Previously: Very bad things happened to the Baudelaires and now they live with Count Olaf.
The Bad Beginning: Part Two
Marines: Look away, look away, look away.
Samantha: This theme song gets stuck in my head in a big way.
Annie: This song has been keeping me up at night, stuck in my head.
Dani: As a child of the 80’s, the “look away” lyrics just give me nasty Chicago 19 flashbacks.
Mari: Mr. Poe is still coughing and really should be concerned for his health. He buzzes his secretary and asks her to bring in the Baudelaire file. We pan out and there is Lemony Snicket. He reintroduces himself and reminds us that our chosen entertainment is not very pleasant at all. Mr. Poe keeps buzzing his secretary and Lemony keeps warning us. Plus, he says, the tale of the Baudelaire orphans does not in fact begin in Mr. Poe’s office at Mulctuary Money Management.
We cut to Briny Beach and relieve the moment when Mr. Poe unfeelingly tells the Baudelaires that their parents are dead. Their story does not begin there. We cut again to the charred Baudelaire Mansion, but their story does not begin there either. It doesn’t begin with their stay with the Poes or when they meet Justice Strauss or when they move in with Count Olaf, only to perform many chores and suffer violence unfit for TV. (Cue replaying Olaf smacking Klaus.) Lemony climbs some stairs in his very intricate tunnel while asking why this series of unfortunate events happened to the Baudelaires. How did the children of kindly and attentive parents end up with Count Olaf? He pushes open what turns out to be a manhole cover and tells us that answer can be found shortly after the fire. A car honks and Lemony disappears back into the tunnel. (S: These transition scenes with Lemony are gold. So well done. I’m addicted to them.)
And we’re back in Mr. Poe’s office, where that answer can be found. He buzzes his secretary again.
Outside, Olaf rolls up in a small car with all his theater troupe. He grandly asks if they know what the number one question he gets is. “Will you kindly leave the premises,” is offered up as a guess, but apparently not. It’s “why do you do it,” where “it” is theater. Fame, fortune and standing ovations are all offered as answers, but Olaf smiles big when “Hook-Handed Man” guesses it’s the costumes. I went to IMDB to look up this guy’s name because I figured we might need the troupe’s names eventually and it’s Hook-Handed Man. I just asked the Internet because I don’t remember this from the books, and his name is Fernald. Yeah. That’s what I’ll use. (S: You have to. A name like that needs you to.)
Anyhow, no one actually remembered to bring the costumes, so Olaf has to improvise. This involves stealing various articles of clothing from unsuspecting pedestrians.
Inside the bank, the receptionist is on a suspicious phone call. She’s insisting someone try something again, as this is an emergency. She’s keeping an eye on things the best she can but… Olaf walks up and interrupts her. He claims to have an appointment and when the receptionist asks for his name, he improvises. Badly.
Samantha: I *think* she does too but yeah, it was extra odd.
Annie: She has to know it’s Olaf, or else I’m adding her to my list of characters that inexplicably are able to hold down jobs besides being terrible at them along with Michele from Gilmore Girls and Mr. Poe.
Dani: Yeah, this confused me. I assumed she didn’t know him (since she asked his name), and I couldn’t understand why she didn’t like call Security, or something.
Mari: None of us have the answer.
Inside Mr. Poe’s office, Lemony explains that we are seeing a flashback. These events occurred shortly after the mysterious fire. He presents it to us now in the hopes of getting police and television executives off his back. Olaf continues to be very bad being a bad guy, even going so far as to mix up the words “executor” and “executioner.” He stands up to grandly introduce himself, but the receptionist is at the door, watching him. Olaf backtracks, puts his elderly voice back on, and says his name is Yessica Haircut. Mr. Poe thinks that’s funny because he has a haircut to go to right now. He sends Jacquelyn (the receptionist) to go cancel his appointment. She tries to protest but there is no room for reason and protest here. I’m sorry, I’m writing this the day after the inauguration and it’s too real.
Dani: The world turned upside down.
Annie: Group hug. We’re all gonna need them.
Mari: Pretty non-stop.
Olaf gives Jacquelyn a smug smile. At her desk, Jacquelyn pulls out an eyepiece with a swirly eye design. She marches outside, and uses the little monocular to see that Olaf’s flunkies are across the street. I’m not sure why she need a monocular across the street, but it makes for a good gifset.
Back in the office, Mr. Poe tells Olaf that the will is very clear that the Baudelaires are to be raised by their closest living relative, in this case a renowned scientist. We don’t get to hear his name because Olaf interrupts. He proposes that “closest living relative” means “person who lives nearby.” Mr. Poe can’t believe this! But he actually does. (A: Because he sucks at his job.) And when Olaf pulls out a map that points to the closest relative, Count Olaf, and it has a big red arrow that says MY HOUSE, all Mr. Poe needs is a ruler to verify distance.
