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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Is Mr. Poe really as dim-witted as he seems, or is he simply unsure of how to act in such bizarre, tragic circumstances, and his attempts to sympathize with the Baudelaires simply come off as condescending? Also, could he have a mental condition? Not being able to recognize Count Olaf, or, rather, not Count Olaf, point blank is stretching disbelief. "Face blindness" is a real condition, though Poe doesn't exhibit it with anyone else.
      • Although he doesn't recognize Sunny at first in "The Penultimate Peril," and even says that she reminds him of a toddler he knows but doesn't put together that it's actually her. It's a very real possibility that Mr. Poe only recognizes the Baudelaires because there are three of them together, and he definitely could have at least some form of prosopagnosia.
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    • Does Uncle Monty really think Stephano is just a spy from the Herpetological Society? Since he had a message from VFD saying the children were not safe and he is aware of Stephano threatening the children with a knife and the possibility Stephano wanted to murder him, could he have just been playing Olaf?
    • The theme song "Look Away," sung by Count Olaf's actor, Neil Patrick Harris. On the one hand it might just be a standard case of Lemony Narrator in line with how Snicket begs the viewer not to read his story. On the other hand seeing as it is Harris, he might be singing the song from Count Olaf's POV demanding the audience look away so as not to witness his crimes or simply mocking the audience for their curiosity and the Baudelaires for their tragedies.
    • Some people believe the Hook-Handed Man's protectiveness of Sunny comes from the fact that he has a little sister of his own who he's grown estranged from. Confirmed by the third season.
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    • Count Olaf brags about having an IQ "in the upper double digits", which places him at below-average intelligence. Is he simply ignorant and mistakenly believes that his score is high, or is he familiar with the scale but views it as a good thing in line with his anti-intellectual views that distinguish him from the members of VFD?
    • Olaf's behaviour in "The End"; being particularly idiotic even for him could be a breakdown after everything that's happened (especially since towards the end he starts acting more intelligent again).
  • Ass Pull: The adaptation of "The End" omits the scene in which the Incredibly Deadly Viper is shown to have traveled to the island on the raft along with Kit, meaning that its appearance in the climactic scene comes across as something of a Deus ex Machina to those not familiar with the books.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
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    • A common criticism leveled at the book series is that the sheer amount of misery makes some readers undergo Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy and just plain give up. While the show didn't completely escape accusations of this from some, others praised it for being whimsical/outlandish enough not to go too far with it.
    • The first four books are extremely episodic, with the hints of a broader developing story only beginning in the fifth. The show integrates the VFD plot right from the start and the four stories are tied together much more tightly.
    • Aunt Josephine was more or less considered a selfish character in The Wide Window due to her willingness to give the kids away to Count Olaf to save herself. In the series however, she stands up to Count Olaf and rips him a new one in a misguided way, a far cry from her book counterpart.
    • The series does away with the bit in "The Ersatz Elevator" that many fans found too horribly contrived even for this series, where Violet and Klaus actively stop the Quagmires from explaining the entire VFD mystery and then find them gone before they can follow up on it.
    • Some people found the Henchperson of Indeterminate Gender in the book to be offensive when combined with Fat Bastard. The show reworks the Henchperson as a lethargic Cloudcuckoolander with several Hidden Depths, who was much better received by audiences.
    • The show gives a much more believable, while still misinformed reason for the villagers to believe that the Baudelaires are murderers. In the original book, Olaf gives rather flimsy evidence for the orphans being at the scene of the crime, despite them having solid alibis. In the TV series, however, the orphans use an invention to try and break Jacques, who was mistaken for Count Olaf, out of the jail cell. This gives Olaf a stronger case because not only were the orphans breaking the village’s strict rules about technology, but it also made it look like they were trying to break into the cell to kill “Count Olaf.”
    • Season 3 also greatly tones down the Baudelaires' Black and White Insanity, as many book fans had grown increasingly irritated at their acting like any action with the slightest hint of moral ambiguity instantly made them as bad as Olaf. It ends up going with a more nuanced view that there are no truly completely good or bad people in the world.
    • The show removes the part in "The Slippery Slope" where the Baudelaires deliberately release the villain they just took hostage, an action which seemed a bit naive considering the circumstances.
    • "The End" was criticized by some for leaving the fates of many characters vague and bleak. The adaptation gives a more optimistic conclusion. Quigley is reunited with his siblings, Fernald and Fiona are reunited and have finally found their father, Count Olaf’s henchpeople start their own acting troupe, and the Baudelaires take off on their boat and are implied to have gone on many more adventures with Beatrice the Second.
    • The show finally goes into detail about Count Olaf’s backstory, something that was only hinted at in the books.
