A Series of Unfortunate Events is an American gothic black comedy-drama television series from Netflix based on the children's novel series of same name by Lemony Snicket. It stars Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf, Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket, Malina Weissman as Violet Baudelaire, Louis Hynes as Klaus Baudelaire, and Presley Smith as Sunny Baudelaire.
When Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are orphaned in a terrible fire, custody of them is given to Count Olaf, a distant relative. Unfortunately, the count proves to be a villainous fortune-hunter intent on inheriting the Baudelaire riches. As he and his henchpeople trail them from location to location, the Baudelaires become increasingly embroiled in a conspiracy only known to them as "VFD". Chronicling this tale of woe is Lemony Snicket, who has his own reasons for following the siblings' story.
The series premiered in 2017 and ran for three seasons, adapting the entire book series over 25 episodes. The teaser trailer can be found here.
A Series of Unfortunate Events contains examples of:
- Actor Allusion:
- Olaf mentions having a television show in the city for 9 years. Later, he mentions being a theater actor in the city. When encountering "Dr. Faustus," he sneers that Klaus looks awfully young to be a doctor.
- The way Patrick Warburton says "Quagmire."
- One of the films playing at the Murnau Cinema (aside from Zombies in the Snow) is titled Men in Beige. Barry Sonnenfeld, director of the first Men in Black film, also directed four episodes of Season the First.
- In "The Miserable Mill Part 2," Mr. Quagmire tells the triplets they would have flunked eavesdropping at his school. Will Arnett was previously in Arrested Development, which features a school that teaches children to be as quiet and unobtrusive as possible.
- The twins compliments Count Olaf for having fashion sense... without being a sissy.
- Shirley St. Ives isn't the only role Neil Patrick Harris had put on a blond wig, blue eyeshadow, red lipstick, and a tight dress for.
- One scene has Lemony Snicket wearing a bright orange leather jacket, which can get you expecting him to tell you to ask the 8 ball.
- Adapted Out: Reporter Geraldine Julienne does not appear - she is initially replaced by Eleanora Poe and in season three her equivalent role is given to Vice Principal Nero.
- Adaptation Expansion: A few things that weren't in the books:
- If a sequence near the start of Episode 1 is any indication, the method that is used to start the fire in the Baudelaire mansion is a large magnifying lens, similar to how it was done in the film. A page from The Incomplete History of Secret Organizations implies that the spyglasses can be used as a magnification lens in this way.
- Aunt Josephine admitting that she and the Baudelaire parents made secret codes.
- The VFD logo is Olaf's eye tattoo (in the books, it was assumed to be a regular tattoo in the shape of an eye until around The Carnivorous Carnival).
- Jacquelyn is seen threatening Count Olaf with a harpoon gun on the Prospero (a cruise ship featured in The Unauthorized Autobiography).
- The motif of spyglasses from the film, which did not appear in the books, has been ported over to here.
- At the end of The Wide Window: Part 2 the Baudelaires run off to Lucky Smells Lumbermill to find more information on their parents. In the books, it is merely their next home on Mr. Poe's list. This is even referenced at the start of The Miserable Mill: Part 1, where Mr. Poe, in a panic about the children running off, screams "It's a catastrophe, it's unprecedented, it's—off-book..."
- Dr. Orwell uses her hypnotism skills on the entire Lucky Smells Lumbermill staff instead of just Klaus in order to prevent them from quitting their job.
- In the books, Dr. Orwell was just a toadie of Olaf's who he promised to split the fortune with; here, she's Olaf's ex and a former member of V.F.D.
- In the fourth book, the Paltryville City Hall Library only had three books. In the series, it has full shelves, but they're all of the same book.
- The series reveals specifically how Dr. Orwell hypnotizes Klaus. The process is similar to the Ludovico technique from A Clockwork Orange: she starts by forcibly strapping him down to a chair (a standard procedure for nervous little boys) and giving him a regular eye exam ("Do you see an E or A on screen? An A or a C?") but then starts saying and showing onscreen strange pictures like "A sea (C) or a lake? A reptile or amphibian? A fire or an accident? A parent or an arsonist? TELL ME WHAT YOU SEE, KLAUS!" and the images start flashing faster and faster, putting Klaus under hypnosis.
- We never did get to hear the end of the sentence that began, "Beatrice, Count Olaf is my—" in the books, although The End did hint at it. But see Wham Shot below...
- The Snicket File. Originally just a regular document in the books, has been upgraded to a small film in the series featuring Jacques Snicket.
- In the books, "Madame Lulu" is simply the alias of Olivia Caliban, a former member of V.F.D. who now works as a carnival fortune teller. The series expanded "Madame Lulu" into a rotating undercover position held by the operative currently most skilled at gathering information, and Olivia is simply filling in for the current Madame Lulu (Kit Snicket) who is out retrieving the sugar bowl from Heimlich Hospital. Olivia herself also gets an expanded role, from the one-off character she was in the books to the librarian of Prufrock Preparatory School who joins V.F.D. after a chance meeting with Jacques Snicket.
- "The Bad Beginning: Part 2", shortly after the Baudelaire Fire, we see Count Olaf using in his improvised "Yessica Haircut", consulting Mr. Poe to have the Baudelaires delivered to Count Olaf's care.
- The relationship between the Snickets, the Baudelaires, and Olaf is pretty much fully elaborated upon in Part 2 of The Penultimate Peril. Furthermore, unlike the books where the notion only gets expressed in the very last few chapters of the final book, it's much more explicitly shown that Kit and Olaf once had a thing for each other.
- The End reveals quite a bit about V.F.D. and the ultimate fate of the Baudelaires. Ishmael was the founder of V.F.D. and principal of Prufrock Prep before he came to live on the island. The sugar bowl contains sugar made from a special botanical hybrid that immunizes against the medusoid mycellium. The Baudelaires spent a year on the island raising Beatrice before returning to the outside world, where they proceeded to have more adventures that were generally more positive.
- Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole:
- A major one with Sir. In the book, he is really the Baudelaire's new guardian (Mr. Poe delivers them to him). But in the TV show, this does not happen: they just escape, go in the lumbermill and are forced to work by Sir. So, he has no authority to consign the orphans to Shirley (alias Count Olaf).
- A small one caused by the deleting of a scene in "The Miserable Mill." In the book, saying "inordinate" to Klaus caused his hypnotism to vanish completely, thus requiring him to be forced into another appointment with Dr. Orwell again in order to be re-hypnotized. In the series, he doesn't get a second appointment and his hypnotism returns as soon as Olaf's cohorts say "lucky" to him, raising the question of whether his trance is still lingering after Dr. Orwell's defeat.
- Averted in "The End", where it's revealed that Lemony did not know what had happened to the Baudelaires after the fire at the Hotel Denouement. This in turn means that he doesn't know what happened to Kit and justifies his earlier musings about not knowing if he'd ever see her again.
- Adaptational Alternate Ending: Lemony cautions the viewer that his story is headed for nothing but woe, but this version of the story actually has a significantly happier ending. The outcome for the Baudelaires isn't substantially changed in detail, but very much so in tone, being quite a bit lighter, more optimistic, and less ambiguous. The final sequence includes a number of changes rendering other characters' fates happier: the incident that left the Quagmires and company to Uncertain Doom is deleted, with the triplets instead safely reunited aboard Hector's self-sustaining hot-air mobile home (still aloft), while Fernald and Fiona move confidently forward in searching for their stepfather; Olaf's other henchmen enjoy at least a brief bout of success on the stage, to their delight; and, of course, Beatrice Baudelaire succeeds in tracking down Lemony. Add in the previous episode showing that Justice Strauss was Spared by the Adaptation, a welcome bone to throw to a kind character who seemed in the worst possible position to survive that fire in the book, and you've got the cherry on top.
- Adaptational Badass:
- Rather than remaining a weak-willed coward to the end as in the books, Josephine eventually stands up to Olaf and gives him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. It doesn't do her much good, but it's quite an impressive showing considering the original version.
- Uncle Monty is actually able to read the Sebald Code hidden in the Zombies in the Snow subtitles and even evades capture from the White-Faced Women. It still doesn't stop him from being murdered, though.
- In the book, the Lucky Smells Lumber Mill gradually goes out of business, though it's implied Phil becomes well read enough to take legal action against them for paying them in coupons. In the series, after snapping out of their hypnotism, the workers revolt and overthrow Sir.
- Sunny goes from having four rather sharp teeth to being a human sawmill, and exceptional poker player.
- Adaptational Dumbass:
- Mr. Poe is notably much more gullible in the series to the point where, by season 2, doesn't seem to realize that Count Olaf was standing right in front of him in The Carnivorous Carnival when the latter introduces himself to former, claiming that he's a different Count Olaf (since the newspapers stated that he had died), despite looking exactly the same.
- Count Olaf, while being notably more cunning and able to find the Baudelaire children on his own during most of his schemes, his disguises are a much more dead giveaway to the point where the Baudelaire children are not the only ones to see through his disguises (much of VFD was able to see through them as well). He also has a tendency of bring his entire theater troupe with him wherever he goes. As a result, the Baudelaire children are able to figure out his schemes much sooner than they did in the novels and film.
- The theater troupe play this trope straight. While in the novels, they are notably more competent and are able to fool the Baudelaire children most of the time, in the series, their disguises are just as (if not more than) paper thin as Count Olaf's. They're also very bad at coming up with plans to aid Count Olaf's schemes.
- Adaptational Early Appearance:
- From the get-go, agents of VFD are involved in the plot; Jacquelyn tries to keep the Baudelaires safe, Monty and Josephine both show remnants of their VFD training, Olaf is said to know Lemony Snicket, and the actual symbol is Sigil Spammed everywhere. In the books, they didn't show up until Book 5, and the symbol wasn't revealed until Book 9.
- Duncan, Isadora, and Quigley Quagmire also show up in both parts of "The Miserable Mill", despite not appearing until Book 5 in the prior two cases and Book 10 in the latter case.
- Implied with Esmé Squalor; she is likely the woman in a nice hat that burned down the Quagmire house in episode 8, which corresponds to Book 4 while Esmé didn't appear until Book 6.
- Jacques Snicket's introduction in the books was when the Baudelaires met him in The Vile Village. In the series, he shows up in The Austere Academy and The Ersatz Elevator helping fellow V.F.D. operatives behind the scenes and recruiting Olivia Caliban to the secret organization.
- Olivia Caliban was originally introduced in The Carnivorous Carnival as Caligari Carnival's fortune teller "Madame Lulu." The adaptation introduces her as Prufrock Preparatory School's librarian in The Austere Academy.
- Adaptational Intelligence:
- Zigzagged with Mr. Poe. In some aspects, he's just as if not more gullible and useless then he is in the books. But in "The Reptile Room", he dismisses "Stephano's" explanation of the Mamba Del Mal using a bottle of its own venom as "ridiculous". And whereas in the books, he ignores the suggestion that Olaf used makeup to cover his tattoo, here, he's actually the one to realize and expose that part of the disguise. Similarly, when Count Olaf tries a long string of technicalities to claim the Baudelaires, Mr. Poe is quick to shoot them all down as the preposterous reaches they are. Then he goes right back to being blissfully ignorant of all the trouble the Baudelaires have been through.
- The workers at the lumbermill only consider their awful wages and work conditions as acceptable because they have been hypnotized into it.
- Count Olaf's cunning has increased considerably. In the books, Olaf can't find the Baudelaires without help from Madame Lulu, but in the show he manages on his own. In the show he's also able to see through the Baudelaires' efforts to conceal themselves, just as they consistently do to him.
- Vice Principal Nero's overconfidence in his computer to keep Olaf away makes considerably more sense in this version; in the book, all the computer does is uselessly display a picture of Olaf's face, whereas here it takes visual input and is programmed to recognize Olaf's distinguishing features.
