Hello again, fellow Netflixers! We continue the tragic tale of the Baudelaire children with episode two of A Series of Unfortunate Events, “The Bad Beginning: Part Two.” Let’s jump right in, shall we? As always, spoilers to follow.
After the always terribly catchy theme song, we open with Mr. Poe (K. Todd Freeman) at his desk in Mortuary Money Management. He buzzes the intercom for his secretary Jacklyn to retrieve the Baudelaire file. Our unfortunate narrator Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton) begins with “I’m sorry the alleged entertainment you are watching is extremely unpleasant.” He continues by explaining the tale of the Baudelaire children began long before they fell into the not-so-well manicured clutches of Count Olaf. A montage flashes of all the events we saw in the pilot that, in fact, “did not contribute” to their terrible lives. It started right there in Poe’s office, after the fire that “claimed” the lives of the Baudelaire parents (but we know that’s not true!). FLASHBACK TIME!
Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) and his theater troupe are in the city as well. Olaf is irritated that nobody thought to bring costumes for whatever mysterious plot they have planned that requires costumes. He tells them to wait in the car. Olaf walks by passersby on the street, swiping a scarf here and nicking a hat there. Nobody seems to notice their respective articles of clothing are missing, which has me concerned. Once he is fully disguised he enters Mortuary Money Management.
He approaches the front desk where Poe’s secretary Jacklyn (Sara Canning) sits. She sees him and is automatically on her guard. He tells her he has an appointment, to which she asks for his name. Olaf sees the word “haircut” in the open planner on Jacklyn’s desk and replies with “Yessica Haircut.” Jacklyn is incredulous. Poe continues calling for the Baudelaire file. Jacklyn has it in her hands, but Olaf wrestles it away from her and strolls into Poe’s office.
“The Baudelaire fire is exactly why I’m here,” Olaf proclaims to Poe. “‘File,’ you mean?” Poe asks. “Yes, I said ‘file.'” Olaf fires off something akin to a soliloquy and almost reveals his true name when the secretary glares at him from the doorway. He opts for his new alter ego, “Yessica Haircut.” Poe is suddenly reminded of his hair appointment and promptly has Jacklyn cancel it. She goes outside in a huff and procures a hand telescope from her pocket. She spies Olaf’s theater troupe in their car. A member of said troupe, who happens to be the tallest and largest of them, marches up to Jacklyn. We see him through the eye of the telescope when he says menacingly he’d like to “make a withdrawal.” Uh-oh. That sounds like a metaphor for something worse than a withdrawal!
Meanwhile, back in Poe’s office, Poe reveals the will states the children will go to the closest living relative. Olaf counters that by saying in his “professional opinion,” closest should mean “whoever lives nearby.” He pulls out a map and tells Poe the closest nearby relative is none other than the “renowned actor and handsome man Count Olaf.” “Never heard of him,” Poe replies. Ouch. Right in the maniacal ego! Poe calls for Jacklyn, but our plucky secretary is tied up in a “remote park” by this point. Poe grabs a ruler from her desk to measure the map to see if Olaf is correct.
FLASH FORWARD TIME! Our Baudelaire children are chopping firewood while Olaf watches them in the doorway, advising them in a not-so encouraging manner. He should probably never coach anyone on any kind of team…ever. This pushes the kids to exhaust every measure of escape at their disposal.
Our little Baudelaires go to see Poe at Mortuary Money Management. “Count Olaf is a mad man.” Klaus (Louis Hynes) declares. Poe dismisses their very real concerns. “Nobody likes who raises them,” he says. He brings in his new secretary, who just so happens to be Olaf’s henchman (Usman Ally). He catches them in the act of escape and brings them home to Olaf.
Back at casa de Olaf, our vicious Count attempts to butter up the children with a sort-of apology. “I may have acted standoffish,” he confesses. He offers them cupcakes as a peace offering, which he eats himself. While he was busy with his theater troupe when they arrived, he wants the Baudelaires to participate in his next theatrical production, a play titled “The Marvelous Marriage.” Olaf would star as a “handsome and good looking man,” while Klaus and Sunny (Presley Smith) would be “two cheering midgets in the crowd.” However, Violet would play a much larger role. She will portray the young woman Olaf marries. Violet (Malina Weissman) wants to work backstage. Olaf refuses her wishes and demands the children participate, as he is “loco de parentis.” “En loco parentis,” Klaus corrects him.
Meanwhile, Jacklyn has uprooted the tree she is currently bound to and attempts to squeeze into a phone booth. She is presumably calling the authorities. Girl is strong!
The children visit Strauss (Joan Cusack), suspicious of this “play” Olaf is putting on. It seems like a deeper, more evil plot lies beneath the surface. They find her in the library and promptly start researching theater, local ordinances, anything pertaining to their current, unfortunate situation. Olaf spies on them from the tower. He’s like an evil Santa Claus!
Olaf bursts into Strauss’ library, armed at the teeth with a plan. He tells Strauss she could star in “The Marvelous Marriage” with a small, walk-on role dressed as a judge. Previously, Strauss confided to the kids that she wishes she would have pursued acting instead of becoming a judge, so this feeds into her desires. Olaf tells Strauss she will “marry” Olaf and Violet in the scene. “You will suddenly find yourself in the enviable position of being a struggling actress in middle age,” Olaf says to Strauss as a means of encouragement. Strauss, now fully on the side of Team Count, tells the children they are lucky to be involved in such an esteemed production. She will bring a real document from City Hall which they will sign during the play for “added realism.” Strauss suggests the kids should go home and spend time with their new father.
