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'A Series of Unfortunate Events' Season 2 Review: Masterful Misery

Updated: May 29, 2019

Somewhere between Stranger Things and The Defenders, you will find Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events in Netflix's original line-up. Based on the beloved books, the first season debuted on the streaming platform last January and made quite an impression. With its satirically dark tone and tongue-in-cheek performances, it was quite the hit. And now the second season has finally arrived. But does it live up to the first? Be warned: if you're not a fan of this dark world, we advise you to Look Away.

Picking up right where Season 1 left off, the show wastes no time throwing us back into the troubled lives of the Baudelaire children. While Klaus, Violet and Sunny attempt to start again at Prufrock Preparatory School, it doesn't take a Baudelaire to figure out that Count Olaf and his merry band of misfits are on their trail. And from there, we once again join these eccentric personalities and embark on another bizarre, off-the-wall and all-round ridiculous adventure.

While Neil Patrick Harris once again delivers as the treacherous Count Olaf, it's Louis Hynes and Malina Weissman who really stand out this season. As their respective characters are much more clued in this time around, the two young actors are given the opportunity to lead more regularly — and they deliver every single time.

The rest of the cast is just as strong as before, convincingly portraying this colorful array of characters. But perhaps the best supporting cast member is the brilliant Sara Canning who shines as the world's best secretary/secret agent Jacquelyn Seleszyka.

Furthermore, there is an abundance of surprise guest appearances — none of which feel redundant: every character plays a juicy part in the overall story. And some of these new faces are among the show's best characters.

With cities, towns and carnivals at its disposal, Season 2 feels much bigger than its predecessor. While Season 1 spent more time introducing us to a few eccentric characters, Season 2 highlights the eccentricities of the world as a whole — and what a bizarre, grim world it is. With over-saturated colors and some intentionally dodgy CGI, the backdrops complement the show, giving it a fairytale-like appearance. But perhaps the most interesting thing about this eccentric universe is the irony with which it mirrors our world. And its ridiculousness allows characters to satirically attack certain aspects of the real world: such as our reliance on what the media tells us. The extravagant blend of these unreal settings and off-the-wall characters help the show subtextually deliver some important messages to its viewers. And it makes us wonder if Snicket's world really is a far cry from our own.

Although it is in the show's nature to constantly remind us of its own miserable tone (effectively relayed by Patrick Warburton who does a fine job as Lemony Snicket), this outing is considerably darker than the previous season. While we weren't expecting sweetness and light, it does seem like the show was intent on venturing into murkier territory this year. As there are two extra episodes, this can make binge-watching all 10 of them seem like a dull task, and in any normal circumstances, you could be forgiven for being unable to watch all that misery at once. However, the dialogue is wittier than ever and can always be relied upon to add some much-needed levity to the situation.

Moreover, the added adventures do make the show's repetitive format seem a little... well, repetitive (for God's sake Poe, why won't you believe them?!). But given the self-aware absurdity of the show, it's completely plausible and totally works.

A Series of Unfortunate Events Season 2 had a lot to live up to. But it undoubtedly delivers on all fronts. Each adventure is compact and satisfactory, ticking all the boxes. On a whole, it may not be quite as strong as the first season and, while the two extra episodes are necessary, it doesn't help this darker outing seem any less grim. However, it is, without a doubt, a worthy follow-up and will please fans of the show and the books.

You may be constantly warned to Look Away, but the fact of the matter is that A Series Of Unfortunate Events is a spectacle you just can't take your eyes off. With five more exciting adventures, beautiful backdrops and strong performances from all of the cast, Season 2 is the perfect blend of style and substance.

A Series of Unfortunate Events Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.

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