- Adaptational Karma:
- Mr. Poe has to face the consequences for his incompetence when the Baudelaires run off at the end of The Wide Window and almost loses his job at the beginning of The Miserable Mill.
- In the book, Sir is still in charge of the lumbermill by the end of the story despite his mistreatment of the workers. Here, he receives his comeuppance from an angry mob of workers who broke out of their hypnotic state and is forced to flee the factory.
- Adaptational Modesty: In the book version of "The Penultimate Peril", Esmé's latest feat of awful fashion is (to Violet's upmost horror) a "bikini" that is actually about four pieces of lettuce just barely covering Esmé's nudity by simple tape. For obvious reasons, Esmé wears an actual swimsuit in the episode.
- Adaptational Name Change: The book-within-the-book in "The End", in which Ishmael, The Baudelaire parents, and eventually The Baudelaire siblings themselves keep a written record of VFD, their own histories, and the Island, is also named "A Series of Unfortunate Events". In the series, it has been retitled "An Incomplete History".
- Adaptational Nationality: Esmé Squalor, Fiona and Charles, whose nationalities and accents weren't mentioned in the books, are all English.
- Adaptational Nice Guy: The Troupe in "The Bad Beginning" are considerably nicer than they were in the book. They actually enjoy the pasta that the Baudelaires made them (including the Hook-Handed Man being excited about chocolate pudding), they seem concerned when Olaf holds Sunny very high up, and they are shocked when Olaf strikes Klaus. The latter is more significant since the Troupe laughed and cheered for Olaf after he hit Klaus in the book.
- Adaptational Sexuality: When Jerome and Babs show up in The Penultimate Peril, it's revealed that the former is dating Charles from Lucky Smells Lumbermill, and the latter is dating Mrs. Bass. This is especially notable, considering Jerome is Esmé's ex-husband!
- Adaptational Villainy: While Sir wasn't exactly a Nice Guy in the book, in the series, he seems to be much much more mean-spirited.
- Adaptational Wimp: The troupe in regards to their acting capabilities. In the books, the troupe (with the exception of the member of indeterminable gender) were portrayed as Master Actors who sometimes managed to fool the Baudelaires and were sometimes portrayed as being slightly more competent than Olaf considering they were almost always the main reason he managed to escape to fight another day. Here the troupe are portrayed as being just as bad, if not worse, at acting than Olaf himself and their disguises (when they bother wearing some) never hold up for long under scrutiny.
- Adaptation Explanation Extrication: In The End, we never see the Incredibly Deadly Viper arrive on the island with Kit, so it's left unexplained how it got on the island when it gives the Baudelaires the bitter horseradish apples.
- Adults Are Useless: Zigzagged quite a bit:
- The books the series is adapted from essentially have this as a central theme, so of course this is here. If anything, Mr. Poe is even worse than in the books.
- This is also softened in some aspects; from the get-go, Uncle Monty doesn't trust Stephano, and is willing to sneak around him. But he thinks that Stephano is just a spy from the Herpetological Society.
- It is also made clear that there are many competent members of VFD who are trying to look out for the children, often only failing due to the incompetency of others and Olaf being one step ahead.
- Age Lift:
- The White-Faced Women are much older in this version, and look more like they're hiding wrinkles with their powder rather than the geisha-like appearance suggested in the books.
- Jacques and Kit Snicket are twins a few years older than Lemony in the books; while the series never clarifies their ages, this is likely not the case if their actors' ages are any indicationnote .
- Ambiguously Gay:
- Blatantly obvious with Sir and Charles, but never said outright.
- The two are constantly described as being nondescript "partners" rather than "associates" or "business partners", which Lemony Snicket's narration confirms can also mean romantic partners "with the advent of more progressive cultural mores, not to mention certain high court rulings" and that "the two are not mutually exclusive".
- When Sir tells Charles "Of course I have you", Charles tentatively leans in, as if angling for a kiss, but gets ignored.
- Sir comments that he has a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" motto when it comes to his employees' personal lives.
- Charles carefully words his desire to adopt the Baudelaires by stating that he wants to give them a "loving, normative home".
- Later, Jerome mentions that he is now Charles' partner.
- At a few points in the series the Hook-Handed Man is implied to have some feelings for Count Olaf. In The Austere Academy Part 2 he and Count Olaf have a heart to heart late at night and in The Slippery Slope Part 1 while Olaf gives the troupe an acting lesson, The Hook-Handed Man is cut off in the middle of his sentence, "I love-". It's implied that he would've said Olaf's name, much like the White-Faced Women.
- Blatantly obvious with Sir and Charles, but never said outright.
- Ambiguously Jewish: It's a Running Gag that virtually everyone in the show is ambiguously Jewish. The author is Jewish and has described the series as "a very Jewish story." Various characters frequently reference somewhat obscure Jewish holidays and use various Yiddish and Hebrew expressions without ever acknowledging their actual religion. For example:
- When Justice Strauss is first introduced in "A Bad Beginning: Part 1", she greets the Baudelaires with "Hello there! Salutations! Shalom!" and later pronounces "hummus" with the Hebrew guttural ch at the front.
- During "The Marvelous Marriage," the band plays "Havah Nagila," a Jewish folk song.
- The Hook-Handed Man says "Mazel tov!" at one point. In another episode, when pressed to name a religion, he shouts "Reconstructionist Judaism!"
- Arthur Poe mentions the fashion faux pas of wearing white after Yom Kippur (instead of Labor Day) and says he regrets being the only kid in his class not to have a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, a sentiment his wife apparently shares. He also makes an offhand comment about a prior attempt to live in a kibbutz that apparently soured him on the idea of raising his children communally. In the Village of Fowl Devotees, he cheers Count Olaf with "Mazel tov!" to which Olaf responds, "L'Heimlich," a riff on the Hebrew cheers "L'chaim," ("To life").
- Klaus and Violet reference Tu Bishvat and explain that it's "the Jewish equivalent of Arbor Day."
- Olivia gives an extended explanation of the meaning of the Yiddish word "tzuris." Mr. Poe knows what it means.
- There are menorahs and kiddush cups in the Last Chance General Store.
- Lemony Snicket places a stone at the edge of the pit where Madame Lulu/Olivia was killed. It is a Jewish custom to place stones on grave sites. After Olaf and Kit die in The End, their graves are marked with a stone each.
- When tasked with preparing a dish with salmon, Sunny makes smoked salmon and refers to it by its Yiddish name: lox.
- At the Hotel Denouement, Justice Strauss says, "This day really is different from all other days!" This is a reference to the Four Questions of a Passover seder, each of which begin, "Why is this day different from all other days?"
- Ambiguous Time Period: Just as the series doesn't take place in any specific location, it also takes place in no specific time period.
- The fashions are all over the place. The Baudelaire children's clothing have a somewhat 80s flair. Mr. Poe looks like he's from the 1920s. The residents of the Village of Fowl Devotees dress like homesteaders from the mid-late 1800s, while the Volunteers Fighting Disease have outfits and hairstyles that were popular during the 1960s.
- The technology mixes new and old. The orphans try to use a telegraph machine to send a message. Most of the cars look like they're from the 1940s to 1970s. Most of the photography we see is either black and white or looks "vintage." Printed newspapers with black-and-white photography are apparently how everyone gets their news. The desk phones we see all look like old-fashioned rotary phones. The Hook-Handed Man, while posing as a secretary, mentions needing to call I.T. despite using a mechanical typewriter. Count Olaf uses a cellular phone that looks like it's from the early 1990s. He also mentions shopping online and expresses a preference for streaming television. Sunny references Uber.
- Statements and references suggesting what year it is never have any consistency. Snicket mentions that one of his colleagues was an 18th-century philosopher. A file from Heimlich Hospital talks about the Miami Hurricane of 1926, which was said to be last week. Violet implies that a 1938 film is recent. Prufock's gym coach says she competed in the "'39" Olympics. Klaus and Violet quote Martin Luther King Jr.. Klaus references Pink Floyd's 1979 album The Wall. Nero attempts a violin piece in the style of The Human League. Monty says that one of his tortoises listens to Sonic Youth. Larry and Carmelita quote lyrics from the 1996 song "Wannabe" by The Spice Girls. Klaus and Violet discuss a quote from Haruki Murakami's 2002 novel Kafka on the Shore. Lemony Snicket and Isadora both reference legal gay marriage, which didn't happen in the U.S. until 2015.
- And the Adventure Continues: The Baudelaires are implied to have gone on many daring adventures with Beatrice II that are more exciting than miserable.
- Anyone Can Die: The series kicks off with the deaths of the protagonists' parents in a fire, and anyone who takes time to care for the orphans meets a horrible fate. Ultimately over the course of the three seasons, almost every character ends up either dying or suffering an ambiguous maybe-deadly fate. Definite character deaths include Gustav, Monty, Josephine, the Quagmire parents, Dr Orwell, Jacques, Olivia, the carnival freaks, Larry, Dewey, Olaf, and Kit. By the final scene the only definite survivors are Lemony, Beatrice II, and Mrs Poe, though several other characters are shown to survive at least for a while longer than they did in the books: Justice Strauss, the Quagmire orphans, the Widdershins family, Olaf's theater troupe, the islanders, and the Baudelaire orphans themselves.
- Anywhere but Their Lips: Isadora kisses Klaus on the cheek goodbye in The Austere Academy: Part 2.
- Armor-Piercing Slap: A single slap is minor compared to orchestrating guardianship to steal everything the Baudelaires have. But when Count Olaf slaps Klaus, it is not played for laughs.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
"This show will wreck your evening, your whole life, and your day.""There's nothing but horror and inconvenience on the way."
- Two examples in the theme song, and likely more in the show.
- The photos the Baudelaires find in Aunt Josephine's safe show her wrestling a crocodile, boxing, skydiving, and cooking with fire.
- Babs' job in Heimlich Hospital is head of Human Resources, Hospital Administration, and Party Planning.
- Artistic License Physics: In one episode, Violet starts a fire by focusing the beam from the lighthouse using a telescope. What If? has a long article on why this is impossible. Basically because "You can't use lenses and mirrors to make something hotter than the surface of the light source itself."
- Arc Symbol: A left eye. Which is a recurring symbol for the mysteries of the series, including Count Olaf's tattoo, Dr. Orwell's office's window, Monty's labyrinth and the spyglass. Several left eyes even appear on the opening.
- Arc Words:
- In "The Miserable Mill": "Black and white". An expression which is mentioned by several characters and explained in Lemony's narration.
- "In a world too often governed by corruption and arrogance, it can be difficult to stay to true to one's philosophical and literary principles", during Season 2.
- Season 2 also adds "Take up the torch"; spoken most often by Jacques Snicket, it takes on a darker tone when later repeated by Olaf.
- Season Three adds "What choice do we have?"
- Also from Season 3, "Fighting fire with fire".
- Once a Season and a Call-Forward: "A library is like an island in a vast sea of ignorance, particularly if the library is tall and the surrounding area has been flooded."
- Artistic License Biology: During "The Vile Village" in Season 2, the Baudelaires state that "crows can't talk." While crows sound considerably less endearing than parrots, they actually can be trained to mimic speech.
- Aside Glance: Olaf glances at the camera whenever he says something about television.
- Baby Talk: Sunny speaks in this, and Violet, Klaus, Uncle Monty and the Hook-Handed Man are all able to understand her. Others range from not being able to understand her at all, to understanding that she said something but generally not knowing what she said. During the last couple of Season 2 stories, this starts getting closer to actual words, and during Season 3, it's mostly intelligible, even without subtitles.
