9:15 am EST, March 10, 2018

‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ trailer analysis: Will season 2 depart from the books?

“This episode in the life of the Baudelaires is about to get much, much worse.”

By Erica Ostergar | Edited by Karen Rought

What does the new A Series of Unfortunate Events trailer tell us about the upcoming season? And how faithful will it be to the books? We take a deep dive into the details here!

A Series of Unfortunate Events season 2 will adapt five books from the series. Based on our analysis of the trailer, there are a lot of details that remain faithful to the books. There are some details that remain faithful to the essence of the story, even if the execution isn’t exactly the same.

And then there are some, like Nathan Fillion’s character, that look like they’re taking all sorts of liberties in the name of solving the Baudelaires’ mysteries. Based on what we saw in the trailer, here is breakdown of all five books and how we think they might be adapted this season.

Related: Action-packed ASOUE season 2 trailer promises things will get much, much worse

‘The Austere Academy’

a series of unfortuante events trailer

The trailer starts off with a lot of moments from The Austere Academy. There are many small details that are the same as the books, but other details are used to give a sense of urgency to the mystery, which the books didn’t have. If there is anything that the scenes of The Austere Academy revealed, it is that the TV series is taking the mystery of the Baudelaires much more seriously.

In the familiar scenes, we see an opening shot of Prufrock Preparatory School with the school motto “Memento Mori” and buildings that look like gravestones (or toes, depending on who you ask). We get to see Vice Principal Nero with his violin, though his voice is much less annoying that the book describes.

We also see the Orphan Shack — though in the books, that was not the formal name of the residence, just a nickname — and the crabs that inhabit it. We also get to see Violet and Klaus running as part of Coach Genghis’s SORE drills, though we don’t get to see Count Olaf disguised as Coach Genghis in the trailer.

The opening shot of the trailer is of the Baudelaires sitting on a bench in their school uniforms. It’s the same bench we see them sitting on at the end of season 1, but this time there are children sitting on the other side of the bench, too.

We don’t learn their names in the trailer, but we know from the books that these are Duncan and Isadora Quagmire. Isadora, especially, is seen repeatedly in the trailer, explaining to the Baudelaires the similarities in their stories. In the books, the Quagmires are used to enhance the mystery. It seems as if their role in the show will be the same, although they’ll reveal questions and clues more quickly than in the books.

In a significant scene that isn’t immediately familiar to book readers, we hear Isadora telling Klaus, “We’ve seen a lot of things we can’t explain.” Later, in the cafeteria, Klaus and Isadora put together two halves of a spy glass and say to each other, “Where did you get that?” This spyglass did not play such a significant role in the early books, but it is adding to the mystery in the TV adaptation.

Another mysterious scene shows Violet holding a picture that show a group of people, including Uncle Monty and the parents we see traveling in season 1. Violet says, “Our parents were a part of something. It might be the reason all these terrible things keep happening.” In the books, The Baudelaires did not discover this organization until much later. This only proves that the mystery is being expedited for the series.

The biggest disappointment of this trailer is that we didn’t get to see Carmelita Spats, a bully the Baudelaires have to deal with while at boarding school. Netflix did release a picture of her on Twitter the day after the trailer premiered, but we didn’t get to see her in action. Carmelita is one of the best (and worst) parts of The Austere Academy, so I hope her role in the series stays true to the book.

‘The Ersatz Elevator’

a series of unfortunate events trailer

The Ersatz Elevator looks like it might be the adaptation that most closely follows the book. We see Jerome, Esme, and Gunther (who is Olaf’s latest disguise) in the trailer. Jerome’s kindness, which we see in the snippet of him saying, “I wish you luck,” matches his personality from the book perfectly. Gunther, too, matches the Gunther from the book.

The Esme we see in the trailer is a bit more cruel than the Esme we initially see in The Ersatz Elevator book. At one point in the trailer she says, “We have eyes everywhere and we are always watching.” These traits are revealed later in the books than they appear to be in the series.

In addition to familiar characters, we also get a glimpse of a few familiar locations. We see Café Salmonella, with the waiter dressed up as a fish. We also get to see moments from the In Auction, where we see a member of Olaf’s theatrical troop getting ready to bid on an item.

We see a major hint at the plot of The Ersatz Elevator in a scene where the Baudelaires look at the auction catalog. The trailer show a shot of the V.F.D. entry in the catalog. The full description of the item has been blurred so we can’t read it, but it represents the exact happenings in the climax of The Ersatz Elevator book.

As faithful as this season appears to be, there are small details adjusted for the series. In the book, there is a scene where Sunny uses her teeth to climb up an elevator shaft. That task would be impossible for a real baby and difficult even for a CGI baby. In the trailer, we see this scene with Sunny climbing up a small ladder instead. I think it’s a reasonable accommodation for the series.

This scene, however, is representative of a bigger problem with how the series depicts the books. Sunny is much less present in the TV series so far. She speaks less and bites far fewer things in the TV show than the book.

As the books go on, Sunny becomes more involved in the mystery, using puns to communicate and biting her way through disasters. I hope the TV adaptation shows Sunny growing up and finding herself as much as the books do. I think this season will be telling as far as her character is concerned.

We also see Klaus’ spyglass in a scene from The Ersatz Elevator, as he and Violet shine it on a newspaper scrap. This scene is not in the books at all, but I think it serves a similar purpose as the Quagmire journals do, giving clues to the mystery.

‘The Vile Village’

a series of unfortunate events trailer

Other than The Carnivorous Carnival, The Vile Village is the story we see the least from in this trailer. It is also the story we see the most changes in, as the story takes big steps away from what we know from the books.

