Following a stunning first season, Netflix’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events needed to do something really special for Season Two if it was to stand any chance of topping it.
After the first six episodes of the new season, it doesn’t quite reach that goal, instead offering more of the same. However, that’s no bad thing; it retains Season One’s whimsy and gothic flair, while bringing in a cast of new characters and unfortunate situations for the downtrodden Baudelaires. Now there’s room for the following four episodes to get even better.
Things get truly grim for Violet, Klaus and Sunny as the upsetting saga continues with ‘The Austere Academy’. Having spent Season One attempting to escape the clutches of Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), the Baudelaires were in need of something else to focus on if the show were to avoid becoming a bit same-y. That something comes in the form of Duncan and Isadora Quagmire, a pair of triplets (the third triple, their brother Quigley, was tragically killed) that end up becoming the Baudelaires’ closest, if not only, friends. After meeting the Quagmires at Prufrock School and bonding over the fact that their parents were killed in a fire, Violet, Klaus and, by extension, Sunny’s main season aim becomes reuniting with Duncan and Isadora, alongside keeping Count Olaf at arm’s length.
The change in goal adds an extra layer to the story, but it isn’t enough to stop it feeling slightly repetitive. The stories themselves, not to mention the continually wonderful scripts, are engaging and exciting, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that we haven’t seen them all before. Even the ‘Count Olaf dressed in costumes and doing funny voices’ gimmick would probably already feel done to death too if Neil Patrick Harris’ performance wasn’t so fun to watch.
However, a strong new supporting cast brings the kind of variety that made Season One so great, particularly 12-year-old Kitana Turnbull as unbearably snotty school girl Carmelita Spats in ‘The Austere Academy’. Next to the understated and downtrodden Baudelaires she’s a breath of sour air (but in a good way), and her melodramatic performance and splendid comic timing kicked Season Two off to a great start.