- Bad "Bad Acting": From the second Justice Strauss takes the stage in part 2 of "The Bad Beginning", it's obvious why her acting career never took off and she went into law instead. Count Olaf is only marginally better. Also evident in the VFD produced film Zombies In The Snow. Of course, it probably doesn't help that both the movie and The Marvelous Marriage were written as parts of schemes, rather than to actually be any good.
- Just like in the movie, the introduction to Justice Strauss sets up one when they think they are living in her nice house... then we see Count Olaf's rickety mansion across the street.
- A much bigger one occurs throughout the first season: at the end of "The Bad Beginning, Part One", two characters played by Cobie Smulders (credited as "Mother") and Will Arnett (as "Father") are in chains being carted off to parts unknown. It's heavily implied that they are the Baudelaire parents. The audience is tricked into thinking that they survived the mansion fire and escaped, until it's revealed in "The Miserable Mill, Part One" they are not Beatrice and Bertrand, but actually the Quagmire parents.
- "Penultimate Peril" pulls a double bait-and-switch: After dropping the Baudelaires off at Hotel Denouement, Kit meets up with her husband, one of the Denouement siblings, who are all identical. Since we know that Kit is good, we assume the person she is meeting is Frank, the good twin. But then she says "Send my regards to Frank", which then makes us think that its really Ernest, the evil twin. Readers of the series will know that its actually Dewey, the third brother, as the Denouement twins are really triplets.
- Bald of Evil:
- Count Olaf's "Stephano" getup is a bald wig.
- The man with a beard but no hair.
- Beard of Evil:
- Count Olaf's "Stephano" getup also includes a very long beard.
- The man with a beard but no hair, again.
- Big Damn Reunion: Subverted in The Grim Grotto. The Baudelaires find Quigley at Anwhistle Aquatics, but are immediately separated from him again by the Medusoid Mycellium. It's implied that they never meet again.
- Big Good: VFD is elevated to this status. Several members are shown to be trying to help the Baudelaires and being somewhat effective at it. Special mention goes to Jacquelyn—the most active in helping the three.
- Bilingual Bonus:
- A blink and you'll miss a joke in the first episode. When choosing a dish to cook for Count Olaf, Violet suggests pasta puttanesca. Klaus responds "I wonder what that means in Italian!" before the scene moves on without clarifying. It means "whore's pasta."
- When Count Olaf is in private with Dr. Orwell in "The Miserable Mill, Part One" he says, "Oh, Georgina, I missed this. You, me, an evil scheme, a little death," and she responds, "La petite mort." The Count continues, "You know I love it when you speak Spanish." While it literally translates as "little death", "la petite mort" is a French term for orgasm.
- Late in season two, one of Sunny's subtitles reads "Merde," which is French for "shit."
- When Mr. Poe tries to cheers Olaf with "Mazel tov!" (Hebrew for "good star," or "congratulations"), Olaf responds, "L'Heimlich." He's botching the Hebrew cheers "L'chaim" ("to life").
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: Count Olaf praises the virtues of theater over other forms of entertainment, like streaming television. Then again, it's Count Olaf saying it (his actor is Neil Patrick Harris, who doubles as both a Broadway and television star), and between streaming television and movies, he prefers the former, which seems to be a Take That! towards the 2004 film adaptation.
- Bittersweet Ending:
- The endings of most of the "Part 2" episodes, where while the Baudelaires survive and escape Count Olaf's clutches (excluding "The Penultimate Peril", where he finally catches them), but end up traumatised and losing their newest guardian.
- Season 1 ends like this, although in usual Lemony Snicket fashion: The Baudelaires are sent to Prufrock Preparatory School after the events of the season, where Violet tells Klaus they're now on their own and sit to await to meet Vice Principal Nero (who's already practicing his violin). On the very bittersweet upside, they don't know they'll soon meet the Quagmire siblings, who have undergone similar trials to them. Readers familiar with the books know that the two groups of orphans will become fast friends.
- Season 3: The Baudelaires survive, but they are still presumably wanted fugitives.
- Blatant Lies: The Incredibly Deadly Viper is completely harmless; Monty just named it that way as a joke.
- Brainwashed: Klaus, Charles, and the Lucky Smells Lumber Mill workers.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: After "Mother" and "Father" visit the Lucky Smells Lumbermill and are revealed to be the Quagmires' parents, not the Baudelaires', Lemony Snicket physically turns the camera away from the scene.
- Briar Patching: Not only does Lemony tell you—repeatedly—to not watch the show due to its dour nature, but even the theme song tells you to look away!
- Brick Joke: In the first episode, the Poe brothers are introduced arguing whether the dinner being served is a raven or a crow, before being told by Mrs. Poe that its chicken. In the second-to-last episode, after Esmé and Carmelita make everyone literally eat crow via sausages they made, Mr. Poe remarks that it Tastes Like Chicken.
- Bring the Anchor Along: In one episode, Jacquelyn is tied to a small tree. She escapes by uprooting the tree and carrying it on her back, which she does for almost the entire episode.
- But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Count Olaf has trouble remembering he left his ex Dr. Orwell to drown.Dr. Orwell: "You left me to drown!"Count Olaf: "Water under the bridge..."Dr. Orwell: "Which is where you left me!"
- ...But He Sounds Handsome:
- Count Olaf has a bad habit of talking up his appearance and acting skills when in disguise. Fortunately for him, anyone observant enough to notice one of these slips of the tongue would have already seen through his current disguise anyways, so he's never at much risk of blowing his cover.
- Violet herself has a moment while undercover as half of Texan conjoined twins "Beverly and Elliott" with Klaus in "The Carnivorous Carnival", where she quips that the Baudelaire orphans are "obviously innocent".
- But Not Too Gay: While Sir and Charles are "Partners", and the definition given by Snicket of the word is said to include "recent rulings", the two are never shown given one another any romantic attention. (or, rather, Sir doesn't return Charles' subtle affections) This can most-likely be entirely due to Sir's rather standoffish and rude nature all around.
- Call-Back: Jacquelyn gives "Yessica Haircut" as an alias to get into the In Auction in The Ersatz Elevator, which is the alias Count Olaf used on her to try to get an appointment with Mr. Poe while posing as a consultant in The Bad Beginning.
- Jacquelyn is shown threatening Count Olaf with a harpoon gun—one of these would later be used to try to stop the fleeing Baudelaires and Quagmires in The Vile Village, and another would be used in the books to kill Olaf at the end.
- Justice Struass mentions she has a book on the most dangerous fungus in the world, a reference to The Grimm Grotto, and at the end of "The Bad Beginning, Part 2", after the play is over and the orphans are gone, she goes back into her library and starts reading the "Incomplete History of Secret Organizations". In the books, she does a lot of research into the troubles with VFD and the Baudelaires, and tries to use the law to take down Count Olaf and his gang in The Penultimate Peril.
- The Hook-Handed man seems to be the least actively malicious of Olaf's troupe, or at least is displaying that Even Evil Has Standards, trying to catch Sunny when Count Olaf holds her over the table. As we learn in The Grimm Grotto, the Hook-Handed man wasn't always bad.
- During episode 2, when Olaf is drinking coffee, he mentions he can't find the Sugar Bowl; during the latter half of the series, the Sugar Bowl becomes a MacGuffin that all factions are after.
- In the introduction to Lousy Lane, Snicket mentions that an orchard there grew incredibly sour apples, in addition to being located by a horseradish factory; in The End, apples infused with horseradish prove to be the only cure to Medusoid Mycelium poisoning, which is also offhandedly mentioned by Justice Strauss in the first episode. Further alluded to in The Austere Academy, when Isadora warns the Baudelaires not to eat the apples because they taste like horseradish.
- The Hostile Hospital adds a scene where Jacques says there was a survivor of "the fire," leading both the Baudelaires and Olaf trying to find if one of their parents survived. This is left unresolved at the end of the season, but is eventually revealed to be Quigley Quagmire.
- Canon Foreigner: Jacquelyn, a VFD member covertly keeping an eye on the children, didn't appear in the books.
- Cassandra Truth: No one believes the children when they see through Olaf's Paper-Thin Disguise, even when they point out that he has been in disguise previously. Monty is the exception; he doesn't believe that Stephano is Olaf, but he certainly doesn't believe that Stephano is who he says he is.
- Casting Gag:
- Cobie Smulders playing the mother, after How I Met Your Mother where she played pointedly not the mother. And here, it turns out she isn't really the mother either.
- Mr. Willums, Calligari Carnival's only regular, who is particularly enthusiastic about the carnival's new ringmaster Count Olaf, is played by David Burtka, Neil Patrick Harris's husband (Mr. Willums' children, Skip and Little Trixie, are played by his and Harris's actual children, Gideon and Harper Burtka-Harris.)
- Cerebus Syndrome: The tone grows considerably darker over the course of the series, with the comedic elements diminishing. In this regard, the show is unlike the original books, which started out with a dark tone and then became more comedic.
- Changing Clothes Is a Free Action: Lampshaded when Olaf asks Esmé how she donned an octopus suit between two scenes.
- Cinderella Circumstances: While living with Count Olaf, the Baudelaire Orphans are forced to clean and maintain his home. It's made worse by the fact that it sincerely doesn't look like the whole house was ever tidied up beforehand.
- Clear Their Name: Violet wanted to clear their parents' names while at Paltryville.
- Cliffhanger: Season 2 ends in a huge one, which is even lampshaded by Lemony, as life is a series of cliffhangers, with stories ending before the end and plot threads unexplained. The one in season 2 includes the existence of a mysterious survivor from a fire, which can be one of the Baudelaire's parents, who is heading towards the VFD HQ in the mountains, the implication that Madame Lulu, possibly is Lemony's sister and showing she has the Sugar Bowl, and, most of all, Count Olaf, while having Sunny in hands, throwing the cart with Violet and Klaus down a cliff, making it a literal cliffhanger.
- Cleavage Window: Esmé Squalor features this while wearing a Naughty Nurse Outfit in The Hostile Hospital.
- The Comically Serious: Part of what makes the series' humor work so well is that nearly everyone is acting 100% serious and composed all the time, no matter how ridiculous things get. Notably, the evil characters tend to be the ones that are busy hamming it up.
- Continuity Nod: One of the V.F.D. videos the Baudelaires find in Madame Lulu's tent is Lemony Snicket giving a debriefing of a case he was involved with in a town called Stain'd-by-the-Sea.
- Composite Character: The series has Eleanora Poe, who in the books was the sister of Arthur Poe, instead fill the roles of Polly Poe (Arthur's wife) and Geraldine Julienne (reporter for The Daily Punctilio with the Catchphrase "Wait until the readers of The Daily Punctilio see that!").
- Contrived Coincidence:
- "The Miserable Mill, Part 1" has an especially outrageous one that operates on pure Refuge in Audacity: The mill randomly has a big, fancy door that perfectly matches the front door of the Quagmires' house, entirely for the purpose of pulling off the twist that we've been watching the latter's parents the whole time. Luckily, the series isn't exactly a stranger to this kind of thing. However, given Lucky Smells Lumber Mill's connections to Baudelaire parents, and Charles' referring to it as a Very Fancy Door, it could very well just be a VFD thing.
- In "The Miserable Mill, Part 2", Eleanora Poe takes up the task of tracking down the Baudelaires. How does she find them? She goes to investigate a lumber mill accident on a whim and they happen to be there.Klaus: You found us by accident?
- "The Wide Window, Part 2" has a scene where the children need to light a fire on the boat and attempt to use a mirror to reflect the lighthouse's light, just like in the book...except the angle is wrong, preventing them from using the light in this way. Instead, the plane belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Quagmire passes overhead at that exact moment, and the light is focused through Mr. Quagmire's binoculars, causing the scarf to light.
- Conveyor Belt o' Doom: How Olaf and Dr. Orwell planned on murdering Charles.