    • Kit's death by poison when she refused the apple cure was widely panned as contrived and based on science that had been discredited by the time of the The End's release. In the show, Kit does take the cure she needs... but it only delays her symptoms long enough to give birth.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Count Olaf's henchmen. Some fans love them and feel they get the best lines. Some fans hate the changes made to them from the books, namely the white-faced women being so elderly, or the bald man being large and dim when in the book he was one of the more clever and meaner of the henchmen. A few fans were also disappointed with how much they changed the person of the indeterminate gender.
    • Mr. Poe. Fans either Love to Hate him for how fathomlessly dim and incompetent he is, or just plain hate him as The Scrappy for being Too Dumb to Live to the point of being horribly unlikable. How one feels about K. Todd Freeman's performance in the role tends to have a huge effect on how they view the character and his recurring presence on the show.
  • Broken Base:
    • People seem to have very strong opinions on Violet's pink dress, as the books explicitly stated that she hated the color pink.
    • The Cruel Twist Ending in "The Miserable Mill Part 1" where we learn "Mother" and "Father" were actually The Quagmire parents has upset some fans who felt they were falsely lead on, while some found it brilliant considering one already knows the Baudelaires parents are dead. Some however see the twist as bringing the Baudelaires and Quagmires more closer regarding how well integrated the VFD plot is.
    • Which is better, this series, or the film? Or, do they each have some better aspects than the other?
    • The songs. Some find them entertaining, whereas others think they are annoying distractions which are only there because of Neil Patrick Harris.
    • The final season's resolution of many mysteries which were left ambiguous in the books. Some prefer the books' creepy sense of a vast mysterious conspiracy, while some are glad to finally get some answers.
  • Catharsis Factor:
    • Nearly twenty years after the series first began, the Baudelaires are finally confirmed to have gotten the happy ending they so badly deserve, traveling the world and having adventures, plus even Lemony gets his own closure when Beatrice II tracks him down.
    • Olaf telling off Carmelita and Esmé is incredibly satisfying, especially with the implication they go looking for the Sugar Bowl in the basement of the hotel while it's in flames.
    • The Punctilio newspaper revealed to be going under at the end of the series and Ms. Poe showed arrested for false reporting. Considering how unsympathetic she was, it's nice to see some karma landing on her. Granted not so much with the implication her husband may have died in a fire but still...
  • Complete Monster: The Man with A Beard but No Hair and The Woman with Hair but No Beard, from season 3's first two episodes and the penultimate episode, are the arson loving heads of the dark side of V.F.D. who are the ones who orchestrated the schism from behind the scenes. Years prior to the events of the series, they manipulated an vulnerable Olaf into becoming the arson-loving madman he is today so he can accomplish their goals. Years later, they would burn down V.F.D. Headquarters to prevent anyone from learning its secrets and to eliminate an potential survivor of an recent fire. After making an introduction by attempting to kill Kit Snicket and steal the Sugar Bowl from her, they would proceed to murder the Circus Freaks just so to see if Olaf would care. After criticizing Olaf for his antics and failures, they would then order him to throw Sunny Baudelaire off of an cliff just to prove his villainy. They would then proceed to kidnap an group of Snow Scouts so they can force them to work for them and steal their fortunes, while also killing their parents by burning down their homes in an city-wide fire. They would later appear at Olaf and the Baudelaires' trial as judges where they try to have the Baudelaires declared guilty and have them arrested for the murder of Dewey Denouncement. An pair of cruel, emotionally abusive arsonists whose aura of menace frightens even Olaf himself, The Man with A Beard but No Hair and The Woman with Hair but No Beard played an major role in Count Olaf's descent to villainy.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    Hook-handed Man: I just wanted a few peaches.
    • The ending to "The Miserable Mill: Part 1" is both cruel and hilarious in how it crushes the audience's expectations. Especially given all the Red Herrings leading up to it.
    • When Klaus says to Charles that he is having a terrible childhood, all Charles does is say "Okay," and then slowly closes the door on him.
    • This exchange:
    Count Olaf: I hope I can prove myself to be the father you never had.
    Klaus: We had a father.
    Count Olaf: Yes, I know. And a mother. Remarkable woman. Flammable.
    • And this one:
    Klaus: You said to arrive at sundown. So we're not actually late.
    Count Olaf: That's curious. Someone just referred to you as the "late Baudelaires." Maybe they were talking about your parents.
    • This exchange between Olaf and the Baudelaires:
    Klaus: Our parents taught us how to survive!
    Olaf: Well, I guess those who can't do, teach.
