REVIEW: A Series of Unfortunate Events, S2 Eps 9&10 – The Carnivorous Carnival

A Series of Unfortunate Events, S2 Eps 9&10 - The Carnivorous Carnival

The finale of A Series of Unfortunate Events is the season’s most lavish and vicious outing yet, and also its most tragic. And to add insult to injury, the series ends on a literal cliffhanger. But more on that later.

A Series of Unfortunate Events VFDThe Carnivorous Carnival begins with a flashback to the VFD headquarters before the Baudelaires were thrown into misery. There is a ritzy masquerade ball where an important message is passed from various members of the secret organization beginning with Larry-Your-Waiter and ending in a rootbeer float served to Lemony Snicket. Since this clip was released prior to the premiere of the series, I’ve already written in detail about this scene HERE. The difference is that in the episode we see a masked man (apparently Count Olaf) walking quickly to try and push the dragonfly-costumed Beatrice off the cliff. (It is later confirmed that Olaf failed this attempt).

A Series of Unfortunate Events, S2 Eps 9&10 - The Carnivorous Carnival

NOT The Greatest Showman

The episode then sees the Baudelaires arriving at the Caligari Carnival with Count Olaf and the rest of his acting troupe. It’s a rundown place but a delightful setting for the series, both colorful and sinister, a perfect blend of the story’s tragic and comedic tones as well as Olaf’s over-the-top theatricality, Esme’s flair for fashion, and the general sense of doom and foreboding. Plus, the potential for ridiculous costumes is endless. Lemony Snicket even dresses up as a sad clown.

And though at this point there is no need to disguise himself, Olaf cannot resist but dress up as the ringmaster of the carnival, as a sort of twisted version of The Greatest Showman. Violet and Klaus disguise themselves as a two-headed freak named Beverly and Elliot and Sunny are Chabo the Wolf-Baby. They are forced to perform in a humiliating freak show along with three other freaks: Hugo the hunchback, Colette the contortionist, and Kevin the ambidextrous man.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, S2 Eps 9&10 - The Carnivorous CarnivalThe children try to tell these “freaks” that they have nothing to be ashamed of and that they shouldn’t have to endure such dehumanization and exploitation. But A Series of Unfortunate Events is set in a cruel world (not entirely like our own) and people love to make fun of those who are different. They would even want to see others devoured by starving lions, but more on that later.

Olaf consults the fortune teller Madame Lulu who seems to know an awful lot about his latest exploits and who effectively recaps A Series of Unfortunate Events so far. The Count is convinced, Esme less so, and for a while, the Baudelaires are impressed but skeptical.

But both Olaf and the Baudelaires are anxious to confirm the major revelation from the previous episodes: that there had been a survivor from the fire that killed the the Baudelaire parents. This is the driving force of this last chapter of the series and one that makes Violet, Klaus, and Sunny even more tragic figures, because we are hoping along with them that there might be a miracle in the midst of all their sorrows. But it turns out that Madame Lulu only said this to stall Olaf and she isn’t actually sure if it is true. Nevertheless, this is still something to hold onto for now.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, S2 Eps 9&10 - The Carnivorous CarnivalMadame Lulu also turns out to be none other than Olivia Caliban, the brave, kind librarian who cares about the Baudelaires and has been trying to help since they left Prufrock Preparatory School. She is filling in for the previous Madame Lulu, who had gone to the Heimlich Hospital to retrieve the sugar bowl. She had joined the VFD and fallen in love with Jacques Snicket.

Through rummaging in her caravan, the children learn more about the secret organization including the code words (“The World is Quiet Here”), the wide array of disguises (most of which look very, very familiar), and the identity of some of the volunteers who had been trying to help them all throughout the series (i.e. Larry-Your-Waiter, Jacquelyn, Jacques). Olivia also gives them a map to the VFD’s secret headquarters in the Mortmain Mountains and she is certain that if anyone had survived the fire, they would be there.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, S2 Eps 9&10 - The Carnivorous CarnivalBut before they can plan their escape, Count Olaf somehow places starving lions into a pit and advertises a show that would see one of the freaks being thrown to them. Esme surreptitiously strikes a deal with the freaks, promising employment in the theater troupe if one of them pushes Madame Lulu into it.

When the big show begins, the audience is filled with familiar faces like Mr. Poe, a couple of teachers from Prufrock Prep, some villagers from VFD, and possibly some people from the hospital as well. They gleefully watch the spectacle, eager to see a freak being thrown to the lions. Not surprisingly, Beverly and Elliot are chosen and though they try to stall as much as they can, Madame Lulu tries to help them and pushes them both to safety.

But alas, noble heroes never last long in A Series of Unfortunate Events, and for all her courage, poor Olivia ends up being devoured by starving lions. Another tragic death to add to the Baudelaires’ tale of woe.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, S2 Eps 9&10 - The Carnivorous CarnivalAs Olaf and the orphans leave, a familiar taxi cab arrives at the burning carnival and a mysterious woman gets out, presumably the previous Madame Lulu. She gazes meaningfully at the fire and although Lemony Snicket does not say her name, he hints that she is someone he knows very well. Fans of the books already have an idea of who she really is and the significant role she will play in the next and final season of A Series of Unfortunate Events.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, S2 Eps 9&10 - The Carnivorous CarnivalThe last few minutes of the final episode fly by like a poison dart. Count Olaf sets the carnival on fire and forces Violet and Klaus to burn all the research about the VFD. He reveals that he had known they were the Baudelaires in disguise all along and he holds Sunny hostage with the rest of his troupe.

Just as they reach a particularly dangerous height in the mountains, he makes the freaks cut loose the ropes that connect the the caravan where Violet and Klaus are, sending them hurtling down to almost certain death.

Now, that’s a proper cliffhanger.