- Couch Gag: The middle part of the theme song describes each episode. In the second episode for each book, Olaf sings this part in the voice of his current disguise.
- Creator Cameo:
- Pay close attention to the fish head vendor in "The Wide Window, Part 1". If you don't notice him there, the next appearance of the character makes it more obvious—Mr. Poe, upon finding out that the Baudelaire children have run off at the beginning of "The Miserable Mill, Part 1", cries about how this incident is "off book" while accosting none other than Unfortunate Events creator Daniel Handler.
- Barry Sonnenfeld appears as the late Ike Anwhistle in Aunt Josephine's photograph. And briefly in the flesh during a flashback in Season 2.
- Creepy Circus Music:
- In one scene of "The Wide Window: Part 2", the Baudelaires, Mr. Poe, and a disguised Count Olaf are heading to a Kitschy-Themed Restaurant called "The Anxious Clown" so Olaf can trick Poe into handing the children into his care over brunch. As they drive to the restaurant, the camera lingers on a sign advertising it, with a picture of a Sad Clown, as creepy circus music plays in the background.
- Naturally, this type of music is prominent in "The Carnivorous Carnival", especially when Olaf, posing as the ringmaster of Caligari Carnival, sings a song during the freaks' performance.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Several-
- Uncle Monty is injected with the venom of the Mamba du Mal, stated to be one of the most deadly snakes in the hemisphere. The exact effects of Mamba du Mal venom are not stated, but effects of snake venom are typically not pleasant.
- Aunt Josephine gets pushed overboard from a ferry and eaten alive by the swarming Lake Lachrymose leeches.
- Dr. Orwell gets burned in a furnace, rather than chopped up by a logging machine like the books.
- A very thick book dropped is dropped on Jacques Snicket's head before the character is bludgeoned to death with a crowbar.
- Olivia Caliban, while disguised as Madame Lulu, is dropped into the lion pit at Caligari Carnival and devoured by starving lions as the carnival guests watch in horror.
- Larry Your-Waiter is suspended upside down and lowered into a pot of boiling curry.
- Cult Defector:
- The Village of Fowl Devotees runs under some very strict and oppressive rules, functioning almost like a crow-worshipping cult; Hector, though the town's Council of Elders scares him into constant fainting spells, still has the courage to defy their rules in private and leaves the town, but not without him, the Baudelaires, and the Quagmires almost dying in the process.
- The Baudelaires and Count Olaf end up on an island where the facilitator Ishmael has some strict rules designed to keep everyone as safe as possible, even if it means a boring life without choices and tries to keep everyone under the influence of alcohol. When the Baudelaires announce their intention to leave the island on the only day they can, he gets angry, insists they keep drinking, and considers them traitorous.
- Cut Apart: Near the end of "The Miserable Mill, Part 1", it seems that the Baudelaires are finally going to meet Mother and Father, as it cuts back and forth between each group approaching a Very Fancy Door. At the last second, it is revealed that there are two separate yet identical Very Fancy Doors, and the one that Mother and Father were approaching was at the Quagmires' house, not the Lucky Smells Lumber Mill.
- Dark Reprise: Inverted in "The End". The dark and sinister leitmotif of Count Olaf receives a beautiful and serene reprise when Olaf brings Kit Snicket safely to the island.
- Dartboard of Hate: Dr. Orwell is introduced throwing darts at a picture of Count Olaf.
- Death by Adaptation:
- Downplayed. In the books and film Aunt Josephine's death is fairly ambiguous (complete with a couple hints in later books). Here we actually see the character getting thrown to the leeches.
- Hugo, Colette and Kevin are all killed in The Slippery Slope, where in the books, they're around for The Penultimate Peril.
- Deliberately Monochrome: The flashback to Dr. Orwell and Count Olaf (as "Shirley") meeting with Sir is deliberately shown in black and white.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Mr. Poe says he bought tickets for world's first surgery that sold out the moment they went on sale a few moments ago.
- Deus ex Machina: Referenced by Klaus, then weaponized by Violet in episode 6 of season 2.
- Disproportionate Retribution: In Lucky Smells Lumbermill, trespassers are put to work. Children and babies are no exception.
- Distinction Without a Difference: Becomes a bit of a Running Gag in the first few episodes, due to Olaf never admitting when he is wrong.Olaf: Do you know what this is?
Klaus: It looks like a list.
Olaf: Wrong! It's a list.
- Driving Stick: Shows up in a small gag when Olaf steals Monty's car post-murder to try to spirit the Baudelaires away to Peru.Olaf: God, I hate driving stick!
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Carmelita Spats's secret addiction is sniffing cakes, which leaves a white residue of frosting sugar around her nose.
- Downer Ending:
- The endings of almost all of the "Part 1" episodes, usually seeing the Baudelaires cornered by Count Olaf.
- Season 2 ends with Violet and Klaus in a careening caravan about to fall off the side of a cliff and Sunny in Olaf's hands.
- Dumbass Has a Point: After Aunt Josephine apparently jumps out a window to her apparent death, Mr. Poe has the idea to compare the note she left behind to a pre-existing piece of handwriting (a shopping list), to make sure it's not a forgery. Even Violet admits it's an uncharacteristically good idea for Poe. Poe, being a banker, is trained to spot telltale signs of a forgery.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: The ending is finally optimistic. Despite the bittersweet nature of much of it, many of the surviving characters have their happy ending. Lemony is approached by his niece Beatrice, who indicates the Baudelaires survived, had much happier adventurers and raised Beatrice well, who goes to form a relationship with her uncle. Lemony finally gets the closure he seeks.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
- The Henchperson of Indeterminate Gender one actually says that was pretty cruel when Olaf pushes Josephine to her death off the boat. In general, they are prone to making mild and sensitive statements.
- The entire troupe seem to be apprehensive at what Olaf does after the Bauldelaires serve them dinner, visibly recoiling when he strikes Klaus.
- It says something when even Olaf, a murderous nutjob with a penchant for fire and murder and very little morals and sense, is annoyed by Poe.
- Everyone Has Standards: After Olivia is eaten by lions at the Caligari Carnival, everyone observing it looks shocked and appalled. Even Olaf looks disgusted by what's just happened.
- Expository Theme Tune: The opening theme song is Olaf warning viewers away from the show while also outlining the basic plot. It even changes to recap the most recent episode. And the second episode of each book part has the changed lyrics be sung by Count Olaf in his latest disguise.
- "The Bad Beginning":"Three children lose their home and go to live with someone awful.
He tries to steal their fortune with a plot that's not quite lawful.
It's hard to fathom how the orphans manage to live through it,
Or how a decent person like yourself would even want to view it."
- "The Reptile Room":"The Baudelaires are living with a man who studies snakes.
He's jolly, and he's secretive, and makes a few mistakes.
SPOILER ALERT! A villain comes to steal and murder!
And so if I were you, I wouldn't even watch one minute further."
- "The Wide Window":"The Baudelaires' new guardian is wracked by fear and panic.
They end up on a boat that might as well be the Titanic.
We polled a bunch of adults; 99% agree
There must be something happier on stream for you to see."
- "The Miserable Mill":"The lumber mill is where the Baudelaires are forced to work.
The eye doctor is sinister, the owner is a jerk.
They end up in a fiendish plot with logs and hypnotism.
The very thought of watching should be met with skepticism."
- "The Austere Academy":"At school, the Baudelaires are forced to live in an old shack.
Comfort, joy, and safety are among the things they lack.
They run a lot of laps, which keeps them in fantastic shape,
But you're the one who ought to take this chance for an escape."
- "The Ersatz Elevator":"The Baudelaires are taken in by people who are rich,
But Olaf has a plan that's going off without a hitch.
It's a race against the clock to rescue their two kidnapped friends.
You'll need rescuing yourself before this grim tale endsnote ."
- "The Vile Village":"The town of VFD is full of people, full of rules.
The Quagmires have once again been kidnapped for their jewels.
The Baudelaires must rescue them, but end up getting jailed.
You might hope that things improve, but I'm afraid that ship has sailednote ."
- "The Hostile Hospital":"The Baudelaires are hiding in a place crawling with doctors.
Count Olaf's close behind them with his troupe of lousy actorsnote .
Something dreadful happens with a big, sharp, rusty knife,
So if I were you, I'd find some other way to spend your life."
- "The Carniverous Carnival":"The Baudelaires are hiding in a carnival of freaks.
Count Olaf is the worst he's been for more than several weeks.
The lions in the hinterlands are hungry and quite fierce.
There is literally no program you can watch that's any worsenote "
- "The Slippery Slope":"The Baudelaires are trapped in mountains covered up in snow.
More villains have arrived, and there is no place they can go.
It's a horrid way to start up this, our third and final season.
Anyone still watching it has clearly lost all reason."
- "The Grim Grotto":"The Baudelaires are deep below the surface of the sea,
Hoping to avoid Count Olaf's horrid company,
But of course he finds them, and of course it's very awful.
This show is so grim it really ought to be unlawful."
- "The Penultimate Peril":"The Baudelaires check into a hotel to spy upon
A group of awful people for whom murder is a yawn.
It may seem like Count Olaf will be finally brought to justice,
But why would any viewers think that they could really trust us?"
- "The End" note :"The Baudelaires, adrift at sea, wash up far off the map.
Olaf's right behind them with a fungus and a trap.
Our story ends in tragedy upon a coastal shelf.
I beg of you, I beg of you, stop watching, save yourself."
- "The Bad Beginning":
- Eye Motifs: The VFD logo looks like a drawing of an eye, and it is everywhere.
- Failed a Spot Check: No one notices that the statue disappeared around the same time that a human shaped hole appeared in the Wide Window.
- Follow the Bouncing Ball: Lyrics and a bouncing heart appear when the Volunteers Fighting Diseases group first start singing.
- Food Porn: The Baudelaires preparing puttanesca sauce, with fresh homemade pasta to boot. Olaf's troupe members devour it eagerly.
- For the Evulz: Olaf claims this as his motive.Violet: Why do you hate us so much?
Olaf: Because it's fun!
- There's something off about the human-like hole in the titular Wide Window. If you notice that the statue of Josephine brandishing a sword is missing, you can connect the dots and notice that the statue was thrown out, not Josephine herself.
- Regarding the "Tragic Accident in the Lucky Smells Lumbermill". When you see the image that Lemony shows, it's a body in front of a furnace, foreshadowing that it wouldn't be neither Phil (who was near a bunch of logs) and nor Charles (who was tied to one).
- Lemony narrates something awful that happened to Klaus in the Lumbermill, while holding up the destroyed frame of glasses. Something to notice is that during The Miserable Mill is that Klaus, Dr. Orwell and Count Olaf are all wearing the same frame of glasses.
- There are a few hints that the parents seen throughout season 1 are the Quagmires, not the Baudelaires: they never refer to their children by name, only number. The subtitles only ever identify them as "Mother" and "Father," never as "Mr and Mrs Baudelaire." If their identities actually had matched what viewers were obviously meant to assume, there would have been no need to be so coy.
- In Freeze-Frame Bonus below, the viewer can learn of what really happened in the lumber mill and what was the Baudelaires parents' participation in it much before the Baudelaires orphans themselves.
- During "The Austere Academy", Larry calls Jacquelyn from a freezer, and she asks if he's in the mountains, mentioning they were only meant to go to the mountains at the end of the season. During the end of "The Carnivorous Carnival", Larry calls someone to state that a survivor is going to the HQ in the mountains and he'll follow them, with both Count Olaf and the Baudelaires going to the mountains as well.
- At the beginning of part one of "The Carnivorous Carnival", Madame Lulu tells the actor troupe their fortunes. She uses the "your sister depends on you" line to both the Hook-handed Man and the White-faced Women. Note their reactions. anyone who read the Slippery Slope and Grim Grotto knows that Madame Lulu is referring to Fiona, and with the White-faced Women, she's referring to someone else...