Dani: I love how Poe believes everything Olaf says, simply because Olaf claims to be a consultant. It’s a fun stab at a profession that creative people who make shows like this probably hate dealing with.
Mari: Well pointed out!
Lemony tells us that what we’ve just seen started a chain of events, from a woman left in a remote park (we see real big guy walking away from a tied up Jacquelyn) to the very unfortunate circumstances the Baudelaires now find themselves in.
That circumstance sees them presently chopping wood, while Olaf watches and goads them. Violet and Klaus try to think of what they could possibly do. Klaus wants to run away. Violet keeps proposing going to different adults and Klaus is like, “nah, son.” Big Guy shows up to break some bad news about Jacquelyn, but Olaf shushes him in front of the children and they take it inside.
Klaus and Violet visit Mr. Poe. All of their complaints, from the physical violence to the child labor are brushed aside as Poe says that Olaf is their legal guardian now and may raise them however he sees fit. He says they may not have had to do chores before and they may have liked their parent’s friends more than Olaf’s friends, but they are going to have to get used to it. Poe tries to rush them out, but does offer to let his new secretary give them a ride. Fernald walks in. The kids try to tell Poe that this man works for Count Olaf, but again their pleas are ignored.
Samantha: The Fernald actor is really good at switching from doofy to genuinely scary.
Annie: I find on top of excellent casting, so far, this show has also done an excellent job at grabbing me by the feels. I already feel so frustrated that no one will listen to the children. SO frustrated.
Dani: Same. I want to slap every adult we’ve met thus far, save Lemony. It’s very well done.
Mari: Agreed. I have to stop and remind myself that it’s frustrating on purpose.
Fernald brings the kids back to Olaf. He claims to have made them cupcakes, though Sunny quickly tells us they are store bought. (S: I know he’s evil but they look so good.) Olaf tells the kids that he may have perhaps been standoffish. Lemony chimes in to tell us that standoffish is a good word, but not one that applies. As he explains that standoffish better describes a person standing in a corner at a party and not a man who provides one bed for three children, we watch Jacquelyn shimmy her way to a phone booth, still tied to a tree, though the tree is now uprooted.
Back at Olaf’s, he tells them his plan to treat them better is to actually cast them in his play The Marvelous Marriage. And by cast them, he means Klaus and Sunny will be extras and Violet will be the young girl he marries. (A: Ew, no, thank you, please.) She’s super uncomfortable, especially as Olaf makes her call him father while discussing their play marriage all in the same breath. That’s a pedo-alert if I ever saw one. (S: I flinched.) (D: I know I’m the resident Snow on this, but WTF is this? I thought these were children’s books. This is making me so uncomfortable.) Olaf stamps his feet and orders them to be in his pedo-play. Then, he sends them off to Justice Strauss in order to get them out of his hair.
As they walk across the street, Klaus wonders why Olaf would want them in The Marvelous Marriage. The camera pans back a bit and there is Lemony giving an awesome, “you seeing this?” look. He only says that marriage is like sharing a root beer float or being the back half of a horse costume– even if you are doing it on stage, you should only do it with people you love. Lemony tells us he’s never been married himself. He once loved a woman, but when he asked her to marry him, she found for “unfathomable and complicated” reasons that she could give him no answer.
Samantha: The hints of Lemony backstory are so tantalizing, a word which here means: Samantha downloaded every ASOUE companion book and started pouring over them to re-find answers.
Mari: Justice Strauss doesn’t answer, so they head straight back to her library and there she is. She greets them warmly. Violet asks to see books on theater and Klaus on local ordinances. She isn’t too sure about that second request, but she says to each their own.
Justice Strauss takes Sunny out to the garden while Violet and Klaus read. Olaf spies them with a monocular of his own. His troupe interrupts him with a few play details, but Olaf sees that Klaus is reading about nuptial law. He looks up the word nuptial and freaks out.
In the library, Klaus calls for Strauss to help him understand a section on what’s needed for a legal marriage. It’s essentially consent, signatures and a parent’s permission if necessary. Strauss doesn’t get to explain this to them because Olaf busts in with a very appealing offer to cast Judge Strauss as a judge in his play. He asks her to bring official documents from the court and everything. Klaus jumps up to sound the BAD ADULT alarm, but Strauss is too excited about the play. She sends all the children home to spend time with their new father. Klaus manages to grab the book on nuptials on the way out. (S: Klaus for the resourceful win.)
