We’ve been told the whole way through A Series of Unfortunate Events that it is a tragedy, that it won’t end well, that every single episode is nothing but dismay. They’ve killed off several beloved characters in previous series with reckless abandon and they’ve warned us about it every step of the way. So the question that hangs over the final season is this: will that tragic streak continue until the very end? It would be a bold, bold move to have a show that is aimed at children to end horribly, but this is a show that has resolutely stuck to its convictions so far, so a sad ending isn’t out of the question. Really, the finale is up for grabs.
Of course, we’re not going to spoil it here.
The good news, however, is that bringing the series to a close brings out many of the show’s strongest elements and dispenses with some of the worst. The middle season of the three emerges as the worst of the bunch, because it became mired in repetition. With the world established, but a long way to go, the show got bogged down in the same cycle, which made it rather tiring to watch. Now it’s moving towards its conclusion, however, they’ve picked up the pace. It still isn’t exactly barrelling towards the end, but the rickety trolley certainly feels like it’s approaching its destination at last and the show is a lot more compelling as a result.
The first two episodes are the weakest, lingering on a mountaintop for just a little too long and bringing back the intentionally irritating Carmelita Spats (you’ll want to commit murder every time you hear the word “cakesniffer”). It’s got the aimlessness of the baggy middle bit of the story and too much of the irritating henchpeople, although you still get the joys of the show’s theatrical production and costume design. Plus, Richard E. Grant is here now!
After that, it picks up, following the Baudelaires as they head underwater in a submarine and a stay in a green version of the Grand Budapest Hotel. Then, something else altogether follows these jaunts in a surprising, tricky final episode, known only as The End. This conclusion has a big job on its hands, tying up a whole tassle of loose threads into something satisfying and it largely manages it, even if the final episode feels a little disjointed.
But by wrapping up the story, the show also gets to explore its themes in the greatest level of depth and complexity yet. The trustworthiness of children, the ludicrousness of adults, the cycles of cruelty and kindness are all examined beneath the show’s vintage telescope. Best of all, we get to luxuriate in the language, which has always been the show’s strongest facet. The kind of razor-sharp writing that has made the books and TV series so popular is at its best in this final season. Even at its darkest, this is still a show that will inspire kids to broaden their vocabularies, as it relishes in idioms, explains longer words and then employs them in humorous ways. It’s a show that champions intelligence, bravery and kindness in the face of seemingly all-consuming darkness. However it ends, that’s something to celebrate.
A Series of Unfortunate Events is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.