- At the start of part two of "The Carnivorous Carnival", Lemony narrates to have found a burned down lunette at the bottom of a pit. The only person with a lunette besides the Baudelaires there is Olivia. At the end of the season, she is killed in the pit.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus:
- The tunnel at the end of the first episode has several names that become important later in the books and show.
- The photo Klaus retrieves from Aunt Josephine's safe. In it, one can see Dr. Orwell, Uncle Monty, Aunt Josephine, Lemony Snicket, and two characters played by Cobie Smulders and Will Arnett, who turn out to be the Quagmire parents.
- The official theme song has a few of these, including a map of Peru (where Uncle Monty wants to send the Baudelaires); a will written by the Baudelaires, presumably being forged; and the Prospero, a cruise ship featured in The Unauthorized Autobiography.
- When Violet finds the one uncensored book in the Lucky Smells library, if the viewer presses pause they can read it for themselves and learn that the Baudelaire parents were responsible for putting out the Paltryville fire, not starting it, and the fire was likely started by a disgruntled mill employee named Roy. Comically, the last sentence sets up like it is going to reveal Sir's real name, but continues onto the next page before the reveal.
- In part one of The Vile Village, Klaus looks at books that Hector secretly has. Two have the same cover design as the books and one is a history of Lucky Smells.
- In part one of The Hostile Hospital, the file Hal receives about a hurricane at Lake Lachrymose is actually about the 1926 Miami Hurricane.
- From a Certain Point of View: How Count Olaf initially obtains custody of the siblings. Disguised as a consultant, he convinces Mr. Poe that the "closest" part of "closest living relative" refers to geography rather than actual degree of relation.
- Fun with Acronyms: Lots of VFD references are cryptically inserted into the show.
- Episode 2: "There's a vigorously fixed destination."
- Episode 3: The ticket seller gives Monty's group tickets for the Verified Film Discount. Zombies in the Snow is by Vitiated Film Distribution. Also, the Zombies in the Snow production code, 2264, is a numerical encryption of V (22) F (6) D (4).
- Episode 5: The saleswoman in the market hawking very fresh dill. A Very Far Distant Telegram.
- Episode 6: Aunt Josephine says "Your parents and I had to make a vastly frightening decision."
- Episode 7: VFD is the only thing on Dr. Orwell's eye chart. Also, the Verified Functional Dictionary. The Hook-Handed Man in the guise of the foreman telling the Baudelaires to go to the very fancy door.
- This is usually used as a deliberate misdirect in season 2, (the box of Very Fancy Doilies in The Ersatz Elevator, the Village of Fowl Devotees in The Vile Village, and the Volunteers Fighting Disease in The Hostile Hospital), though there are still a few that aren't, like a poster for Caligari Carnival's defunct "vicous feline display" lion-taming show.
- Funny Background Event: One of the signs in the background of Madame Lulu's Carnival advertises a pinhead freak, with the captions reading "Poke him!" and "Watch him dance!"
- G-Rated Sex: Olaf and Esmé Squalor dancing in season 2 is filled with innuendos.
- Giant Eye of Doom: The only visual the characters get of the "Great Unknown", besides its shape on sonar.
- Hard Truth Aesop:
- When all other people have failed you, the only person you can rely on to survive is yourself.
- You cant keep yourself sheltered from the world, even though its a dark and cruel place. Otherwise, youll never be able to survive.
- There are no truly noble people in the world, only morally grey people with good intentions.
- Sometimes you have to do something awful to prevent something worse.
- Hell Is That Noise: The terrifying screech made by the "Great Unknown".
- Hammerspace: During their confrontation, both Olaf and Jacquelyn pull increasingly-large weapons out of seemingly nowhere.
- Hate Sink:
- Carmelita Spats. Outside of her (admittedly catchy) rhymes, she has no redeeming qualities. The only characters that seem to be able to tolerate her are Nero and Esmé, who treat her as an adoptive daughter in the third season after they burn down her house and kill her parents.
- Mr. Poe is unique in that hes not particularly cruel or mean-spirited, in fact he is well-meaning most of the time, but he is so utterly incompetent at his job that both the orphans and the audience cant stand to be around him.
- Hollywood CB: At one point Gustav interrupts Jacquelyn over the radio, despite the fact that his words would be inaudible to her while she was still transmitting.
- Hollywood Law: A deliberate example due to the Crapsack World the series takes place in. Violet is somehow able to be forcibly married by her guardian against her will. The Baudelaire orphans are sentenced to death in a Kangaroo Court in the Village of Fowl Devotees. Justice Strauss conducts a trial that takes place in a hotel lobby and has nonsensical rules, when it follows any rules at all.
- Hook Hand: The Hook-Handed Man, one of Olaf's henchmen, sports hooks in both of his hands.
- How's Your British Accent?: In the second part of "The Hostile Hospital," Klaus adopts a British accent for a while while wearing a disguise. His actor, Louis Hynes, is British.
- Hypocritical Humor:
- When Olaf's troupe complains about the dinner the Baudelaires made for them (mainly because their boss was unsatisfied with the meal choice), they're still eating it.
- Later, when holding the waiter at the Anxious Clown hostage, the Hook-Handed Man firmly tells the Person of Indeterminate Gender to stop being friendly with the hostage... while he himself was just friendly with Sunny not 4 episodes earlier.
- Sir says it's "a terrible thing, lighting a fire" as he throws wood into his fireplace.
- Carmelita Spats' go-to insult is "cake sniffer"; she's later seen sneaking into the kitchen at night to sniff a cake herself.
- The Hook-Handed Man is just as mocking toward the freaks as everyone else in spite of his own condition. When an audience member mistakes him for one of the freaks, he angrily states that he's a "regular person with hooks for hands."
- If I Wanted You Dead...: Klaus tells "Stephano" that if anything happened to them, he won't have their fortune.Count Olaf: If I wanted to harm you orphans, your blood would be streaming out of this car like a waterfall. No, I am not going to harm a hair of any Baudelaire head... at least not on purpose. [brandishes his knife] But "accidents" happen all the time, don't they? [Monty suddenly climbs into the car. Olaf hastily hides his knife and switches to his "Stephano" accent] ...and that is when I said to him "The frog is the greatest reptile known to man."
- Impact Silhouette: After Aunt Josephine is heard throwing herself through the Wide Window, the glass is broken with a hole shaped like a human, minus one arm being longer than the other and one leg being much thicker. As it turns out, she faked her death by throwing a nearby statue first, the longer limbs being due to one arm holding a sword and one leg being on a pedestal.
- Impersonating an Officer: Esmé's "Officer Luciana" disguise in The Vile Village.
- Implausible Deniability: In "The Wide Window, Part 2", Count Olaf's false peg leg breaks and reveals his left leg, including the tattoo on his ankle. He immediately proclaims that his leg has grown back and it's a medical miracle, and that that eye tattoo is definitely not his. Mr. Poe, for once, does not buy it.
- Informed Attribute: Count Olaf regularly has his theater troupe talk about how handsome he is, either in words or in song. The most notable example is in the first part when he has them sing "It's the Count" which is a song all about how he's an amazingly handsome, talented and smart person. Only one of those traits might actually be true.
- Iris Out: Every episode ends with one shaped like an eye.
- I Take Offense to That Last One!: Combined with Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking. Monty calls Olaf "a wretched person and a bad actor". Josephine calls him "you villain, you wretch, you vastly untalented actor!" Both times, Olaf makes a scandalized gasps at the last one. Shown in this Tumblr gifset.
- It's All About Me: When the Baudelaires run away to Paltryville, Poe is more distraught over how off-book the events are going, and the fact that he will not receive the promotion he was promised if he does not find the children, than the fact that the Baudelaires could be (and are) in grave danger.
- Kiss of Life: Olaf and Kit in The End. Subverted, as they both die anyway.
- Kissing Discretion Shot: Implied in "The Slippery Slope: Part Two" when Lemony Snicket interrupts a moment between Violet and Quigley.Lemony Snicket: Many things have been taken from the Baudelaires since they lost their parents and their home. One of those things is their privacy, so instead of telling you about the few moments shared between two friends on a chilly afternoon halfway up a frozen waterfall, I will offer the eldest Baudelaire this courtesy and allow her to keep some moments to herself.
- Knife Nut: Count Olaf has several knives and often uses them to threaten people.
- Kubrick Stare: Klaus gives Olaf a surprisingly menacing one in the Austere Acadamy part 2.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall:
- In the first part of "The Hostile Hospital," Klaus says that he, Violet, and Sunny are child actors.
- Count Olaf isn't sure how much time has passed in the series, saying that it's either a year, a week, or a season.
- Upon the Baudelaires fleeing to Lucky Smells by themselves (which did not happen in the book), Mr. Poe exclaims that the entire thing has gone off-book (to an extra played by Daniel Handler, no less).
- When on the drive to Prufock Preparatory School, Mr. Poe says that it's the end of the season, so the Baudelaires have a lot of catching up to do.
- Stephano makes his preference for long-form streaming television that can be consumed from the comfort of your own home over film very clear.
- When the show returns in Season 2, Mr. Poe is discussing the orphans' situation with his superiors at Mulctuary Money Management, in an intentionally obvious bit of heavy exposition; meanwhile, Klaus and Violet note that they've feel like they've been sitting on the bench for months, and Sunny is starting to look more like a toddler than a baby.
- While talking on the phone with Larry Your Waiter, Jacqueline says "You sound cold. Are you in the mountains? We're not due there until the end of the season." Indeed, at the end of The Carnivorous Carnival, the last episode of season 2, several VFD members follow the Baudelaires and Olaf's troupe to the Mortmain Mountains, the setting for The Slippery Slope.
- At the end of season three, the Baudelaires are asked why they are with Count Olaf, Violet says that it's a very long story, and Sunny adds, "Three seasons!"
- At one point, the subject of having your own television show is broached. Count Olaf mentions that he tried that for nine years.
- Least Rhymable Word: The henchmen admit that not a lot of things rhyme with "Count Olaf." He rejects "Here comes Count Olaf! Bit of a showoff!" but doesn't seem to mind "Here comes Count Olaf! Roll out rice pilaf!" Probably because he suggested the rice pilaf rhyme himself even though it's not very good.
- Lemony Narrator:
- The difference here is that Snicket himself is present in scenes, in full view, while the events of the story are ongoing.
- This extends to the theme song, as well, with Olaf telling the viewer to "look away".
- Like Father, Like Son: As pointed out by Kit, Violet ties back her hair like her mother and Klaus adjusts his glasses like his father.
- Line-of-Sight Alias:
- How Olaf comes with a last-minute name during "The Bad Beginning". Mr. Poe's appointment book is open on Jacquelyn's desk and he reads it upside down.Jacquelyn: [unimpressed] Haircut?Olaf: Yes...sssssssssssica. Haircut.
- Used again by Count Olaf when trying to get into Heimlich Hospital, he introduces himself as "Dr. Mattathais Medical-School" (emphasis on the second syllable in "medical") after he and Esmé were telling each other that nobody would believe the other went to medical school.
- How Olaf comes with a last-minute name during "The Bad Beginning". Mr. Poe's appointment book is open on Jacquelyn's desk and he reads it upside down.
- Lost in Imitation: The show mostly is adapted from the books, but still takes a few things from the movie:
- Count Olaf as a goofy, over-the-top, but still (mostly) threatening character, rather than a straightforward sinister figure with an occasional hint of eccentricity.
- When he appears as Stephano for the first time, rather than verbally intimidating the Baudelaire children into letting him in (as he did in the books), he simply physically stops the closing door with a knife.
