REVIEW: A Series of Unfortunate Events, S2 Eps 1&2 – The Austere Academy

A Series of Unfortunate Events

The Baudelaires are back and so is Count Olaf in the second season of A Series of Unfortunate Events. The first two episodes are the adaptation of the fifth novel in the series, The Austere Academy.

The end of the last season saw Violet, Klaus, and Sunny being dropped off at their latest venue of misery, the Prufrock Preparatory School. Almost immediately, they are faced with hardship as new villains are introduced to them in the form of the spoiled and irritating Carmelita Splats (who proves to be the real cake-sniffer) and the egotistic and terrible violinist, Vice Principal Nero.

They are forced the live in a small, crab-infested shack and to attend tedious classes where they don’t actually learn anything. And Sunny has to be Vice Principal Nero’s administrative assistant. But they’re the Baudelaires, so they deal with their daily tribulations with as much grace as they can muster.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, S2 Eps 1&2 - The Austere AcademyFortunately, they are not alone in their struggles this time as they make two new friends, the remaining Quagmire triplets (the third one perished in a fire), Duncan and Isadora. They commiserate over losing their families and also band together to learn more about the secret organization their parents seemingly belonged to.

They are also aided by the support of the school librarian, Olivia Caliban, who is frustrated that the library is only allowed open for ten minutes a day and is thrilled to meet students who are actually interested in books.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, S2 Eps 1&2 - The Austere AcademyBut this is A Series of Unfortunate Events so where the Baudelaires are, trouble and Count Olaf in a terribly obvious disguise and his henchmen are never far behind. This time he dons a turban and a brooch and plays Coach Genghis, the new gym teacher who forces the Baudelaires to run laps around the field until they are too exhausted to pay attention in class. They are later in danger of being expelled from Prufrock unless they pass comprehensive exams. Luckily, the Quagmires help them find time to review for these tests and the Baudelaires pass with flying colors, with Sunny impressing even the ridiculous Nero with her secretarial skills.

As usual, the story is narrated every now and then by Lemony Snicket himself, who provides linguistic notes and warnings to the audience to look away. The valiant members of the VFD are also around to try and help the three orphans, though their efforts are mostly futile. But at least they try. There’s Jacquelyn, Mr. Poe’s secretary, who corresponds with Larry the Waiter, who sadly spends most of the episode trying to escape Olaf’s clutches. Then we have the dashing Jacques Snicket (played by Nathan Fillion), who drives a taxi and rescues his friends.

In the end though, it’s the Baudelaires who get themselves out of trouble with their resourcefulness and courage. They not only ace their exams but they also win an impromptu arm-wrestling match with Olaf and expose him for the fraud that he was. But the victory is a short one as Olaf and his henchmen escape, taking with them the Baudelaires’ new friends. The Austere Academy was a fun and eventful adventure with a very stylized setting, colorful new characters, and ridiculous challenges. But the journey has just begun for the Baudelaires in A Series of Unfortunate Events.