A Series of Unfortunate Events Review: “The Reptile Room” Continues the Netflix Magic

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A Series of Unfortunate Events Review: “The Reptile Room” Continues the Netflix Magic

A Series of Unfortunate Events, "The Reptile Room" Parts One & Two

The series premiere of Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events was an absolutely perfect adaptation of the first book in the series that delivered on all fronts (check out my review here). For fans of the books, we know that the formula for the first half of the series really kicks off in the second entry, so let’s see how Netflix handled that formula in “The Reptile Room” Parts One & Two.

The first part of “The Reptile Room,” though the third episode of a season, opens in a way that distinctly separates it from the two episodes of the series. In so many ways (and clearly because it’s based off a series of books), each adaptation of a novel feels more like a movie than an episode (or episodes) of television. It’s a very unique structure that is already working very well for the series.

Now that the Baudelaires are away from the clutches of Count Olaf (albeit temporarily), their new guardian is revealed to be Dr. Montgomery Montgomery (or Uncle Monty, as the children call him), played by Aasif Mandavi. Uncle Monty is a herpetologist, and his collection of snakes and lizards is housed in the titular reptile room. Mandavi does a wonderful job at portraying Uncle Monty (often considered one of the fan-favorite guardians that the children have in their series of unfortunate events), and the audience is able to form a connection to the character from the very beginning. Monty’s assistant was a man named Gustav, but, if you remember from “The Bad Beginning,” he was killed after helping get the children away from Olaf. To replace Gustav, Monty brings on a new assistant for help. Unfortunately for everyone involved, this new assistant, Stephano, is actually Count Olaf in disguise.

Once again, Neil Patrick Harris shines as Count Olaf. The great thing about this character is that his disguises offer NPH a chance to deliver different performances in every episode, and this works perfectly with Harris’ style. Additionally, I’ve got to admit that this series is doing a fantastic job at making Count Olaf truly evil. In the film adaptation, the character was incredibly fun and fit the universe, but the Olaf here is a perfect adaptation of the character from the books. The coldness works wonderfully with the comedy, and the result is a masterful performance. It also helps the character that we get to see him interact so much more with his henchmen as it adds to his villainy.

A Series of Unfortunate Events Review: “The Reptile Room” Continues the Netflix Magic

One of the best things about the series so far, as I mentioned before, is the way that the overall mystery in the narrative is being expanded and brought to the forefront so early on. Even subtle references to the “official fire department” don’t go unnoticed by anyone familiar with the story, and each reference is very much appreciated. It makes much more sense to have Klaus (and, by extension, Violet and Sunny) realize so early on that his parents were involved in something much greater than themselves than for it to come only after someone leads him in the right direction (as happens in books five and six in the original series), and the added intrigue goes a long way toward making these early stories more interesting.

Thanks to this expansion of the mystery, we’re given one of the best characters to ever enter the the franchise: Jacqueline. An original character to the Netflix series, Jacqueline (played spectacularly by Sara Canning) was introduced in “The Bad Beginning” as Mr. Poe’s secretary, but it was quickly established that she’s a major player in the secret organization. Jacqueline shows up again in “The Reptile Room,” and she continues to steal the show whenever she appears. It’s awesome to see a secondary pseudo-guardian for the children (who, honestly, is much more competent than the children’s actual guardians throughout the books), and I hope that Jacqueline continues to play a major role going forward.

Also, did you notice how the opening theme song lyrics and images changed to reflect what takes place in this story? What a fun little thing that Netflix is doing do separate the books even more in the middle of a season of television.

Overall, “The Reptile Room” was, once again, a wonderfully faithful adaptation of the second book in the series that did a great job of fleshing out the story of the source material even more while still giving us the great performances and aesthetic that we were introduced to in “The Bad Beginning.” A Series of Unfortunate Events is, simply put, fantastic television.

What did you think about “The Reptile Room?” Are you enjoying Netflix’s adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events? Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below!

[Photo Credit: Netflix]

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  1. Jasef Wisener
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