- Sunny's tendency for snarky remarks.
- The Baudelaire mansion fire being strongly implied to be a work of arson via a large glass lens, as opposed to going unexplained.
- VFD being an important subplot from the beginning, rather than only showing up later on.
- The recurring motif of spyglasses.
- MacGuffin: A strange case found in the mysterious Sugar Bowl that's being both kept and hidden by the VFD and hunted endlessly by Esmé, as it in no way directly influences the Baudelaires or Count Olaf's quest (the former are unaware of its existence and the latter doesn't seem to care), only indirectly, but it influences everyone around them and it's heavily implied that the events surrounding them were kick started by the Sugar Bowl incident involving the Snickets, Beatrice and Esmé. From Season 2 onwards, an image of the Sugar Bowl shows up during the opening after each of Count Olaf's narration to emphasize its importance. It's implied to be an item of sentimental value to Esmé, and just like in the books it's hinted that there's something important hidden inside it. Very much unlike in the books, we actually do get an answer to what is inside it: a type of sugar derived from a botanical hybrid, which can grant those who ingest it complete immunity to the Medusoid Mycelium.
- Meaningful Name:
- Edgar and Albert Poe seem to be a slightly altered reference to Edgar Allan Poe, but they were actually named for Edgar Albert Guest, a sentimental and trite poet whose image was used in the books as a symbol for the villains. That Poe would name his children this is a sign that he'll never be helpful.
- One of the final locations the siblings go to is called Dénouement Hotel. Denouement is the part of a story in which mysteries are revealed.
- Frank Denouement's first name is a synonym for "honest," while his brother Ernest's name is a homophone of the word Earnest, a synonym for "sincere." Furthermore, their brother Dewey, a librarian, is named for the Dewey Decimal System.
- Meta Twist: The last few books are rather (in)famous for leaving several of the biggest and most intriguing questions of the series largely unanswered, with the contents of the Sugar Bowl and the fate of the Baudelaires post-The End being the most significant. Season 3 actually ties up several of these loose ends, along with more explicitly detailing certain events which were only implied in the books, such as Olaf's Start of Darkness.
- Milkman Conspiracy: VFD, which started as an amateur organization of bibliophiles and volunteer fire fighters, is even more absurdly powerful than the baby-kidnapping, government-controlling organization it was in the books. At one point, we see a map of The City, and it's laid out in the shape of an eye, suggesting that members were involved in its construction.
- Mistaken for Prank Call: In episodes 3 and 4, this is a running gag whenever someone mentions Uncle Monty's full name Montgomery Montgomery over the phone.
- Mundane Made Awesome:
- The spyglasses are not only telescopes, but they also have a code wheel on them for deciphering codes in films, and are apparently heavy enough to be used as makeshift clubs, if Jacquelyn and Gustav's behavior towards the end of episode two is any indication. They also function as flashlights using an electromagnetic circuit, and can produce enough heat to create an updraft strong enough to carry a small hot air balloon upwards.
- Violet is able to make a grappling hook with nothing but some bedsheets and a hay hook, like in the books. However, she also makes a backpack apparatus to scale it with out of, among other things, a crank-powered pasta maker and an electric mixer.
- Mythology Gag: Has its own page.
- Nice Hat: The only part we see of the person who burns down the Quagmire Mansion is a very large, very loud black and white hat sat behind a newspaper in a very snazzy car; the implication here is that this is Esmé Squalor... which basically explains the hat.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In The Penultimate Peril, the Baudelaires are taken aback by how well the crowd receives their testimony and believes them. They stop Justice Strauss from ruling immediately in their favor and instead call Count Olaf to the witness stand to ensure that he will be found guilty, but his testimony turns the crowd against the Baudelaires again. Subverted by the fact that the judges, revealed to be the man with a beard but no hair and the woman with hair but no beard, would have ruled against them anyways.
- No Name Given:
- Olaf's theater troupe members are referred to exclusively by physical descriptions rather than by name. When the Hook-Handed Man asks Olaf to wait for the Henchperson of Indeterminate Gender, he calls them "you-know-who."
- The man with a beard but no hair and the woman with a hair but no beard.
- Noodle Incident: In the first episode, as Violet is assembling her invention, she and Klaus posit that it will be "even better than the mailbox", apparently a previous invention.
- No OSHA Compliance: The Lucky Smells Lumbermill in the "Miserable Mill" lives and breathes this trope, flouting every sort of safety or work regulations ever devised. 3 children are allowed to work in the mill with no reservations at all. Employees are forced to use equipment in poor condition. There are little to no safety precautions regarding dangerous machines and equipment. The workers are paid in gum and coupons. It's no surprise that the workers only tolerate these conditions because Dr. Orwell routinely hypnotizes them. As soon as Violet breaks them out of their hypnosis, they rise up against Sir in retaliation.
- Not His Sled:
- At the start of "The Wide Window," Violet throws away the peppermints that act as a Chekhov's Gun in the book. This allows the show to integrate the VFD plot which this time is there from the start, with a member getting them some more.
- In the books, Count Olaf's original troupe starts dropping out of the series one-by-one, starting with the Person of Indeterminate Gender in The Hostile Hospital, followed by the Bald Man in The Carnivorous Carnival. Though the Person of Indeterminate Gender is almost left for dead in the series, they show up at the last minute of The Hostile Hospital, and both characters are still around at the end of season 2.
- In the books, Lemony Snicket doesn't know what happened to the Baudelaires after the events of The End, but does know everything up to that point. In the series, he doesn't know anything past The Penultimate Peril, with his search for the Baudelaires' current whereabouts playing into the framing device of The End.
- Now or Never Kiss: Fiona and Klaus share one at the end of "Grim Grotto: Part 2," as they part ways and it's implied that they never see each other again.
- Number of the Beast: In part one of "The Ersatz Elevator", Poe calls Esmé the city's "seventh most important financial adviser" and she corrects him, choking that she's the sixth... three times.
- Ominous Pipe Organ: Deep, sinister pipe organ music is heard in the background a few times in "The Hostile Hospital", especially during the surgery scene.
- Once a Season:
- Somebody uses the alias "Yessica Haircuit" (Count Olaf in season 1, Jacquelyn in season 2)
- The question "is that a harpoon gun?" (Count Olaf asks Jacquelyn in season 1, Mr. Poe asks Esmé Squalor in season 2)
- Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Louis Hynes who plays Klaus, while being British, does an American accent well. In Episode 3, however, he slips back into his normal British for a few of his lines after the kids are settled into Montgomery Montgomery's.
- Overly Long Name: Esmé Gigi Genevieve Squalor, whose aliases for her disguises in The Vile Village and The Hostile Hospital are even more of a mouthful- In the latter she goes by Nurse Cassandra Ursula Terrific Elliandra, and in the former her alias changes each time she introduces herself, between "Sabrina Pepper Anastasia Marigold," "Donatella Violetta Cappuccino Milano," and "Sarah Petunia Alexandra Maryellen," though always adding that you can just call her "Officer Luciana."
- Painful Rhyme: The opening theme for "The Carnivorous Carnival" rhymes "fierce" with "worse", with the latter pronounced as "weerse". Lampshaded in part two, when Olaf pauses awkwardly when he gets to the end of the verse.
- Paper-Thin Disguise:
Count Olaf: ...or my name isn't whatever I just told you my name is!
- A running gag is Count Olaf taking on a variety of "disguises" that the children can instantly see through. And as in the books, somehow, everyone else somehow misses it's Olaf despite the kids openly saying "that's Count Olaf". Or when he fails to remember his own alias.
- His acting troupe falls into this too. In part 2 of "The Reptile Room", the Hook-Handed Man, disguised as a detective, wears false hands which are plastic and don't move—Mr. Poe looks right at them and declares that this can't be the Hook-Handed Man because he has normal hands. Oh, and they left the second "o" out of "Coroner" on their van.
- Percussive Maintenance: When Violet is helping Hector fix his self-sustaining home, after her first fix doesn't work, she asks for his biggest wrench, and then hits it.
- Pitbull Dates Puppy: Sir and Charles, respectively.
- Plot Allergy: The Baudelaires' allergy to peppermint is brought up in episodes five and six. Klaus's face swells up, Violet breaks out in hives, and Sunny gets both symptoms.
- Plot-Based Photograph Obfuscation: All the photos of the Baudelaire children's parents are obscured in some way. Uncle Monty's photo of himself and the Baudelaire parents is an exaggerated example; none of them can be seen, since they're all hiding in a grand piano for some unexplained reason.
- Poor Communication Kills: In "The Reptile Room," the Baudelaires are so thrilled that Monty appears to see right through Count Olaf that they never actually mention his name. Monty actually thinks Olaf is a spy trying to steal his research, rather than someone willing to kill him.
- Pragmatic Adaptation:
- Sir is still a chain-smoker, but the smoke no longer obscures his face, since doing so would make maintaining continuity between shots nearly impossible; it also gives Don Johnson more freedom with his character. A photo of Sir with his face obscured by smoke appears in the opening credits as a Mythology Gag. Charles also mentions that he's recently cut back on smoking.
- In the novel, the children are legally placed into the care of Sir and the lumber mill by Mr. Poe, fully aware that they will be working there as full-time employees (which he neglects to mention to the Baudelaires while escorting them there). However, besides the need to tie Paltryville and Lucky Smells Lumber Mill to VFD and the Baudelaires parent like the other locations in the series thus far, the producers probably felt that it would just seem too unrealistic or unbelievable (even for a series like this) for Mr. Poe to believe that a lumbermill was actually a suitable place for three orphans to live and work at. Therefore, the series has the children stowing away on a pickup truck to Paltryville while Mr. Poe is arguing with the now exposed Captain Sham/Count Olaf, believing that they will find answers about their parents there and are illegally taken in as employees by Sir while Mr. Poe tries desperately to locate them (so that he can obtain his promotion and regain his status as Number-one banker). He even directly states that a lumber mill is not a suitable alternative for a guardian.
- Dr. Orwell's death is changed from being cut to pieces by a sawblade to falling into a furnace, no doubt to make the series more family friendly.
- The Hook-Handed Man doesn't have pirate hooks for hands as depicted in the books; rather, he uses realistic prosthetic hooks that allow for some manipulation of objects.
- The series largely drops the books' conceit that Olaf's troupe are much better at disguising themselves than him, so that even the Baudelaires are fooled. Probably because on screen we can see the complete actors, while in the book each of them was only described with one or two features, which were easy to conceal making them unrecognizable to the reader.
- Due to the expense of building a set for the entire town of Paltryville, and its lack of overall presence in the fourth book outside of the Lumbermill and Doctor Orwell's office, the rest of the town has been stated to have burned down.
- In the books, Babs, head of human resources at Heimlich Hospital, communicated exclusively over a radio and the hospital intercom system, believing that "if children should be seen but not heard, then as an adult I should be heard but not seen." The adaptation drops this so she can interact regularly with other characters. Count Olaf's disguise as Mattathais similarly only spoke over the intercom when he took Babs' job, but in order to let him have a consistent and threatening presence, "Mattathais" is instead a visiting doctor.
- In the books, Klaus and Sunny pose as the white-faced women as part of their doctors disguise, and actually manage to fools all of Olaf's associates. Much like with Paltryville, the producers probably felt this would seem too unbelievable, so Klaus and Sunny attempt to pose as a single doctor together, called Dr. Faustus, which does not fool Olaf or his associates at all, but they play along so they can force them to perform the surgery.
- Kit's pregnancy isn't revealed until the second chapter of The Penultimate Peril. It would obviously be impractical to keep the lower half of her body out of the shot at all times, so this element was entirely removed.