    • The Volunteers Fighting Disease cheerfully singing to patients who are clearly ill or in terrible pain, unaware that it’s not doing anything to make them feel better at all.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy:
    • Like the book series it's based off of, many consider the show to be very well-written but still far too depressing and bleak to really enjoy. Snicket did try to warn us.
    • Made worse in Season 2 when two Doomed by Canon characters are given far more screen time and development than they had in the books, letting the audience really get attached to them before their inevitable and exceptionally violent demises.
  • Ear Worm:
    • "Look away, look away..."
    • "It's the Count" from the first episode is also very catchy, at least in part due to lifting its melody from Blue Monday.
    • "Not How the Story Goes" is every bit as catchy as it is depressing.
    • Carmelita's songs. Unfortunately.
    • "Welcome to the House of Freaks", catchy carnival music.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Olaf's Theater Troupe get some of the most hilarious lines in the series. With Matty Cardarople's Henchperson of Indeterminate Gender so much so that they were Spared by the Adaptation in the Heimlich Hospital fire.
    • Carmelita Spats is far more popular than in the books thanks to Kitana Turnbull's Affably Evil and quasi-Stepford Smiler performance, with many fans looking forward to how her acting career could be built further after making such a big early splash.
    • Larry Your-Waiter and Jacqueline were popular enough to be brought back in Season 2 and their involvement with VFD was expanded upon.
    • Olivia Caliban and Jacques Snicket, due to them being genuinely noble people and more fleshed out than their book counterparts. Fans were upset when the two died as well.
  • Epileptic Trees: Popular theories prior to the completion of the show included:
    • Some book fans suspected that apparent Canon Foreigner Jacquelyn was actually a Gender Flip of Jacques Snicket, a rename of Kit Snicket, or a Composite Character of both. Jossed in Season 2, where they both appear.
    • Some people theorized the possible "survivor of the fire" could actually be one of the Baudelaire parents considering the show's attempts to deviate from the books. Jossed in the final season, where it turned out to be Quigley Quagmire like in the books.
    • The identity of the previous holder of the "Madame Lulu" position was debated. Some argued she was the same person as the book character Kit Snicket, while others argued she was another Canon Foreigner because she was not evidently pregnant like Kit in the books. The final season reveals that "Madame Lulu" is indeed Kit Snicket, and she is indeed pregnant though wearing a fairly baggy leather jacket.
  • Family-Unfriendly Aesop: Many. What else would you expect from A Series of Unfortunate Events?:
    • There are no truly noble people in the world, only morally grey people with good intentions.
    • When all other people have failed you, the only person you can rely on to survive is yourself.
    • You can’t keep yourself sheltered from the world, even though it’s a dark and cruel place. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to survive.
    • Sometimes you have to do something awful to prevent something worse.
  • Fan-Disliked Explanation: Some of the revelations of mysteries which went unresolved in the books fall into this for portions of the fandom (see Broken Base). Of these, the contents of the Sugar Bowl and the adaptational revelation that Ishmael was the founder of VFD seem to be the most contentious.
  • Fandom Rivalry: A minor one with The Film of the Book. Fans of the franchise seem to be mainly split on the casting and whether there was too much humor and not enough darkness. Misaimed Fandom plays part of a role in this.
  • Fanfic Fuel: The last two episodes provide many. Who survived the fire in the hotel and who didn't? What adventures did the Baudelaires have after leaving the island on board the Beatrice (we only know they encountered a group of female pirates)?
  • Genius Bonus:
    • Several of the names and words used are very obscure references. For example, "Mulctuary" is a very uncommon adjective that means "that punishes by fine"; i.e. "Money management that punishes by fine".
    • Jacquelyne advises Larry to recite something by Jack London while locked in the freezer. He goes with To Build a Fire, which is about a man freezing to death.
    • Mr. Poe mentions the story "The Lottery", by Shirley Jackson, believing it to be just a story about drawing lots. He is clearly not at all familiar with the story, in which the winner of the titular lottery is killed by the village, making up for a grim comedy.
  • Growing the Beard: The first season was well-received, as the episodes that adapt the first 3 books in the series took cues from both the books and movie on what to keep and what could be changed, as well as incorporating the VFD subplot earlier than it was introduced in the books. However, some of the VFD stuff was either contrived or forced in rather than organically woven in better and some of the writing was hit or miss. The second season, now that it's no longer in the movie's shadow and adapted books that originally had the subplot in them, as well as having more interesting and intricate plots to adapt and improvements to the writing and some of the acting, is overall much better in its production than the first.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The show directly acknowledges a case from the books, in which Josephine's fear of real estate agents was said to be irrational because nothing bad had ever come out of the industry. In the meantime, we'd gotten the 2007 housing bubble collapse, so in the show Snicket still says the line, but then gets a look on his face that says "Why did I just say that?"
