REVIEW: A Series of Unfortunate Events, S3 Eps 5&6 – The Penultimate Peril

A Series of Unfortunate Events The Penultimate Peril

All gather at the Hotel Denouement for The Penultimate Peril in A Series of Unfortunate Events as characters from previous seasons return for a reckoning. This eventful chapter makes the Baudelaires question everything they thought they knew about the VFD, Olaf, and even about their parents.

A Series of Unfortunate Events The Penultimate PerilThe three Baudelaires found themselves right where their journey started, on Briny Beach and being approached by Mr. Poe. This time, another person arrives to take them away: Kit Snicket, now driving her brother Jacques’ taxi. She introduces herself as a friend and thanks to their experience with Jacques Snicket, they decide to trust her. She asks for their help in again finding the sugar bowl and in determining who can be trusted in the momentous gathering at the “last safe place”. But, like most of the helpful adults in their lives, Kit’s instructions are cryptic and she doesn’t give them much to work with. As always, they need to rely on their wits to survive the madness around them.

A Series of Unfortunate Events The Penultimate PerilEsme Squalor (always in an array of scene-stealing outfits) finally breaks up with Count Olaf just as tragedy strikes and the Baudelaires accidentally set off a harpoon gun that kills Dewey Denouement. What follows is a trial of both Olaf and the Baudelaires where many of the characters from the other stories in A Series of Unfortunate Events make an appearance including Jerome Squalor, Babs from the hospital, Vice Principal Nero, some villagers from the Village of Fowl Devotees, workers from the Lucky Smells Lumber Mill, and Mr. Poe.

A powerful moment in this set of episodes is when Lemony Snicket himself drives to the Hotel Denoument and meets the three Baudelaires in person. This is the only time in A Series of Unfortunate Events that the story’s narrator crosses paths with the characters of his story and sadly, the moment is too brief. Overwhelmed by everything else going on around them, the Baudelaires do not get into the taxi with the stranger and instead follow Justice Strauss, who is determined to help them. But she proves to be ineffectual in protecting them, regardless of her good intentions, as the sinister Man with a Beard But No Hair and Woman with Hair But No Beard make an appearance in the courtroom. They wreak havoc once more and the Baudelaires know they have to find a way to save themselves.

A Series of Unfortunate Events The Penultimate PerilThe Penultimate Peril plays out like a synthesis of most of the main themes of A Series of Unfortunate Events such as moral relativism, the unreliability of adults in a cruel world, and how children may be wiser than they appear. Even as Violet and Klaus enumerate all the horrors they have suffered, they are also forced to confront difficult truths about their involvement in terrible acts such as the death of Dewey Denouement.

A Series of Unfortunate Events The Penultimate PerilViewers at last learn about that fateful night at the opera that sparked most of the events of the series. This event was always alluded to in the books but never explicitly shown. Book readers may have some issue on the way this was presented in the show but it still provided some answers for the characters motivations. And the flashback also adds a tinge of melancholy to proceedings because it shows how current enemies used to be good friends. There’s something bittersweet about seeing Lemony, Beatrice, Esme, Kit, and Olaf all smiling and watching opera together, before a misfired poison dart changes everything.

Failed by adults once again, the orphans make the controversial decision of burning down the Hotel Denouement, if only to prevent a more sinister plot of Olaf and his mentors committing genocide by spreading the Medusoid Mycelium. In another surprising twist, they throw in their lot with Count Olaf, escaping on a boat from the roof of the burning hotel (this show truly has a gift for unique and exciting imagery).

If these episodes had not been referred to as the penultimate story, this could have been a darkly ambiguous but effective ending for A Series of Unfortunate Events as most of the characters had gathered together and a reprise of the song “That’s how the story goes” plays at the end. But the Baudelaires end up in the same boat with Olaf and there is one last misfortune for them to endure.