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A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS Recap: End of the “Beginning”

A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS Recap: End of the “Beginning”

I am sorry to tell you, dear reader, that this recap of the A Series of Unfortunate Events episode “A Bad Beginning: Part Two,” 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 abscond–which in this case means “navigate away”–from this page, until such time as your constitution is capable of absorbing what ensues.

If you saw the 2004 movie version of A Series of Unfortunate Events, you’ll remember its climactic plot when it resurfaces again here. Unable to wait four years for Violet to turn 18, Olaf conspired to marry her and thereby control her fortune under a legal loophole that allows a child’s guardian (him, in this case) to give permission for her to marry underage. Flattering Justice Strauss’ ego, he would convince her she was just acting in a play when she signed the actual legal document to make it official. Note to real life conspirators: this will probably not hold up in actual courts of the real world. But for a fictional children’s literature universe, it works well enough as a dastardly scheme.

Violet, of course, figured it out in advance, which is why Olaf had to threaten baby Sunny’s life to force her to go through with it. And things worked out a little differently than they did in the film….

The episode kicked off with the distinct coughing of Mr. Poe, and a gradual reveal of his sterile, bluish-white bank office, surrounded by walls of cabinets and a giant safe behind. Pulling all the way forward, the camera revealed Lemony Snicket, who once again apologized for the “alleged entertainment” (good thing the show doesn’t suck, or critics could totally use all his lines as ammunition). Behind him, Poe kept trying to buzz in somebody named Jacqueline, to bring in the Baudelaire file.

Then came a redundant recap of the previous episode, something Lemony fortunately does not make a habit of moving forward, all to take us back to Poe’s office again, prior to many of the events of the last episode, but just after the fire that claimed the parents’ lives (or, ahem, not, if that surprise scene with the parents can be believed). Now we would get to see how exactly the obviously dubious Count Olaf became the legal guardian of the Baudelaires.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

“Do you know what the question I’m asked most is?” inquired Olaf, rhetorically.

“Will you please leave the premises?” responded his hook-handed henchman (Usman Ally), without missing a beat. Gold. And Olaf’s snit-ft upon finding none of his minions had brought costumes was hilarious, as was his subsequent deft theft of various items from pedestrian passers by, including a blind man.

Jacqueline the secretary appeared to be having a revealing conversation, hinting that she knew more than one might suspect, but before that could play out, in came Olaf in his brand new guise of…”Yessica Haircut,” a name he improvises based upon the first word he sees and the first word that comes to mind. ACTING! The genius of Neil Patrick Harris‘ Count Olaf is that he’s what NPH might be if he had no talent and grew old and bitter.

Lemony again explained that this scene was a flashback, and TV executives need to get off his back about it. And armed with a spyglass emblazoned with the now-familiar eye logo, Jacqueline sussed out Count Olaf’s entourage, but too late—they kidnapped her and tied her to a tree elsewhere in the city, in a park. Downstairs, “Yessica Haircut” made the dubious case to Poe that “closest living relative” must mean geographically nearest, a pitch poor naive Poe bought immediately. And his naivete continued when the Baudelaires risked everything to come and try to tell him the truth about Count Olaf; he dismissed their concerns as generic ones most kids have about most adults, and played into many a child’s greatest fear–that they aren’t thought of as important and their problems don’t matter. K. Todd Freeman really was deliciously dense here, and his coughing alarmingly convincing.

“I think we need to call the IT guy.” Okay, so this is the present day, I guess. Sort of. The hypothetical IT guy in question would be required to fix a manual typewriter, so…split-difference, time period-wise?

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Count Olaf was uncharacteristically nice when the children got back, offering cupcakes, and gliding across a long table as only NPH can. Of course it was a ruse to get them on board with his play, “The Marvelous Marriage,” that would serve as the cover for his actual intended nuptials. And Olaf wound up chewing hard on those cupcakes, almost as heartily as the scenery. Harris’ eating face rules.

The entire plot prompted Lemony to reveal he had never been married, though he had been in love. The plot thickens surrounding his “Beatrice.”

Ohhhh hell no. Did Justice Strauss, after complaining about being single forever, just diss adult men who play with toys? We’re the ones who appreciate smart and talented women the most, your honor! Ah well, my wife knows it even if you don’t.

“You will suddenly find yourself in the enviable position of being a struggling actress in middle age!”

“It’s almost too good to be true.”

LOL. Later, Hook Hands provided Olaf with wedding cake samples, and the Count was severely upset when he heard one was “a little lemony.” Something has to come of this. Aside from the second amazing scene this episode of NPH eating cake.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

And then a fun interjection about the difference between “figuratively” and “literally.” As a grammar-happy editor, I applaud Mr. Snicket’s attempts to educate. As a realist, however, I am aware that the battle has been lost.

Meanwhile, Jacqueline uprooted the tree she was tied to, and met a fellow operative named Gustav in the sewers. They mention that the Baudelaires’ actual guardian was supposed to be one Dr. Montgomery, and headed to the theater to try and thwart the wedding/play. And Violet tried to rescue Sunny with a homemade grappling hook, but that didn’t go too well.

Count Olaf modeling a wedding dress, though? That worked out just fine.

Lemony’s apartment, which looks like a serial killer den, even though he seems too depressed to actually be one, turned out to be right across from the theater where the wedding as to happen…but some years too late, of course.

NETFLIX REFERENCE! “As an ac-TOR, I think live theater is a more powerful medium than, say, streaming television.”

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Am I a bad person for laughing at the hook-handed man trying to play poker with a baby, and losing? Probably, right?

The wedding was foiled when Violet signed the document with her left hand rather than her right, making her signature not properly and legally “in her hand”–once again, kids, don’t try this in an actual court, but feel free to accept it in a stylized universe. Count Olaf’s treachery was exposed and he escaped, while Jacqueline and Gustav persuaded Poe that Dr. Montgomery was the real intended guardian.

In the future, someone is banging on Lemony’s door, so he departs out the window. Back in Baudelaire time, Jacqueline says she has a lead on the parents, who are alive, and Gustav drowned in a pond when a tranquiliser dart hit him in the neck. And that half-pulled-out book on Strauss’ shelf? The Incomplete History of Secret Organizations.

The final scene showed the parents again, this time in a jail cell, reading about the marriage/play in the newspaper. The eye symbol was carved in the floor, and mom had made a grappling hook, just like Violet.

As the plot thickens, how do you think secret organizations will play into the storyline? Is Olaf not just the ultimate Neil Patrick Harris role? Leave a series of fortunate comments below!

Images: Netflix

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