Top 10 Differences Between A Series of Unfortunate Events Books & TV Show
VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Script written by Nick Spake
We loved the book series and Netflix's adaptation has done a pretty good job in keeping with the source material! Here are Top 10 Differences between the books and the Netflix series! For one, The Miserable Mill's backstory. In the fourth novel of this most unfortunate series, little is learned about the Lucky Smells Lumbermill. The show offers more backstory, as the Baudelaire's parents are implicated in a fire that scorched the town. Sir and Charles' Partnership is also adapted differently. The book describes Sir as an enigmatic figure whose face is kept veiled behind a cloud of smoke. Sir is constantly smoking a cigar in the Netflix series, but his face is exposed upfront with no element of mystery. The most noteworthy change to the character is his partnership with Charles. In both the novel and the show, Sir is the one who wears the pants in their dynamic.
Top 10 Differences Between A Series of Unfortunate Events Books and Netflix Series
That’s not how the story goes! Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Differences Between A Series of Unfortunate Events Books and Netflix Series.
For this list, we’re taking a look at all the times Netflix deviated from the source material in their adaptation of Lemony Snicket’s books. If you haven’t watched the show’s first season or read the first four books, know that there will be spoilers!
#10: The Miserable Mill’s Backstory
In the fourth novel of this most unfortunate series, little is learned about the Lucky Smells Lumbermill. The show offers more backstory, as the Baudelaire’s parents are implicated in a fire that scorched the town. This only adds to the irony that their parents perished in a fire. It’s also revealed that Dr. Orwell has been hypnotizing the mill’s workers. Perhaps that’s why they’re willing to accept gum and coupons as compensation. When Klaus gets brainwashed, Violet figures out that saying, “inordinate,” can free him from his trance. The fire motif comes full circle as Orwell meets her end in a furnace, as opposed to the book where she gets the axe via buzz saw.
#9: The Spyglass
Speaking of motifs, spy glasses keep popping up throughout the Netflix series. Klaus first stumbles upon a mysterious telescope with an eye symbol while exploring the ruins of his family’s burned mansion. Throughout the series, Uncle Monty, Jacquelyn, Count Olaf, and various others are seen with similar spy glasses. V.F.D. members not only use these devices to remain vigilant, but to also decode hidden messages. In the books, however, the spy glasses are given little to no attention. These eyepieces did play a significant role in 2004 film adaptation of “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” though. The show continues to evolve this idea, picking up where the movie left off in many respects.
#8: Sir and Charles’ Partnership
The book describes Sir as an enigmatic figure whose face is kept veiled behind a cloud of smoke. Sir is constantly smoking a cigar in the Netflix series, but his face is exposed upfront with no element of mystery. The most noteworthy change to the character is his partnership with Charles. In both the novel and the show, Sir is the one who wears the pants in their dynamic. Meanwhile, the good-natured Charles is too spineless to stand up for himself. The Netflix series suggests that their partnership isn’t merely of the business variety. While not overt, it’s definitely hinted that they’re in a romantic relationship. Either way, Sir never treats Charles as his equal.
#7: The Baudelaires Run Off
The first few books follow a familiar formula: The Baudelaires meet a new guardian, something happens to that guardian, Mr. Poe takes them to another home, and the cycle repeats. The Netflix series shakes this formula up a bit, particularly at the end of “The Wide Window.” Instead of returning to Mr. Poe, the Baudelaires sneak off with a photograph that leads them to Paltryville. The children trespass upon the Lucky Smells Lumbermill, as opposed to the novel where Mr. Poe arranges for them to stay there. In a way, this makes a lot more sense. Mr. Poe may be incompetent, but why would he consciously send three orphans to live at a dangerous mill?
#6: Aunt Josephine’s Redemption
“The Wide Window” introduces us to Aunt Josephine, the Baudelaire’s cowardly new guardian. When Count Olaf confronts her in the book’s climax, Josephine is willing to throw the children under the bus in order to save her own skin. While the show still depicts Josephine as a scaredy cat, she’s given a few more redeeming qualities. It’s implied that Josephine was a much braver woman once, but lost her nerve following the death of her husband. Rather than completely submitting to Count Olaf’s threats, Josephine summons the courage to finally defend the Baudelaires in the end. In both incarnations, though, Josephine winds up sleeping with the fishes… well, technically with the leeches.
For those who only read the novels, the name Jacquelyn probably doesn’t ring any bells. That’s because she’s an original character who was specifically created for the Netflix series. Played by Sara Canning, Jacquelyn acts as Mr. Poe’s assistant, but is secretly a member of V.F.D. Sometimes operating from afar and other times taking a more direct approach, she frequently helps to foil Count Olaf’s schemes and protect the Baudelaires. While Jacquelyn isn’t mentioned in the books, fans have speculated that she’s actually Kit Snicket, Lemony and Jacques Snicket’s sister who appears later down the line. In any case, it’s comforting to know that the Baudelaires have a competent adult on their side.
#4: More Attention Given to Mr. Poe
The novels depict Arthur Poe as a well-meaning – yet oblivious – banker who often puts the Baudelaires in peril and always has a bad cold. This remains the same in the Netflix series, although he’s given more development. In the books, Poe typically appears towards the beginning and the conclusion of each story in a futile pursuit to find the children a suitable guardian. Here, we delve deeper into his personal life. Even his wife is given more attention, as she uses her resources at the newspaper to track the runaway orphans down. Speaking of which, Poe’s wife is named Eleanora in the show, but in the books this was his sister’s name (xref).
#3: Lemony Snicket’s Presence
A pen name for author Daniel Handler, Lemony Snicket acts as the narrator of this depressing tale, supplying the books with their signature darkly humorous tone. He also chronicles the Baudelaire’s misadventures in the show, but has more of a presence throughout. Part of this is because Snicket actually appears on screen and interacts with the environments, as opposed to simply being an unseen character or a disembodied voice. In a way, he’s kind of like Rod Serling in “The Twilight Zone.” While still shrouded in mystery, this gives us a better idea of how Snicket was connected to the Baudelaire family and what he’s been up to. Plus, who knew Snicket could sing?
In the books, the secret society known as V.F.D. isn’t mentioned until “The Austere Academy,” which is where the second season of the show picks up. The Netflix series however introduces us to V.F.D. almost from the get-go. It’s quickly established that the Baudelaire’s parents were part of this organization and the children cross paths with several other members. In addition to Jacquelyn, we also get to meet Gustav Sebald, who was only mentioned in the source material. Lemony Snicket even tells us early on what V.F.D. stands for, although he gets the message across in a subtle manner that only dedicated fans of the franchise will catch.
Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
Sunny is Wittier
The Incredibly Deadly Viper’s Fate
#1: The Baudelaire Parents Survive (But Not Really)
Readers were immediately caught off guard when the Netflix series introduced us to Will Arnett and Cobie Smulders as a couple trying to reunite with their three children. It’s implied that these two are the Baudelaire’s parents, which is a huge departure from the books where they both die in a fire. The showrunners pull the rug out from under the audience towards the end of Season One, however, as it’s revealed that the mother and father are actually the parents of the Quagmire triplets, who eventually become good friends with the Baudelaires. It’s a legitimately clever twist that works whether you’ve read the books or not.