- The series limits the time that the members of the court spend blindfolded to when it is necessary to the plot (specifically, when the verdict is to be announced, which is when Olaf flees the courtroom with Justice Strauss as a hostage), no doubt because it would have been difficult to direct the scene with everyone blindfolded the entire time. As a result, the man with a beard but no hair and the woman with hair but no beard remain several floors above the lobby to observe the trial so that the Baudelaires (and the audience) will not be able to recognize them right away.
- Pseudo Crisis: In "The Ersatz Elevator," Lemony Snicket begins an episode with the Baudelaire children falling down an elevator shaft, presumably to their deaths. While this does happen, they are caught by a net part way down.
- Put on a Bus: Jacquelyn is completely absent for the last season. The explanation given is that her mother the Duchess of Winnipeg died and she returned home. Out of universe, it seems to have been the result of a salary dispute.
- Race Lift: Many supporting characters, such as Mr. Poe, Uncle Monty, Aunt Josephine, and the Hook-Handed Man, are portrayed by people of color. While the books never mention any characters race, illustrations portrayed everyone as white.
- Related in the Adaptation:
- Inverted in the case of Mr. Poe and Eleanora; in the books, they were siblings, but in the series, they're husband and wife, with two sons.
- Dewey is Kit's lover and the father of her daughter in this adaptation, while in the novels he was only implied to have feelings for her and Kit's daughter's father is unknown to the reader.
- Refuge in Audacity: The Reptile Room's door requires an absurd amount of security checks to open...or you can just turn the doorknob, which no one would think to do upon seeing the rest of it.
- Remake Cameo: Catherine O'Hara (Justice Strauss in the 2004 film) returns to the franchise, this time playing Dr. Orwell.
- Repulsive Ringmaster: In "The Carnivorous Carnival", Count Olaf is persuaded by Madame Lulu to perform for the carnival. He chooses to take on the costume and role of a ringmaster. Although he does a surprisingly good job of disguising his evil intentions while in the role, he still acts very rude to the freaks and performers. It's worth noting that the idea Olaf becoming a ringmaster was created for this series, and didn't happen in the original book.
- The Reveal: Season 3 ends up revealing the answer to several mysteries which went unresolved in the books:
- The murder Lemony Snicket was framed for was Count Olaf's father, which was also Olaf's Start of Darkness and the origin of the Schism.
- The Great Unknown is a gigantic sea monster (although this one was already known to readers of the prequel series).
- The Sugar Bowl contains sugar. Specifically, it's a kind of sugar derived from a botanical hybrid which grants immunity to the Medusoid Mycelium, rather than just curing the symptoms.
- After The End, the Baudelaires went on to have more adventures with their adoptive daughter Beatrice and are implied to still be alive and well at the time of Lemony's narration.
- The series also introduces a reason why Lemony Snicket is chronicling the history of the Baudelaires: he's attempting to find them again to make up for not managing to save them from Count Olaf at the hotel.
- It's also revealed that the reason Lemony keeps saying the story of the Baudelaires ended with no happy ending is because the case itself went cold, rending it impossible for him to know if they survived or not. Of course this is revealed to not be the case when he meets Beatrice II, his sister's daughter and the Baudelaire's adoptive daughter, who not only gives him assurance that they survived, but he can finally have closure.
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: Played straighter with Dr. Monty than in the book series. He still assumes that Stephano is a spy from the Herpetological Society, but recognizes that he is extremely dangerous (up to attempting murder) and even does the right thing by getting the authorities involved. It doesn't help him, but his relative competence as a guardian makes his death even more impactful than in the books. He really could have been a good parent figure for the Baudelaires; he just never got the chance.
- Rule of Cool: A few things have been changed for the sake of making them more visually interesting. For example, Aunt Josephine's house is now on its own island, the reptile room is much bigger than it was in the book or movie, and Violet's invention in "The Bad Beginning" has been upgraded from a grappling hook to a elevator/backpack hybrid that looks like something from Codename: Kids Next Door.
- Running Gag:
- Frequently throughout the series characters will punctuate their sentences by defining one of the words or phrases they just used, saying something like "A word which here means [definition of the word]".
- In Season 2, the Daily Punctilio's delivery boy can ride his bike absolutely anywhere in the course of his job.
- The Scapegoat: Esmé's obsession with revenge against Beatrice Baudelaire for stealing the Sugar Bowl turns out to be misplaced, as in his narration, Lemony reveals that he was the one who stole it from her.
- Schizo Tech: As part of the Ambiguous Time Period, technology runs the gamut from fairly recent to a century out of date. This is encapsulated in Hector's self-sustaining home, which is powered by a steam engine but the barn is protected by a retinal scanner.
- Secret Society Group Picture: A photograph of some VFD agents at Lucky Smells Lumbermill, including the Baudelaire and Quagmire parents, crops up a couple of times.
- Series Fauxnale: An odd variation with "The Penultimate Peril". While the audience is well aware that it is not the final episode, it feels as though it could be, with many previously prominent characters returning, Lemony revealing he doesn't know what happened to the Baudelaires after their escape from the Hotel Denouement fire, and ending with a reprise of "That's Not How the Story Goes" playing over a shot of photographs depicting various scenes from across the series. That said, it does make some thematic sense, as it is the end of what Lemony's research was able to uncover, and "The End" acts more as an epilogue, since it only gets a single episode instead of the two episodes that all the other books got.
- Shaming the Mob: Jacqueline tries to shame the Village of Fowl Devotees when they want to burn the kids. It doesn't work, and just gets her and Larry Your-Waiter tied up.
- Shoo Out the Clowns: Most of Olaf's comically incompetent henchpeople desert him at the end of "The Slippery Slope".
- Shoot the Shaggy Dog: "Mother" and "Father" spend almost the entirety of Season One going to incredible lengths trying to make their way back to their children, experiencing great peril along the way. Eventually, they return to their home and the family is reunited. Then, that night, the house is burned down with them inside.
- Shout-Out: Enough to have its own subpage.
- Sigil Spam: The VFD logo shows up a lot in each episode, even in some places where it was not mentioned in the books—such as Uncle Monty's hedge maze, or on the spyglasses that certain characters carry. The Baudelaire orphans pick up on the significance of this symbol quicker than they do in the books. This even extends to geographical locations, with Lake Lachrymose and The Island being in the silhouette of the logo.
- Significant Anagram: "Al Funcoot," writer of the Marvelous Marriage play in "The Bad Beginning," is an anagram of Count Olaf, who wrote it as a scam. "(Nurse) O. Lucafont," the henchperson of indeterminate gender's disguise in "The Reptile Room" and again in "The Hostile Hospital," is also an anagram of Count Olaf. Also in The Hostile Hospital, Count Olaf uses "Laura V. Bleediotie," an anagram of Violet Baudelaire, to hide a trapped Violet on the Heimlich Hospital patient list.
- Slapstick Knows No Gender: When one of Count Olaf's henchmen ties Jacquelyn to a tree, she escapes by uprooting it and carrying it around on her back.
- Snicket Warning Label: As in the original books, Lemony Snicket opens the series by informing the viewer that the series won't have a happy ending and if they like happy endings, they should watch [insert the name of another Netflix show here]. However, the theme song also warns the viewer to "look away" from the show and states that no sensible, well-adjusted person would want to watch it.
- Socially Awkward Hero: Klaus repeatedly fails at flirting.
- In season two with Isadora:Isadora: How do I look?Klaus: Different. Which is good. Not that you didn't look good before. I mean, you do, you did, do look... Sunny, how are those glasses coming?
- And in season three with Fiona:Klaus: You know, you and Violet are actually a lot alike. You're both pretty smart, pretty strong-willed, pretty... pretty.
- In season two with Isadora:
- Spared by the Adaptation:
- The Person of Indeterminate Gender and the Bald Man, who die in books 8 and 9 respectively, but both survive in the series.
- Babs, who wasn't explicitly killed by Count Olaf in the books, but was hinted to have been pushed off of a roof offscreen. The series reveals that she survived the fire at Heimlich Hospital.
- The Islanders as well. The book implies they all died.
- Fiona, Fernand, the Quagmire triplets, and Hector. While they meet Uncertain Doom in the novels, the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue shows them achieving their goals.
- Spoiler Opening: A mild case. Each two-episode installment (corresponding to one of the books) has its own variation on the Expository Theme Tune, which usually gives away a few broad plot points before they happen. And the "Part Two" episode has the modified lyrics be sung by Count Olaf's disguise of the book, though by that point the viewer will have already seen this disguise in action.
- Squashed Flat: A non-cartoon example. Poor Phil in "The Miserable Mill" has his leg squashed by a stamping machine operated by a hypnotized Klaus. The stamp is actually placed over his leg, and he's still capable of moving his foot. At the end of the episode, he returns with a cast on his leg, which flares out to the sides like wings.
- Stargazing Scene: The Baudelaires sit outside of Heimlich Hospital to speak when Hal, the hospital's kindly keeper of records, comes and brings them some food to eat. They all sit out and gaze at the stars in a quiet scene, made bittersweet as the Baudelaries use this scene to steal Hal's keys despite his kindness, which hurts him deeply later on.
- Start of Darkness: We see Olaf's in part 2 of The Penultimate Peril. He was once good friends with Esmé, Beatrice, Lemony and Kit, until his father— a member of the official fire department, as opposed to the Volunteer Fire Department— was accidentally killed by a poisoned dart thrown by Beatrice during a confrontation over the Sugar Bowl.
- Stockholm Syndrome: Subverted with the Hook-Handed Man and Sunny. His growing liking for her, starting with their poker game in Bad Beginning, becomes notable when he later risks his own safety for her wellbeing. He helps her avoid being thrown off the waterfall in Slippery Slope and helps her escape the brig to find an antidote to Medusoid Mycelium in Grim Grotto, both times saving her life against Olaf's orders.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: In the first two episodes, Count Olaf struggles to come up with a rhyme for his name, ultimately settling on "rice pilaf". A little while later, when Jacquelyn is filling in Gustav on how things have gone off the rails, she invokes the same rhyme to clue him in on the true identity of "Yessica Haircut".
- String Theory: The opening credits play over Lemony Snicket assembling a board with strings linking everything back to Count Olaf, which can be seen on the wall in his hotel room in a few of the episodes.
- Stylistic Suck:
- The Marvelous Marriage by Al Funcoot, consists of 90% Olaf declaiming about being a handsome man in various locales, with the white-faced women popping out from behind him to say they must have him or they'll die (because he's sooo handsome), and 10% forcing Violet to marry him. The look on the audience's faces during the final scene implies that that first part went on for hours.
- Zombies in the Snow looks like something so bad that not even MST3K would take it on. It makes sense, once you realize the films have to be rushed out so that secret codes can be sent to their intended audience.
- Hypnotists in the Forest, seen in the eighth episode, isn't much better.
- The disguises of the Henchmen are intentionally paper thin because despite the henchmen being better disguisers than Olaf, viewers could easily see through them.
- Sword Cane: Part of Count Olaf's "Gunter, the innest auctioneer" disguise in "The Ersatz Elevator."
- Take That!:
- There are a fair few to the original movie, which Daniel Handler has quite a distaste for, and its production.
- From the first episode, in which Olaf inquires as to whether he needs to sign any sort of legal form or anything in regards to gaining custody of the Baudelaire's:Olaf: So, Poe, do I need to sign for them or something?Poe: What? No, no.Poe: Goodbye Violet, goodbye Klaus, goodbye Sunny, I hope you'll be happy here. I'll still be checking on you on occasion and if you need anything you can always- *door gets shut in his face*
- Count Olaf says he prefers television to movies, while staring long and hard at the camera. He also grouses that the theater he visits with Monty in episode 3 is a "godforsaken nickelodeon", a slight at the studio that made the 2004 film.