  • He Panned It, Now He Sucks!: Just like his reviews of Fargo, Zach Handlen of The AV Club got a lot of heat from fans for stubbornly clinging to his own preconceived notions of what the show should be, and refusing to engage with the kind of show it actually is. There's also his just plain bizarre insistence on acting like he has no idea where the story could be going, while also openly talking about how he's read the entire book series, which no one has any idea what to make of.
  • He Really Can Act: Patrick Warburton's casting was met with a lot of skepticism, but he quickly won a lot of fans over with his ability to keep a perfect straight face during Daniel Handler's deliberately stuffy and overwrought dialogue, while injecting a tinge of melancholy that has raised interest in what he could do with a straight dramatic role.
  • He's Just Hiding!: Larry Your-Waiter's death was just ambiguous enough that many fans believe he survived, and many have pointed out that scientifically speaking, he would've had plenty of time to escape before the chili killed him.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: The Quagmire parents are Batman and Wonder Woman! Or if you prefer, Batman and Robin.
  • Ho Yay:
    • Between Jacques and Larry in "The Austere Academy Part 2". Jacques carries an almost frozen Larry to safety in a Bridal Carry, when they run into Carmelita, Jacques gives her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech for being mean to his friend and as they walk away, Larry calls Jacques "My hero". It's also quite clear that Jacques and Larry are close throughout the episode.
    • A one sided example between the Hook Handed Man and Count Olaf. The former brings the latter coffee and offers to spend the night with him (as in, by his side while they make the orphans run) and even puts one of his hooks on the former's knee.
    • Esmé gets very close to "Lulu's" face when threatening her.
  • Iron Woobie: The entire series seems intent on putting the orphans through Hell, however, while they have moments of sadness, they keep finding the strength to go on, solve mysteries and fight Count Olaf while sticking together.
  • Love to Hate:
    • Count Olaf, as always. He's an absolutely awful person, and the entire fandom knows it, but he's so over-the-top and Neil Patrick Harris is clearly having such a good time playing him that it's hard not to love him anyway.
    • Kitana Turnbull's Affably Evil Carmelita Spats takes an unbearable character on the page and makes her hilarious.
    • Esmé Squalor. Lucy Punch is similarly having a ball in the role, balancing humor and wickedness to create a villain who can appropriately be described as the second coming of Cruella de Vil.
    • Mr. Poe, oddly enough. While not an outright villain like any of the above, his condescending attitude and total incompetence can make him quite an unlikable character, though K. Todd Freeman's performance means he is not without his funny moments as well.
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • Misaimed Fandom: People who complain that the series isn't as dark and gloomy as the books don't seem to realize that the books were supposed to be more of a dark comedy rather than a straight-up drama. In fact, some of the comedic moments were lifted directly from the book.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Count Olaf murdering Uncle Montgomery.
    • The villagers effectively cross it in "The Vile Village: Part 2" when they have the chance to not burn the Baudelaires, but decide to go through with it anyways.
    • Esmé does this in "The Vile Village: Part 2" when she attempts to kill Hector and the Quagmires, both by having them burned and with her harpoon gun.
    • The Carnival Freaks cross it when they cut the caravan off the car, sending Klaus and Violet off a cliff.
    • The Man with a Beard but No Hair and the Woman with Hair but No Beard cross it when they kidnap the Snow Scouts and burn down their families' homes with their parents still in them.
  • Narm Charm: The CGI in a lot of scenes looks rather cartoony. While it is distracting sometimes, some would argue that it fits the surreal, over-the-top feel of the show.
  • Nausea Fuel:
    • Phil getting his leg cartoonishly crushed by the stamp machine at Lucky Smells.
    • VFD's marathon of salmon-based dishes to delay Olaf.
    • Mr. Poe's coughing, especially when he follows it up with a very loud swallowing sound.
    • Whenever Colette the Contortionist bends her body, mostly due to the sickeningly disturbing sound effects.
    • Esmé and Carmelita making sausage out of crows and then feeding it to everyone as "revenge".
  • 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.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The Quagmires never mention their children's names, only saying they have three. Also, when Klaus sees the photo of the Baudelaire and Quagmire parents at the mill, it just wasn't clear which pair got his attention. It also explains why the Quagmire parents were just listed as "Mother" and "Father" in the end credits of every episode.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • Sunny is an incredibly obvious doll a lot, especially any time Violet hides her face in a shoulder and during the sequence of Josephine's house collapsing (the latter is understandable when she's hanging from the doorknob by her teeth, but not so much when Violet is simply carrying her afterwards). It makes sense since they only cast one baby instead of the standard twins, and you can't have babies on set for that long, but it's still pretty obvious. CGI Sunny can get a little... creepy, as well.