Back across the street, Fernald brings out some cake samples for the play-marriage, including a lemony one. Olaf does not like the use of that word because LEMONY. (D: For those of us new to these stories, that was a very tantalizing tidbit. How do Olaf and Lemony know each other? I must know!) Anyhow, he tells Fernald to take the kids upstairs and lock them in there until Friday. The kids yell about discovering what Olaf is up to all the way to their bedroom. There, Fernald threatens them some more about how Olaf will definitely probably kill them once he has their money.
The kids don’t know what to do, but Klaus is going to stay up all night with a book. The baby looks at the book like “who dat?” and this baby is such a good actor for real.
Annie: I’ve often wondered about how they’ve gotten all the expressions and reactions out of this baby actor. It’s amazing. But I do wonder if some of it is CG-magiced, it’s that good.
Mari: It’s some kind of magic.
Nuptial law is hard reading, but Klaus figures out what he needs.
The next day he confronts Olaf bright and early.
Klaus explains the scheme to Olaf, but all in words that Olaf can’t understand. He doesn’t even know the difference between figuratively and literally. Lemony (the person, not the buttercream frosting with a kick) shows up to tell us that it’s important to know the difference between figuratively and literally. We cut to a play and I’m endlessly entertained as we see someone literally jumping for joy and someone so happy they could jump for joy, but are saving their energy for other matters.
Annie: These little vignettes makes me oh so happy, and I want to clip out the figuratively vs. literally explanation to use when the situation arises. Kind of like the you’re and your song. This show was so well thought out. By the end of this episode, I was already hoping for a season 2.
Dani: As a grammar nerd, all the definitions and little asides make my heart soar. (Figuratively.)
Mari: We cut back to Klaus explaining to Olaf that literally would be an actual marriage and figuratively would be marrying her for the purposes of theatrical entertainment. If Violet signs the paper in the presence of a judge, it’ll be a real marriage and Olaf will have control over the money. Klaus says Violet isn’t old enough to be a bride, though. Olaf finally stops playing stupid and says that Violet can get married if she has parental permission and hey he’s her legal guardian and her husband to be all in one. He’s probably his own grandpa. (A: Ew, ew, nope, noooooope.)
Klaus runs out of the room and Olaf comes after him, interrupting the rest of his troupe’s practice. He announces that Klaus has discovered their plan and they all sarcastically lament. Violent says they are getting Sunny and getting TF out. Upstairs, though, Sunny is missing. (S: Why was the infant ever left alone tho? Sorry, #adultthoughts.) Olaf says that he thinks he hears her outside. The children run out there to look for her, but can’t see her. Olaf tells them not to look so down, when thinks are looking up, up. They all look up and there is Sunny in a bird cage, 30 feet in the air, tied up and gagged. They yell for Olaf to let her down, but that’s unfortunate wording because, of course, a fall would be very bad. Violet says she’ll do anything if Olaf lets Sunny go. Olaf is like, “marry me?”
But alas, Olaf keeps threatening and threatening and they really do love their baby sister, so Violet is trapped. She agrees to marry Olaf if he lets Sunny go. He says he will, after the performance. Olaf is feeling smug, even as Klaus calls him a terrible man, but breathe easy dear friends, for Violet ties her hair up. (S: Best best best best YES VIOLET.) (A: Everything’s gonna be alright, everything’s gonna be okay. 🎵)
Tunnels. Jacquelyn is still small-stepping along, tree on her back. She pauses momentarily and wishes she had an inventor right about now. A man appears behind her all, “me too!” Jacquelyn is surprised to see him, it seems, even though this is the man she called from the phone booth. He asks what’s happened, as he was expecting the children to have reached Dr. Montgomery, their intended guardian in case of fire. Jacquelyn briefly explains about Olaf posing as a consultant and Poe being an idiot. (Really, not in so many words.) Jacquelyn says if they go to the theater on Friday, though, they may be able to get things on track. For now, she would like to stop being tied to a tree. Gustav notes that the children must be so frightened. Jacquelyn says they are all frightened. (S: This character is not in the book and so I’m endlessly curious about her.) (A: She’s shaping up to be kind of a badass. I am here for it.)
Olaf’s. Klaus stares out the window and thinks Sunny must be so frightened. Violet says they are all frightened. She encourages him to go to bed. He stayed up the night before and now it’s her turn to stay up and finish the job. We watch as Violet goes around the house and picks up different supplies. She uses the dingy bathroom as her inventing workshop and Lemony almost lovingly tells us about the bright and open place Violet’s mind is.
Count Olaf tries on Violet’s dress.
