boy, are they telegraphing the plot of this and the following episode (both of which are based on the second book in the Lemony Snicket series). The second thing—following a new morbidly funny dedication to Beatrice—is that the production design is suddenly a lot cheerier: the Reptile Room house is the only location in the entire show that feels warm and inviting, provided you aren’t afraid of snakes. The new look also heralds a new director: Penelope‘s Mark Palansky, who has proven he can ape Barry Sonnenfeld‘s style, but perhaps with less overtly mischievous humor.

This week, the Baudelaire siblings made it to their intended guardian, and he turned out to be…Aasif Mandvi from The Daily Show? Yes, indeed, and his lovable hamminess both gave Neil Patrick Harris a run for his money and made me momentarily forgive The Last Airbender. Poe remained his oblivious self, allowing only that leaving the kids with Count Olaf might have been a mistake.

From Lousy Lane, which we’re told smells of horseradish (I like horseradish, but I guess kids don’t), the car turned into a large estate with hedges shaped like snakes. Uncle Montgomery was revealed to be named Montgomery Montgomery, and a big movie fan. Baby Sunny’s reactions, augmented by Tara Strong’s gurgling, were perfect.

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Oh, hey, a clock that periodically makes a screeching lizard statue pop out! I’m sure that won’t come into play later or anything.

“Uncle Monty” seemed too good to be true, so something bad had to happen, but not just yet. Gustav, it turns out, was Monty’s assistant, and though we saw him murdered last episode, Monty is oblivious and has received a sudden letter of resignation, presumably heralding Olaf’s return.

But first, reptiles! And they like listening to Sonic Youth, apparently? Somehow I never saw this as a world in which that band existed (Bauhaus, yes. But then again, MC Hammer co-existed with the Addams Family, so whatever). Anyway, Lemony butted in with an obvious spoiler about Monty ending up dead…though not at the fangs of the Incredibly Deadly Viper, a docile serpent which Monty has deliberately misnamed in order to prank his fellow scientists. And as he promised the kids no harm would come to them in the reptile room, Lemony butted in to give us a lesson on the definition of “dramatic irony.” (I’m starting to think kids really will learn quite a bit about writing and word comprehension from this show, and they may not even realize they’re being edjimicated.)

The blueprints for the hedge maze outside revealed that it’s partially in the shape of the mysterious eye logo—is Monty in league with Olaf? As if on cue, Olaf showed up at the door, in a disguise that made him look like a Tintin character, sporting a broad Italian accent, and answering to the fake name of Stephano. I must admit, I find the nasal voice Harris does as Stephano quite irritating compared to the dulcet tones of count Olaf—he sounds like Jerry Lewis impersonating a Minion—but that’s probably the point.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Olaf took the photo of the piano that the Baudelaire parents and Uncle Monty were hiding inside? The conspiracy plot thickens.

Saved by the screeching lizard clock! Who saw that coming? Oh yes, I kinda did.

Uncle Monty seemed to suss out Stephano’s bad intentions, but mistook him for a rival scientist rather than Count Olaf. As in all the best children’s adventures, only the hero kids really see the full truth. Stephano’s excuse that his fitness regimen requires him to run up and down stairs brandishing a knife is some OJ Simpson level alibi nonsense, but they humored it. Violet’s “I might join him on that exercise regimen!” was thus both hilarious and disturbing. Monty’s great plan to bring Stephano to the movies with them was not the best solution.

Why does Monty need a canoe? It’s so random I love it. And they totally left it outside too.

NETFLIX REFERENCE! “In all honesty, I prefer long-form television to the movies. It’s so much more convenient to consume entertainment from the comfort of your own home.” Mandvi and Harris trying to out-ham each other while insisting on going, or not going, to the movies was definitely a highlight. And once again Harris proved that he can steal the show simply by stuffing his face theatrically.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Th cinema named after Murnau was a nice touch, and who wouldn’t want to see a double feature of Zombies in the Snow and Men in Beige? I assume that in this reality, the latter stars Ben Stein and Steven Wright. But we’ll never know, because we only ever got to see onscreen footage of the former.

Personal note: I have worked in a movie theater that mostly caters to seniors, and this old woman who tries to start conversations with the staff about how boring her life is is entirely realistic, so much more than most of you will ever know. Anyway, carry on.

“Seventh row, right of center” is supposedly the best seat in the theater, per Uncle Monty. It reeeeally depends on seat placement, though. Like, some chains put seats as close to the screen as they legally can, while Imax has the steep angles, and…you don’t really care about this, do you? I’m a front row dude, anyhow. Unless I’m with my wife, who won’t let me.

Zombies in the Snow appeared to star Gustav and Jacqueline—scored to the song “Alouette”—and featured English subtitles for English dialogue, which turned out to be a code visible to Monty via his secret spyglass. It seemed the movie was a musical, too, and included a song with same accordion riff as the series’ theme, “Look Away.” The movie looked amazing, especially for MST3K fans. And the secret message was to take the children to Peru—conveniently, the theater ticket booth sold those transportation tix as well.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

QUICK CUT TO THE PARENTS who just happened to have made it to Peru at about that same time. Coincidence? And how exactly do those tunnels get there?

“Terrible ending. The villagers should have been eaten, like in Citizen Kane,” quoth Stephano. You have to love a show that presumes its audience knows what is or isn’t in that movie.

Damn. What looked to be a Monty-Olaf smackdown in the making just turned out to be stern words. But we should have anticipated that. Lemony did warn us. Come to think of it, the author hasn’t spoken up much lately. So of course, now he must, to remind us that great harm would come to Uncle Monty…and with that, this episode ended.

Did the Reptile Room warm your blood? Comment below with your thoughts on the show so far.

Images: Netflix

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