    • On the whole, the CGI looks so conspicuous and gratuitous, it might as well have been a cartoon. The scene that stands out the most is the destruction of Aunt Josephine's house, which is thoroughly and shockingly unconvincing. It does end up adding to the overall surreal tone of the series, so it might very well be intentional.
    • During "It's the Count" it's very obvious none of the troupe are actually playing their instruments which just makes the scene funnier.
  • Spoiled by the Format: Even people unfamiliar with the books won't be surprised by Esmé's role if they noticed Lucy Punch is in the main cast credits.
  • Squick:
    • It's hard not to sympathize with Olaf during the regular bits where Poe coughs in his face. The worst comes when Poe gives his handkerchief a long lick before wiping Olaf's ankle.
    • As in the book, everything to do with Olaf trying to marry Violet (who is fourteen, and you know, legally his child for all intents and purposes). Especially "ewww"-worthy is when he informs Violet she will play his bride onstage... and forcing her to call him "Father" a couple lines later. Also his line of "I'll touch whatever I want" while clutching her shoulder has some very ominous implications.
    • Klaus is quite unnervingly flustered by Isadora dressing up as his sister.
    • Olaf's speech to Violet while she's tied up in The Hostile Hospital.
    • Olaf telling the Baudelaires "My first time was hard too" while forcing them to light the fire in The Carnivorous Carnival
    • When Esmé and Carmelita make crow sausage.
  • The Woobie: Every non-horrible character is this to some extent. What else did you expect from a show with the word "Unfortunate" in the title?
    • The Baudelaire orphans, naturally. The entire series seems intent on putting them through absolute Hell. First, they lose their parents and home in a fire, and are met with no sympathy from those around them. They are forced to live with an abusive guardian who only wants them alive to get their fortune. Even after getting away from him, he chases them and proceeds to pick off their new legal guardians one-by-one. Not to mention, Adults Are Useless is practically the law of the land in this world. No one ever believes them when they say that they are in serious danger. It's honestly a surprise they haven't been driven insane by the events that have occurred. (Lord knows the viewers almost have been.)
    • Lemony Snicket. His Lemony Narrator tendencies show up as him being genuinely affected by everything that happens to the Baudelaires, and he seems to genuinely not want you to continue watching, not out of a joke, but because the events that he's chronicling have made him utterly miserable. And that's not even bringing up Beatrice, the love of his life who turned down his proposal and died afterwards. Season 2 piles on that he's wracked with guilt for stealing Esmé's sugar bowl, the inciting incident that led to the Baudelaire fire, and now seems to be forcing himself to investigate everything the children went through as some kind of self-flagellation in penance.
    • Poor Justice Strauss who has always wanted to be an actress and have a family. First Count Olaf tricks her into being in his "play" for his plan to succeed, and then she's denied the chance to adopt the Baudelaire children.
    • And after the first season finale, we now have the Quagmire children. They find themselves in the exact same position as the Baudelaires, with their house being burnt down and their parents dying. However, it's implied that one of their siblings died in the fire as well, seeing as how three Quagmire children were seen, but only two were seen in the boarding school after the fire. Fans of the book know that all three children survive, but as far as the two Quagmires are aware, they've lost three close members of their family.
    • Aunt Josephine. She used to be a badass VFD agent, but after the death of her husband, she became a neurotic shut-in who's terrified of everything. Despite this, she tries to make a safe and happy home for the children, and is kind to them, even if she isn't very useful. And when push comes to shove, her heart was in the right place and she tries to help them, eventually even being willing to stand up to Count Olaf for them. It doesn't save her, however, and she dies. Lemony even lampshades this, pointing out that while she wasn't a great guardian, she wasn't a bad person, and she didn't deserve what happened to her.
    • Hal, the archivist at Hemilich Hospital. After devoting his life to creating a massive library with all kinds of information, he's betrayed by the Baudelaires when they need his keys after befriending them, which gets his library destroyed. He then bitterly turns them in to the authorities, and when the hospital burns down he's last seen wandering away wailing "It's all gone!"
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Considering that Olaf's henchpeople got significantly more characterization on the whole, that the carnival freaks very unceremoniously suffered Death by Adaptation not even a full episode after joining his troupe is especially disappointing. On top of them having stuck around in the books, the very next episode, Slippery Slope part 2, would see the entire rest of his troupe leaving. Certainly there could've been a place for them as the usual cast shrank while the season went on.

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