Dani: The way this show vacillates between utter terror (i.e. murder and pedophilia) and complete silliness (Olaf prancing about in pink tulle) is so unsettling. Like, what even is this show?!
Mari: Violet is outside trying out her new grappling hook/automatic hoist invention. It works and gets her up to Sunny but apparently she forgot that Fernald was up in the tower keeping watch on Sunny? IDK. I guess we give her a pass because she’s young, worried and also invented a grappling hook/automatic hoist thing. (S: I’m biased; I’ll give Violet a pass on most things.)
I was going to save this comment for the end, but as we watch Fernald struggle to call Olaf, I have to say that his jokes always being about his lack of hands (his disability) is pretty gross.
Samantha: Yup. I can’t remember if that’s a book thing or not.
Annie: Especially considering he isn’t even given a name in the series? Yeeeeeep, gross.
Mari: Count Olaf comes up to the tower, Klaus in tow. He tells them to stop mucking up his pedo-marriage plans and locks them in the tower, flipping an hour glass as he goes. When the sand runs out, it will be wedding time. Klaus and Violet run to the window to check on Sunny and start working on a plan to get out of the marriage and away from Olaf before time runs out. They look back at the hourglass and it’s already run out. Olaf pops back in to say that he bought the thing online and they are probably gonna have to flip it around a few times. (S: Genuine lol.) (D: Same.)
Lemony says rooms say a lot about the people who own them. He’s currently in his own lonely room, decorated with things concerning the Baudelaire case. Plus he’s got a blurry photograph of a woman named Beatrice. Anyway, the point is that they are no more help to the Baudelaires than the items they found in Olaf’s tower. And time’s up. Olaf comes back for the kids and Fernald stays with Sunny.
Theater. Mrs. Poe is there and tries to get a statement, both about Olaf’s portrayal as a handsome man being a stretch and about the whole play being an evil plot. He shoos her away, runs through some specifics for the play tonight with one of his troupe and it’s almost showtime. Klaus and Violet are in costume and are told not to try any funny business until the wedding scene. Justice Strauss is brought in next and Olaf stresses that she has to use all the same words as a for real wedding ceremony. The children try to talk to her, but she’s too busy being excited about being in a play. (S: You’re better than this, Strauss.) (A: A study in horrible adults being horrible.)
Mr. and Mrs. Poe are in the audience now. Mr. Poe is totally at ease with Olaf now that he’s cast children in a play.
Curtains rise. Olaf comes out to applause. Throughout the next scene, we get a cuts of a few things. First, the play seems to be made up of Olaf’s character in different places and time periods and two women, played by the old twins, fighting over him. In the tower, Sunny and Fernald are playing poker and Sunny is kicking his ass. In the audience, Mrs. Poe is BORED. Also in the audience, Jaquelyn and Gustav watch and correct every misuse of the word literally.
Finally, we reach the wedding scene. Violet, Klaus and Justice Strauss enter the scene. Violet is, to borrow Dani’s phrase, barely not vomitting. (S: The state of our existence in the real world as well.) Justice Strauss very woodenly delivers her lines, but Olaf says I do and signs and Violet says I do and signs. The Old Twins yell mazel tov and Jewish folk music plays. (S: He goes for a kiss at one point and it’s horrifying.) Olaf stops the music to announce to all that the play is over because his evil plan is complete. He’s now married to Violet and in control of the Baudelaire fortune. Mr. Poe yells from the audience that this can’t be, but Justice Strauss confirms that is was done according to the law.
Violet asks about Sunny and Olaf calls for Fernald to drop her to her death, but he’s actually here because Sunny won the last hand and earned her freedom. Jacquelyn and Gustav get ready to jump into action but Violet speaks up and says that the marriage isn’t real because she didn’t sign the document with her own hand. She’s right handed and she signed the document with her left hand. Olaf’s like “fake news” and tries to move on, but Violet says Justice Strauss should be the one to decide. (D: Violet signing the papers was just an alternative fact.) She thinks about it for a second and says she doesn’t know. The audience groans, but Strauss says you should never be afraid to admit if you don’t know something. It would take a legal scholar to figure this one out.
Klaus is like “…yo. Check it.” They wheel out a chalk board for him and he goes through his argument. Jacquelyn and Gustave smile on like proud parents. Lemony stands above them and says that Klaus’s argument had “all the apocryphal insight of Thurgood Marshall and the moral aplomb of Ida B. Wells.” Which is to say that it was very good. We join back as he wraps up, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King. Justice Strauss is impressed and says that his legal argument had all the apocryphal insight of Thurgood Marshall and the moral aplomb of Ida B. Wells. She’s convinced and the marriage is invalid.
