A Series of Unfortunate Events: 11 biggest changes from book to TV

Thirteen years ago, Lemony Snicket published the last book in A Series of Unfortunate Events, detailing the miserable lives of the Baudelaire orphans after their parents were killed in a terrible fire that destroyed their home. Now, their story has also been completed on the small screen: on January 1, Netflix dropped the third and final season of the TV adaptation, covering The Slippery SlopeThe Grim Grotto, The Penultimate Peril, and The End. 

Produced and partially written by Daniel Handler (cough, cough Lemony Snicket), the series is incredibly faithful to its original source material in both tone and plot. However, there were a few changes, ranging from minor to pretty groundbreaking. Read at your own risk. The world is SPOILERS here. 

The Freaks

In the books, the trio of freaks — Hugo, Colette, and Kevin — from Caligari Carnival joined Count Olaf’s troupe and began participating in nefarious deeds. They had lived their lives as outcasts being mocked, and so they were happy to perpetuate the cycle as long as they were the ones doing the mocking and torturing and not the other way around. In the series, we see the three of them join Count Olaf and his compatriots up the Mortmain Mountains, but it seems they’re abandoned (or killed) there. In the books, Hugo, Colette, and Kevin and his equally strong hands continued helping Count Olaf all the way to the Hotel Denouement.

R.I.P. to the Snow Scouts’ parents 

The Slipper Slope section concluded with the wicked faction of Volunteer Fire Department (or V.F.D.) burning the homes and murdering the parents of all of the wealthy Snow Scouts, including the parents of Carmelita Spats (even though she’s happily adopted by Olaf and Esme). That dark detail — and the imagery of smoke coiling up from multiple points in the city — wasn’t in the books.

Kit Snicket

Just as earlier seasons gave us more of Jacques Snicket (Nathan Fillion) than we saw in the book series, this time around we get bonus time with Lemony’s sister, Kit (Allison Williams), including a sequence where the pregnant volunteer hang-glides and ice-dives to avoid nefarious eagles.

Larry Your-Waiter

Poor Larry Your-Waiter, who, in the TV show, meets his end being boiled alive in hot curry.

Kit, Lemony, Olaf, and Beatrice at the opera

The series provided a tantalizing glimpse at the adults of the story back before the schism that split the fire-starters and the fire-putter-outers. In the flashback, we see Kit and Olaf as a romantic couple, watching an opera in a box with Esme Squalor and Lemony. Another guest that night is Olaf’s father, the chief of the city’s fire department who makes a sweet speech about his son. And on stage, captivating Lemony’s attention is Beatrice (Morena Baccarin), who finishes her aria and visits her friends in their box. But the theft of Esme’s sugar bowl leads to a confrontation that ends with a poison dart in the neck of Olaf’s father, indicating that this is the moment that leads to Lemony going on the run, and Count Olaf becoming a villain.

Dewey Denouement is the father of Kit’s baby

Although this was a long-standing fan theory (his last words are “Kit”), the series finally confirms that the third triplet was Kit’s baby daddy, and the father of Beatrice Baudelaire II.

Lemony was the man with the taxi

Another popular fan theory confirmed: at the end of The Penultimate Peril, the Baudelaires are offered a ride in a taxi by a mysterious stranger they don’t recognize. As it turns out, the man is Lemony Snicket himself, the only time the narrator actually appears in the same story he’s telling.

The identity of Ishmael

Ishmael, the cultish leader on the island where the Baudelaire orphans wash up in The End, is a mysterious figure, but the television series makes him slightly less mysterious: he’s revealed to be the founder of V.F.D., and the ever-missing principal of Prufrock Preparatory School (hence the reason Vice Principal Nero is calling the shots). In the books, he was only explained as a member of V.F.D. and a former chemistry teacher in the city.

Beatrice and Bernard’s time on The Island

The End is only a single episode of the series, and so naturally there was more backstory covered in the novel, which included a more in-depth exploration of the politics on The Island, and revealed that the Baudelaire’s parents, Beatrice and Bernard, had actually been the leaders of The Island until they were overthrown by cordial-pushing Ishmael.

Beatrice II contacts Lemony Snicket

The end of the series features a young Beatrice Baudelaire II, Kit’s child raised by the Baudelaire orphans, reaching out to her uncle Lemony and telling him about her adventures. This connection was described in the supplementary book The Beatrice Letters, but not in the actual series proper.

So what’s in the sugar bowl?

The ultimate unanswered question from the book series finally gets an answer: the sugar bowl contained sugar… infused with a horseradish-apple hybrid that acted as an inoculation against the deadly Medusoid Mycelium. Clearly, V.F.D. had their suspicions that there might be a Schism and nefarious do-badders might use the fungus as a weapon, but why it was so sought after when horseradish already existed as an easy and accessible treatment, who’s to say. But take it or leave it, thanks to the Netflix adaptation, the sugar bowl is no longer just a mysterious MacGuffin.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is now streaming on Netflix.

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