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A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS Recap: Sham on You!

A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS Recap: Sham on You!

I regret to inform you, dear reader, that this recap of the A Series of Unfortunate Events episode “The Wide Window: 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 a Jessica Chobot video.

Captain Sham, as played by Jim Carrey as Count Olaf in the 2004 movie, was a memorable highlight—what with Carrey affecting a broad “sea cap’n” accent and contorting his face like he does. Neil Patrick Harris, while highly adept at moving his eyebrows, is not as rubber-faced, so he’s had to take a different tactic: impersonating Sean Connery. This is exactly the sort of simplistic choice a pompous-yet-inept thespian like Count Olaf would make, so it’s perfect, and a multi-leveled performance: Harris the good actor playing Olaf the bad actor playing what he thinks will seduce an older woman based on his limited knowledge of other actors.

But if you thought following Jim Carrey would be a challenge, consider the role of Aunt Josephine, who was played by Meryl freakin’ Streep the first time around. How do you equal that? Again, the answer is to go very different, and in this case, hire Alfre freakin’ Woodard. Boom. Done.

Once again the theme song had new lyrics telegraphing the next storyline, and Barry Sonnenfeld was back in the director’s chair. The difference was palpable immediately: though the harsh environment surrounding the new setting of Lachrymose Lake is obviously a set, the director makes it tactile in its bleakness and cold. I’m watching from relatively balmy Southern California, and I still want to bundle up just watching it.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Presuming this show gets renewed, or even if a deluxe DVD set comes out next summer, I want a real-life pop-up version of “The Anxious Clown” restaurant at Comic-Con this summer. Do not fail me, Netflix.

Things started off with a newscast for Lake Lachrymose (a body of water which, you’ll notice immediately, is roughly in the shape of the eye symbol), and with headlines like “Things that are happening keep happening, until they stop, ” nobody can accuse them of fake news. Also, for no apparent reason, the anchors had gender-swapped names: Veronica is a man and Vincent is a woman. They would also feel right at home in a Robocop movie.

And so the fickle ferry arrived at Damocles Dock, because miserable alliteration is everywhere.

“I don’t have time to learn things; the banking day has already begun!” Never change, Poe. Be better than Poe, kids watching this.

Has anybody noticed that the Baudelaire children are not, in fact, as miserable as Lemony Snicket keeps saying they are (or from his perspective, were)? Yes, bad things happen around them but they laugh and generally keep their spirits up. His definition of dramatic irony may be closer to home than we first thought. Hell, maybe they end up happy in a way that would make him personally miserable. (I haven’t read all of the books, so I can’t say, and anyway, it appears some things have changed). Also, take note that the kids are allergic to peppermints–that is not just a casual throwaway.

“Land ho!” “I told you to stop calling me that!” That’s a joke for the parents. For the kids, the ongoing sea versus lake corrections might hit home: kids get annoyed when adults generalize in a way that’s not technically correct, such as calling a large lake the sea. Like, my mother used to insist that colored pencils are also called crayons. THEY’RE NOT MADE OF WAX MOM!

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Aunt Josephine’s house appeared to have been designed by Dr. Seuss—possibly stolen from Whoville. It appeared so damp inside my joints hurt just from looking. And chilled cucumber soup! How perfect, and perfectly horrible, for the setting. Josephine, described in advance by several people as fierce and formidable, turned out to be a paranoid hypochondriac, afraid to even turn on the stove and literally scared of her own reflection. It had been ever thus, we learned, since her beloved Ike died.

A little Heinrich Hoffmann-style diversion here into scared-straight territory for kids: don’t swim until an hour after eating, not because of cramps, but because the Lachrymose leeches will smell the food on you and come suck your blood till you die. Depending on your kid, that may or may not be nightmare fuel.

So the “answers” Aunt Josephine was supposed to provide are all grammar books. As an editor, I respect that. As a viewer, the fact that she won’t talk about any of the relevant information is, well, frustrating. I find Patrick Warburton’s emergence from a store called “Look! It fits!” clothed exactly like the window mannequin to be hilarious, however.

“Nothing sinister has ever come from the real estate market.” Yeah, Lemony’s a bit of an unreliable narrator.

So, the proprietor of the Anxious Clown recognized Count Olaf, and said he didn’t expect to see him again after all the unpleasantness with Mr. Snicket. And the Baudelaires, he thinks, are now learning about his secret organization, in which they were supposed to begin training years ago?The mystery box plot thickens. It seems Snicket is also believed dead, though since he has been narrating from the future of this timeline, that cannot be. They scuffled with a broom, Josephine’s name was revealed, and in the broken broomstick, Olaf was inspired to create his next peg-legged persona.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

“Safe crackers.” That’s a groaner of a pun. And then the Secret Organizations book…but there was no time to read it, as Aunt Josephine had returned from the market. With Captain Sham—Julio Sham, even—who had built himself up by seeding his associates through the local market (and petting zoo) loudly talking up his handsomeness. Oh yeah, and there was a “Fish Heads” reference, which I will always eat up, yum. Sham’s associates are all great at deadpanning in their own ways.

Pasta puttanesca callback! How many kids do you think will demand their parents make that now…and then spit it out when they realize what anchovies actually taste like?

OH BLESS YOU Josephine for pointing out the difference between “its” and “it’s.” You are a keeper. And bless you, NPH, for that nonsensical, improvised sea shanty. Must be tough to pretend to be such a bad singer.

Cut to the parents, who now have a plane…complete with bullet holes. “It is like our honeymoon.”

A window cracks, with a human-shaped hole in it. A suicide note from Aunt Josephine, willing guardianship of the kids to Captain Sham. But isn’t it obvious to everyone paying attention that the missing statue is what made that hole in the window?

Well, if it weren’t, Lemony just confirmed it in his passive-aggressive, spoiler-tastic way. But I’m still game for more. Aren’t you? Tell us your thoughts in comments below.

Images: Netflix

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