Olaf says that they may not be married, but he is still the Baudelaire’s guardian. Mr. Poe jumps up and asks if he really thinks he’d still be the guardian after all this nonsense. Poe is even considering firing Fernald as his secretary. Jacquelyn says, “here here!” and Mr. Poe asks where she’s been. She quickly explains that she was kidnapped by Olaf’s associates before she could tell him that Dr. Montgomery is supposed to be the Baudelaire’s legal guardian and has been waiting for the children. Mr. Poe rehires Jacquelyn, increases her salary and announces that this series of unfortunate events has come to a close. As for Olaf… suddenly, the house lights all go off. In the dark, Olaf gets close to Violet and threatens to get her fortune if it’s the last thing he does.
When the lights come back on, Olaf and his troupe are all gone. Violet yells that someone has to go after him. Justice Strauss tells her not to worry about that. Instead, they can just come home with her now. Mr. Poe says they can’t. The will is very specific about who should be caring for the Baudelaires. Jacquelyn says he’s right. There is a “vigorously fixed destination” their parents had in mind for them, and it’s not with Olaf or Strauss. Justice Strauss looks heart broken. She hugs the children goodbye and precious Sunny babbles at her that her dreams of becoming an actress put them in grave danger, but her heart was in the right place. Well said, baby girl. (A: Sunny is pretty badass herself.)
As everyone leaves the theater, a teary Justice Strauss notices a trap door on the stage.
In the tunnels, Olaf leads his troupe to a “vigorously fixed destination.” (S: *swallows screeches)
Lemony is packing up his luggage in his small room. He escapes through a window as someone pounds on his door.
Back in the tunnels, Jacquelyn uses a walkie talkie to call Gustav and asks if the Baudelaires have arrived at Dr. Montgomery’s. He says not yet, but he’s waiting for them literally at the edge of a pond. Jacquelyn starts to say something about a lead on the missing parents, but we don’t hear the rest because Gustav is hit with a dart. He says, “the world is quiet here,” and falls back straight into the pond. An air bubble suggests he’s going to drown.
Don’t a lot of people die in this story? Am I remembering that correctly or not? (S: They very much do, A+ to memory, Blossom.) (A: Basically, yes. NO ONE IS SAFE.)
Justice Strauss sadly puts away her adoption law book, but as she does, she once again comes across that book about secret somethings from last episode. She pulls it out and we see it’s an incomplete history of secret organizations.
Mr. Poe drives the Baudelaires while Mrs. Poe joyfully says the orphans will probably make the front page again. Lemony voice overs that it seemed to the Baudelaires that they were moving in an aberrant direction.
We end in a cell. Presumably Mr. and Mrs. Baudelaire look over the headline that features their children and worry about their safety. Mrs. Baudelaire is hard at work and Mr. Baudelaire asks what she’s making in a place like this. She holds up a grappling hook and a molotov cocktail. Mr. Baudelaire dusts off the ground beneath his feet to reveal the eye symbol.
This episode went on longer than the pilot and I felt that for sure, perhaps more so because I was recapping. While I found it mostly enjoyable, there were a few places that I felt could definitely be tightened up. The beginning, in particular, seemed to go on a little long. It was like the over explanation to the “closest living relative” joke we didn’t need, though to be fair, it also gave us Yessica Haircut.
I’m truly loving the format of each episode and the gag of having Lemony say a line and then having it repeated by someone else in the scene is great. I think Lemony is my favorite part of the whole show. I’m back and forth on Olaf, though that may be simply because he ranges from bumbling idiot to legit creepy pedophile. I think it’s hard to strike the right note of terrifying but also bad at costumes ha ha ha!
But we’ll see how it keeps going!
Samantha: Lemony is my favorite art as well. And I said, out loud, “If he asks for the Baudelaire file one more time I’m going to turn it off,” during the opening scene so yes to tightening.
Annie: Critics often mention the flexibility of a Netflix show can sometimes hurt the program due to its pacing and timing, and yeah. We did see that a bit here. But I’m still really enjoying this. And to repeat things that you’ve both said, Lemony is the best part of this show. As a device, as a character, as everything. I feel bad for calling the actor a Bobo Jon Hamm now.
Dani: Despite the frustration and pedo-eeiieew factors of this episode, I’m really enjoying the show. I have no idea how it will all end, but I think it’s funny how much completely unfounded optimism I have, considering the title of the books and the repeated warnings from Lemony. I just love these kids so much already. It has to get better for them, right? RIGHT????
Next time on A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Baudelaires make it to Dr. Montgomery in S01 E03 – The Reptile Room.