There are two familiar scenes. Though it is small, we get a glimpse of two women from the Village of Fowl Devotees’ Council of Elders. They are dressed in black with feathered hats that pay homage to the migrating crows the town is known for. We also see the familiar site of Violet tying her hair up in a ribbon for inventing, after which she uses a bench as a battering ram to knock down a wall. Those actions are faithful to a scene at the end of The Vile Village book.

For those two familiar scenes, we see three very unfamiliar ones. I could only place them as being from The Vile Village because Violet wears the same yellow shirt and red overalls as she does in the scene with the battering ram.

In the first unfamiliar scene, we see Violet and Klaus watching old film slides on a projector. They both seem surprised by what they see. Violet looks close to tears. Next, we see them in a room full of mirrors and clocks, watching in horror as Olaf’s reflection shows up in one of the mirrors. Last, we see them in a fire truck. Sunny is driving them away — presumably away from the Village of Fowl Devotees — while wearing a fire helmet that says “V.F.D. Engine 1.”

I don’t know what to make of the room of mirrors, except that the Baudelaires are trying to escape from Olaf as expected. The other two scenes, however, exemplify how this series is dealing with the mystery of the Baudelaire parents and the V.F.D. The series is continuing to give us new clues and plant known clues earlier in the story.

In the book, the Baudelaires escape the Village of Fowl Devotees on foot. They run away, until we see them in a convenience store at the beginning of The Hostile Hospital. In the TV series, their actions are more purposeful. These changes also highlight the moral grey area between good and evil that the books don’t start showing in full until later.

‘The Hostile Hospital’

a series of unfortunate events trailer

The scenes from The Hostile Hospital show quite a few shots with Olaf disguised as a doctor. We hear him saying, “This time I have no mercy. I won’t be satisfied with just your fortune. I will obliterate you in the cruelest way imaginable.” His speech is made all the more creepy by the shots we see of him in action.

In one scene, Olaf and his henchmen take a variety of violent surgical tools down a hallway, presumably to an operating room. We later see him in the medical theater with his white lab coat on. Violet is strapped down to the gurney in the middle of the room. Olaf raises his arms like he’s accepting applause. We also get a slightly more humorous scene with a hospital volunteer saying, “The comradery at this hospital is really inspiring!” to an obviously unenthused Olaf.

These scenes mark a significant departure from the books because in The Hostile Hospital book, Olaf does not disguise himself as a doctor. Though he assigns his henchmen to perform surgery on Violet, he doesn’t do it himself. He stays hidden in the darkness. Olaf’s disguise in The Hostile Hospital book is in name and voice only. He takes on the role of Mattathias, head of HR, by speaking over the intercom.

While the physical absence of Olaf in the book adds to the mystery of his character, I think this change matches what we know of Olaf much better. Olaf is an actor, after all. He loves being the center of attention. This change keeps him in that limelight. Even though it is a departure from the book, it feels true to the character.

We also see Olaf’s henchmen in the hospital. Some of his henchmen bang at a door saying, “Open up in there!” We later see them break through a different barricaded door. We also get a glimpse of the two powder-faced women smiling creepily in their nurses’ costumes. We see Esme throwing her stiletto shoe at Violet. Lastly, we see Hal the librarian in the hospital’s records room.

The scenes of the minor characters all fit with what we know from the book. Even though they made a large change with Olaf, the story of The Hostile Hospital appears to remain intact.

‘The Carnivorous Carnival’

a series of unfortunate events trailer

Based on this trailer, we don’t know very much about the adaptation of The Carnivorous Carnival. The trailer only shows a few brief shots of the action from that book. We see Violet and Klaus with dark clown makeup stare sadly out a window. We then see them — same makeup and costumes — at the edge of a lion’s pit. We also get a brief glimpse of Madame Lulu, the fortune teller, in a montage of characters.

Those shots match up pretty well to the book. Although, in the book, Violet and Klaus use makeup to draw fake scars on their faces instead of wearing clown makeup. The detail may be a little different, but they do disguise themselves in order to work at a carnival. They do have a rough encounter with lions. Madame Lulu, too, matches the character from the book.

There is one last shot we see at the carnival that marks somewhat of a departure from the books. We see Count Olaf — dressed as a ringleader, though without other disguises — with Violet and Klaus setting fire to a book. You can’t quite make out the title, but it appears to be The Incomplete History of Secret Organizations, which we first saw in 1×02 in Justice Strauss’ library. We then get a wide shot of the whole carnival burning.

We see little else that could be placed in the timeline of The Carnivorous Carnival, which makes me wonder if those episodes will mark a bigger departure from the book series. The episodes based on this book were also not given to press for screening, which adds to the mystery.

In the books, this story marks a time when the Baudelaires finally start getting some real answers to their questions. In the series, they start finding those answers long ago. Will we get some answers the book never gave us in these episodes? Maybe. That would be the one change I think fans would be satisfied with.

Nathan Fillion as Jacques Snicket

a series of unfortunate events trailer nathan fillion

We also get a glimpse of Nathan Fillion’s new role in this trailer. We know from casting information that Nathan Fillion will play Jacques Snicket, Lemony Snicket’s brother. In the books, Jacques also plays a vital role in The Vile Village.

We see two shots of him in this trailer. First, we see him kick down the door to a cold storage locker, though it is unclear what the storage locker contains and why he is there. Next, we see him in a car with a woman. The two of them anxiously stare out the window at some off-screen action. There is no other indication of who the woman is.

Though I would naturally place his scenes in The Vile Village episodes based on what I know from the books, the changes to that story make me wonder where this character’s place is in the series. The brief shots we see of him don’t easily let us know. Will he be primarily featured in The Vile Village or will we see him get tangled into the broader mystery unfolding?

We’ll get all these answers and more when A Series of Unfortunate Events season 2 premieres on Netflix March 30.

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