If there’s one single theme to the sprawling story that is A Series of Unfortunate Events, it’s that adults are fucking idiots. The word “fucking” does not appear in the story — as both the book series and the Netflix adaptation are designed for audiences of all ages. Nonetheless, the implication is there in the wickedly smart writing and the truly idiotic dispositions of the supposed grown ups populating this world.
While the Baudelaire orphans are precocious and curious about the world, many of their unfortunate circumstances are the direct result of well-meaning but oblivious adults. Luckily, the Netflix show makes idiocy fun to watch. Here are the three most delightful idiocies.
1. Olaf’s play
The climax of “The Bad Beginning: Part Two” involves Neil Patrick Harris’s Count Olaf putting on a terrible play in an effort to marry the 14-year-old Violet Baudelaire and thus take her deceased parents’ fortune. As adults assemble in the theater, Mr. Poe’s wife — who is also a writer at local newspaper The Daily Punctilio — interviews him. “Taking the role of a handsome man is certainly a brave choice. Is that a stretch for you?” she asks. She follows up with the hardball question, “How do you respond to the allegation that this entire thing is nothing more than an evil plot?”
Count Olaf’s disguise in “The Reptile Room” is truly idiotic. Luckily, the children’s temporary guardian Uncle Monty is a competent and shrewd man who sees through him. Unfortunately, this obviously means he winds up dead. The most idiotic moment of Olaf’s Stefano disguise occurs when he pushes a lamp out of a second-floor window in an attempt to hit Monty. “So sorry,” he says. “I seem to have been very careless with the heavy glass reading lamp that was in my bedroom that fell out right when you were walking under it.”
3. Aunt Josephine’s Window Leap
The most standout idiotic adult moment occurs in “The Wide Window: Part Two.” After the children’s Aunt Josephine mysteriously disappears, having ostensibly leapt out a window, the hapless banker Mr. Poe returns to see to the children. Surveying the damage, he says, “Other than a gaping middle-aged woman-sized hole in the window, I can see no sign of struggle!”
The world is cruel and adults are oblivious, which results in many unfortnate events. But the ultimate message from the series is one of hope, as the younger generation is smart and resourceful. That, and laughter at adult idiocies.
A Series of Unfortunate Events is currently streaming on Netflix.