Part of why A Series of Unfortunate Events has captured the imagination of so many people is that it combines several disparate genres. It’s a children’s story full of self-referential satire, and its cinematography is both playful and gothic. Most controversially, it’s a conspiracy caper, and the books on which the show is based ultimately ended without answering copious questions and mysteries. The new Netflix series is showing signs of delivering a more satisfying narrative, as Season 1 has included elements of the conspiracy story sooner and more prominently than they appeared in the books.
For this reason it’s quite possible that, although the V.F.D. Schism isn’t truly mentioned until the tenth book, Season 2 — which will cover volumes five through eight — could address it.
The initials V.F.D have already come up in Season 1. In the final two episodes, the children encounter a Very Fancy Door, they use a Verified Functional Dictionary, and a Vigorous Fire Defense is mentioned. As they later learn, V.F.D. stands for many things, but it’s ultimately the secret organization that links their parents with the Quagmires and Lemony Snicket. Their uncle Monty was part of it too — as he had one of its code-breaking spyglasses — and so is the mysterious character Jacquelyn, who they encountered in his maze. It’s also why they keep seeing the eye symbol everywhere, as it’s later revealed to be a stylized rendition of the initials V.F.D.
In its heyday, the group V.F.D. — which mostly stood for Volunteer Fire Department — was a spy network with an elaborate system of codes, disguises, and safe places to meet and plot. As Kit Snicket explains in The Penultimate Peril, “V.F.D. was once a united group of volunteers, trying to extinguish fires — both literally and figuratively. But now there are two groups of bitter enemies.”
The split that fractured the organization is known as “The Schism,” and the two groups are known as the fire fighting side — which is comprised of figures like the Baudelaire and Quagmire parents and the Snickets — and the fire-starting side, which is comprised of Count Olaf and his henchmen.
The Schism is a fascinating puzzle piece in the series, as it had a profound impact not just on the secret society but the world. It’s largely responsible for the titular series of unfortunate events. However, nobody the Baudelaires ask seems to know exactly what caused it, and the books never provide an answer. It’s connected with the mysterious sugar bowl that both sides of the conflict are pursuing, but it’s true significance is also never revealed. But because the show is diving deeper into the spy network — as seen by how it prominently featured the Quagmire parents — it’s quite possible a more definitive portrayal of The Schism could be imminent onscreen. This world is about to get a lot more fascinating in Season 2.