REVIEW: A Series of Unfortunate Events, S3 Eps 3&4 – The Grim Grotto

A Series of Unfortunate Events The Grim Grotto

The Baudelaires have an underwater adventure in A Series of Unfortunate Events as they board the Queequeg, a submarine whose intrepid captain, Fiona Widdershins, is a devoted member of the VFD, and who is on a mission to retrieve the sugar bowl. There are some tensions between Violet and Fiona at first because the former wants to reach the “last safe place” to warn the volunteers of impending danger while Fiona is determined to see her mission through.

A Series of Unfortunate Events The Grim GrottoKlaus remarks that both are very similar, strong and intelligent women who have had to grow up too fast because of their complex circumstances. Klaus is also enchanted with Fiona and both share a love of research.

Sunny practices her culinary skills with the absurd optimist Phil, who is the new cook of the Queequeg, having survived his misfortunes at the Miserable Mill. The kids also encounter a mysterious and dangerous entity that appears as a large question mark on the radar but is one of the most terrifying creatures on A Series of Unfortunate Events so far. It is referred to as The Great Unknown and in the books it isn’t clear if this is an actual monster or a metaphor for death. On the show, however, the orphans all witness a physical manifestation of a fearsome beast.

A Series of Unfortunate Events The Grim GrottoOf course, Olaf, Esme, and Carmelita are not far behind, in a tentacled monstrosity of a submarine (aptly named “Carmelita”) with the kidnapped orphans from Mount Fraught as their galley slaves. Esme was made captain by the Man with the Beard But No Hair and the Woman with Hair But No Beard, much to Olaf’s displeasure, and the Hook-handed Man tries to make up for saving Sunny Baudelaire to his boss. They also encounter The Great Unknown but somehow also escape its terrible clutches. I just must mention that Esme Squalor sports a fabulous tentacled costume reminiscent of Ursula from The Little Mermaid. Her outfits trump any of Olaf’s ridiculous disguises and it’s always a delight to see her dress up for no good reason.

While in pursuit of the sugar bowl, the Baudelaires are captured by Olaf’s crew and then forced to enter the titular grim grotto which is beneath the burned down ruins of Anwhistle Aquatics and which also houses a deadly strain of fungus called the medusoid mycelium. Quigley Quagmire has already retrieved the sugar bowl but his reunion with the Baudelaires is painfully short as the medusoid mycelium appears and somehow enters Sunny’s diving helmet.

After this happens, it’s a race against time for the Baudelaires as they need to save Sunny’s life before the mycelium takes over. They enlist the help of the Hook-handed Man who eventually does lead them back to the Queequeg because of the bond he formed with Sunny back on Mount Fraught. Sunny guides her older siblings to finding a substitute for horseradish (which contains the cure) and they manage to feed her with a healing dose of wasabi before sealing the helmet with the deadly sample.

This was a turning point for the story of the Hook-handed Man, who is revealed to be Fernald Widdershins, Fiona’s long-lost brother. He was also once a “noble” member of the VFD before joining Olaf’s troupe. But he also comes to the same realization as the previous troupe members because for all his efforts to please Olaf, Fernald is continuously belittled and berated by his boss. Later on, when Olaf threatens his life, it’s Fiona who comes to his aid. She helps the Baudelaires escape Olaf but she needs to stay behind to help her brother.

These couple of episodes effectively show one major theme of A Series of Unfortunate Events which is the bond of family, this time not only limited to that of the three Baudelaires but also for the Widdershins siblings. Another interesting facet of the story which will continue to be explored in the latter episodes of the season is the complexity of characters like Fernald, who may have been on the side of the villain but who also has some noble qualities. It’s a more nuanced view of characters rather than limiting them to black-and-white morality. A Series of Unfortunate Events makes it clear that bad people can do good things and good people, like the Baudelaires, can sometimes resort to less than savory acts. All this is best summed up in this quote:

“People aren’t either wicked or noble. They’re like chef’s salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.”