- Aunt Josephine's very specific comment when the leeches are attacking ("Let's all close our eyes as if we're watching some on-screen entertainment that's too scary for people our age!") seems borne from the annoyance Handler faced at test screenings where kids were freaking out and crying.
- In Episode 2, after Count Olaf manages to convince Mr. Poe to send the Baudelaire children to live with him by posing as a consultant, Gustav has this to say: Who would ever listen to a consultant?" Handler served as a consultant on the film.
- From the first episode, in which Olaf inquires as to whether he needs to sign any sort of legal form or anything in regards to gaining custody of the Baudelaire's:
- Klaus' explanation of why Olaf's marriage to Violet isn't valid is twice said to contain "the apocryphal wisdom of Thurgood Marshall." Similarly, in The Penultimate Peril, Sunny's response to the expression "Justice is Blind" being taken to its literal extreme is "Scalia".
- While sleeping, Carmelita mutters that she only watches network television.
- There are a fair few to the original movie, which Daniel Handler has quite a distaste for, and its production.
- Take That, Audience!: The theme song questions why a decent person like you would even want to watch the show.
- Theme Initials: As in the original.
- "VFD" shows up as the initials of several organizations and phrases.
- Quite a few peoplenote bear the initials J.S., which becomes plot-relevant when Kit wonders who called the meeting in "The Penultimate Peril".
- They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich:
- In the first episode, Olaf's theater troupe barely get to eat the puttanesca pasta the children prepared and skip the dessert.
- In episode 6, the children don't take a single bite of their hamburgers.
- They also don't eat their coconut cream cake in episode 3.
- This Bear Was Framed: The Mamba du Mal was framed for Uncle Monty's death; the venom was collected and injected with a syringe. Hence how Klaus realizes what's going on: there's only one puncture on Uncle Monty, as opposed to the two that a genuine snakebite would cause.
- Title Drop:
- From the first part of "The Carnivorous Carnival":Olivia: I sense that you have been brought here by a series of unfortunate events...
- From the series finale:An Incomplete History: But perhaps many years from now, another set of voyagers will discover this book and read about the people who came before them, the stories they left behind, and this entire series of unfortunate events.
- From the first part of "The Carnivorous Carnival":
- To Be Continued:
- Season the First ends with the siblings at Prufock Prep, awaiting their call to talk with Nero, sitting in a bench back-to-back with Duncan and Isadora, who hold another half of a spyglass.
- Season the Second ends with Violet and Klaus speeding down a mountain road in a carnival wagon, while Sunny is in the clutches of Count Olaf's troupe headed for the V.F.D. headquarters deep in the Mortmain Mountains.
- Trigger Phrase: Lucky, fire, inordinate.
- Troll: Why else would Monty call a harmless snake The Incredibly Deadly Viper, unless he was one of these?
- Truer to the Text: The show has plenty of changes, but is more faithful than the film:
- For one thing, Daniel Handler is more involved, executive-producing the series and writing five of the first eight episodes.
- Neil Patrick Harris claimed in interview his characterization of Count Olaf is closer to the books than Jim Carrey's.
- Each book, excluding the last, gets more than one episode to avoid Compressed Adaptation.
- Count Olaf's tattoo looks more like the books' depiction, with the initials V.F.D. in it.
- Uncertain Doom: Much like in the books, it's left ambiguous as to whether Mr. Poe, Esmé, Carmelita, Jerome, Babs, Vice Principal Nero, and Frank and Ernest Denouement survived the fire at the Hotel Denouement.
- Unhand Them, Villain!: In the second episode, Count Olaf has Sunny suspended on a cage in order to compel Violet to marry him.Count Olaf: Well if you really want me to let her go I will but even a stupid brat like you might realize that if I—or more accurately if I have my comrade let her go...
Hook-Handed Man: Hi!
Count Olaf:...Sunny might not survive the fall to the ground. That's a thirty-foot tower which is a very long way for a very small person to fall even when she's inside a cage. But if you insist...
- The Unreveal: Every time it seems the Baudelaires are about to get answers, their revelations are somehow interrupted.
- Lampshaded by Klaus in "The Miserable Mill, Part 1," where Sir starts to cough right at the moment he was about to give them some answers.
- Season 2 sort of zig-zagged this: Each time the Baudelaires are about to get some answers, something happens that ruins the opportunity. However they do get some of their answers revealed in Part 2 of "The Carnivorous Carnival" where they learn VFD stands for Volunteer Fire Department, an organization dedicated to putting out fires (figuratively and literally) and that a "Schism" occurred that lead to two divisions.
- The Sugar Bowl... contains sugar. Granted, it's sugar that has a vaccine against the Medusoid mycelium mixed in with it, but still.
- In "The End," Olaf counters the Baudelaires' assumption that he is the one who burned their house down. When he dies, we don't know if this was a lie or, if it was the truth, who really set fire to the Baudelaire home.Klaus: You made us orphans in the first place!
Count Olaf: Is that what you think?
Violet: We know it.
Count Olaf: You don't know anything.
- The Un-Smile: The members of the Volunteers Fighting Disease always have extremely unnerving grins plastered on their faces.
- Villain Ball: Dr. Orwell, despite otherwise being a competent baddie, chooses a rather poor trigger word for the factory workers (fire), requiring the entire subject to be banned from discussion at the mill. Her word for Klaus ("inordinate"} is a fairly obscure word, but she simply got unlucky that the Baudelaires were so educated and just happened to use it repeatedly.
- Villain Song:
- In "The Bad Beginning: Part 1", Count Olaf and his acting troupe sing "It's the Count", a very comical, over-the-top song that consists of Olaf showing off his massive ego, while also making it clear that he intends to steal the Baudelaires' fortune.Who else has such robust good lucks in such a large amount?
I'm handsome and I'm talented and love your bank account!
- In "The Ersatz Elevator: Part 1", Larry tries to convince Olaf to sing a song, in a desperate attempt to distract him. After refusing a few times, Olaf reluctantly complies and sings a catchy song called "Keep Chasing Your Schemes". As Olaf is in disguise (as a Funny Foreigner, no less), the song seems like a typical motivational song on the surface, but the lyrics contain some not-so-subtle hints of Olaf's true intentions (which, of course, virtually nobody in-universe picks up on.)No one's going to hand you
A fortune on a plate
You've got to open wide
Put your mouth around the bait
You gotta keep chasing your schemes
Keep chasing your schemes
- In "The Carnivorous Carnival: Part 1'', Olaf sings "Welcome, Welcome, Welcome to the House of Freaks" as he, disguised as a ringmaster, sings about The Freakshow. Although, unlike the previous two songs, Olaf doesn't sing about his villainous goals in this one, he does mock the freaks in gratuitously cruel ways, and the song and visuals are just as bombastic as you'd expect. Creepy Circus Music is in full effect here.Welcome, welcome, welcome to the house of freaks!
You'll never find such weirdos in the oddest of boutiques!
- In "The Bad Beginning: Part 1", Count Olaf and his acting troupe sing "It's the Count", a very comical, over-the-top song that consists of Olaf showing off his massive ego, while also making it clear that he intends to steal the Baudelaires' fortune.
- Waxing Lyrical: In "The Austere Academy", Larry asks Carmelita "Tell me what you want, what you really really want"
- Webcomic Time: Lampshaded. In one of the final episodes, Count Olaf moans that it seems like he's been trying to get his hands on the Baudelaires for years, with a slight glance toward the camera.
- We Used to Be Friends: Everyone in VFD used to be friends and allies before the Schism broke them apart.
- Wham Line:
- In "The Reptile Room, Part 1", when Olaf in his Stephano disguise gestures to the picture of a piano on the wall, talking about the Baudelaire parents. When it is pointed to him they aren't in the photo:Olaf: Of course they are. They're in the piano!
Klaus: How do you know that?
Olaf: I took the picture.
- In "The Miserable Mill, Part 1", "Mother and Father" finally reach their children."Children? Children! Duncan, Quigley, Isadora!"
- Also in "The Miserable Mill, Part 1", when Violet, Klaus and Sunny ask Sir about their parents and the sorry state of Paltryville:Sir: There's a reason this town will never forget your parents. They're the ones that burned it down.
- In Part 2 of "The Ersatz Elevator", we have this line from Esmé:Esmé: I want what Beatrice stole from me!
- Snicket reveals his greatest shame:Snicket: Even now, I ask myself "Was it really necessary? Was it absolutely necessary to steal that sugar bowl from Esmé Squalor?"
- When the Baudelaires watch the video found in the Snicket file-Jacques Snicket: I suppose I should start at the beginning, but before I do, I have an important update. It seems there may have been a survivor of the fire.
- From "The Penultimate Peril Part 2", the trial of Count Olaf takes the inevitable turn for the worst:Justice Strauss: I'm...I'm sorry, Baudelaires, but...my fellow judges want to know how you plead.
- From "The End":Ishmael: And when I met a child like that, I would recruit them into a secret organization - my organization.
- Another one from "The End", and an interesting example: for fans of the series, it's a fairly casual and expected reveal; but for book fans, for whom this question has been unresolved for over a decade, it's an absolutely stunning Meta Twist and one of the most shocking moments in the series.Klaus: What is inside the Sugar Bowl?
- From the end of "The End", the Baudelaires telling Kit Snicket's baby about the name "Beatrice":Violet: That's right, that's your name.
Klaus: It was our mother's name too.
- In "The Reptile Room, Part 1", when Olaf in his Stephano disguise gestures to the picture of a piano on the wall, talking about the Baudelaire parents. When it is pointed to him they aren't in the photo:
- Wham Shot:
- The ending of Episode 1. A couple, heavily implied to be the Baudelaire parents, are in chains being carted off to parts unknown. This managed to get topped in Episode 7, where it turns out they aren't the Baudelaire parents, but rather the Quagmire parents.
- When the doors at Lucky Smells Mills open to show the Baudelaire parents, Snicket suddenly steps into frame and drags the camera off to the side.
- At the very end of the first season, the camera zooms in on a picture at Prufrock Prep to reveal Snicket and Olaf looking like old friends.
- The ending of "The Penultimate Peril Part 1", when the Baudelaires finally meet Lemony Snicket.
- Similar to the Lemony example above, "The Penultimate Peril Part 2" begins with a flashback where Olaf is embracing Kit Snicket.
- "The End" reveals a little girl who takes a trolley to Hotel Denouement to be "Beatrice Baudelaire", who's soon revealed to be Kit's daughter.
- "What Now?" Ending: The last we see of the Baudelaires is them leaving the island with baby Beatrice. They are nowhere to be seen when an older Beatrice meets with Lemony and tells him their story.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Like the books, the most concrete location we get is "somewhere in America, probably" with the only specifics given being somewhere south of Winnipeg and north of Peru.
- In the opening credits, we see a location called the "Land of Districts" listed on a case file regarding Olaf.
- Olaf has a line about "whatever language I'm speaking right now," implying that Translation Convention might be going on.
- A crowd describes their nation as "the country we're in."
- A worker at Lucky Smells states that their country does not have a constitution.
- The bank-robbing school teacher has a Thief Bag with a dollar sign on it, but several dozen nations use dollars as their currency. The bills inside look similar, but not identical, to American dollars.
- You Said You Would Let Them Go: In The Bad Beginning: Part 2, after supposedly Violet and obtaining the Baudelaire fortune, Olaf, for no good reason, decides to drop Sunny to her death anyway.
- Yoko Oh No: None of the troupe can tolerate Esmé (well, barring the Bald Man). The Hook-Handed Man even complains at one point, "I liked it so much better before Yoko showed up."
There's nothing but horror and inconvenience on the way.
Ask any stable person "Should I watch?", and they will say...
Look away, look away. Look away
Look away, look away. Look away
...Look away. ♫