Upon arriving home, theater troupe presents Olaf with a multitude of flavors for the wedding cake (is it just me, or does this seem like a real wedding ceremony?). They mention that one sample is a little “lemony.” “I told you never to say that word!” Olaf exclaims. I love when shows get meta.
Olaf sends the children upstairs till Friday, as he “won’t need them till then.” While the Baudelaires are sequestered away in their attic room, Klaus stays up all night reading a book titled “Nuptial Law” to save Violet. He now has a clear vision of Olaf’s dastard plan.
“I know what you’re up to,” Klaus declares to Olaf when he finds the Count at the dining table for breakfast. In short, Violet will be signing a legally binding contract during this “play” that would make her Olaf’s wife – which gives Olaf control of the fortune. “My sister isn’t old enough to get married,” Klaus continues. Olaf counters with “en loco parentis” – she is if the guardian allows it. So, the guardian will also be the husband? This feels like Game of Thrones.
“Here comes Count Olaf, throw the rice pilaf!” The theater troupe sings when Violet descends the stairs to meet Klaus. Olaf puts his “renowned” acting skills to the test when he claims that the kids have outsmarted him with a “stupendous library book.” The children run upstairs to gather Sunny and escape, but discover she is missing. The youngest Baudelaire is suspended in a cage at the tip-top of the mansion (and tied up to boot). Violet, at the end of her rope, tells Olaf if he lets Sunny go she will marry him.
Jacklyn is now walking through the sewers, still tied to the uprooted tree. “I wish I had an inventor,” she muses to herself. “I was just thinking the same thing.” A man named Gustav (<strong>Luke Camilleri</strong>) appears at the rescue. Jackyln explains how disastrous things are. “Dr. Montgomery was expecting the Baudelaire children days ago,” Gustav says. So the plot thickens! Dr. Montgomery was the actual designated guardian specified in the Baudelaire will. Jacklyn and Gustav make plans to attend the theater Friday night (the night of the play) and he unties her.
Now it’s Violet’s turn to stay up all night. She devises a plan to release Sunny from the cage by attempting to hoist up a grappling hook. Once it sticks, the device she invented pulls her upward toward Sunny. She is finally within arm’s reach of the infant when Olaf’s henchman finds Violet and yanks her inside. Olaf comes upstairs with Klaus in tow. He threatens them that if anything should go wrong with the performance Sunny would be dropped to her death.
Time for opening night! At the theater, Olaf gives Strauss a pep talk. “There’s talent scouts in the audience,” he says. We see Mr. Poe and his wife, as well as Jacklyn and Gustav in the attendance.
Back at Olaf’s mansion, the henchman teaches Sunny how to play poker, as you do. Sunny is obviously winning since the henchman is now tied up and Sunny is unbound. That is one smart infant.
Strauss gets a bout of nerves once the wedding ceremony scene arrives. While on stage, Olaf prompts Strauss to say her lines.When it’s Violet’s turn to say “I do” and sign the contract, she hesitates. Olaf, his back to the audience, waves a walkie-talkie signifying his ability to command Sunny is dropped to her death. She reluctantly signs the document.
Count Olaf breaks the fourth wall and turns to the audience. “My marriage to Violet Baudelaire is perfectly legal, and I’m now in control of her entire fortune,” he proclaims to a stunned audience in typical “evil villain” fashion. “Drop the pipsqueak to her death,” Olaf commands to his henchman via the walkie-talkie, much to the chagrin of everyone in the theater. But Sunny lives! Olaf’s henchman shows up with the Baudelaire infant in a wheelbarrow. “I had to bring her, she had a straight flush!” he says defensively. Olaf’s plan seemed to work, however…
Violet signed the contract with her left hand, while being right-handed. They look to Strauss for her to confirm if this is indeed a loophole, but she claims ignorance. Klaus asks for a blackboard and constructs an argument so foolproof for Violet that Strauss steps in to take the credit. As a result, since Violet did not sign with her dominant hand, the contract is null and void.
Poe refuses to let Olaf take the kids. Jacklyn and Gustav enter the fray. Poe is happy to see his secretary alive and well. Jacklyn explains to the children that they were meant to stay with Dr. Montgomery, as dictated in the will, at a “vigorously fixed location.” “This series of unfortunate events has come to a close,” Poe excitedly declares. Series title mentioned within said series for the win!
Suddenly, the theater lights are switched off while an angry Olaf threatens Violet once last time before disappearing into the night. Olaf and his troupe exit through the sewers below. He explains that they are going to a “vigorously fixed location.” It seems like the unfortunate events will continue…
Poe makes the executive decision to take children until they can be sent to Dr. Montgomery. Strauss wants to take them home. The children support this desire and wish to join her, but the specifications of their parents’ will get in the way. They say their goodbyes to a tearful Strauss.
“Have the Baudelaire children arrived to Dr. Montgomery?” Jacklyn asks Gustav via walkie-talkie. She tells him she has a lead on their missing parents, and that they are alive. We see Gustav is shot with a dart, thus rendering him unconscious as he falls into a pond.
Meanwhile Strauss, lonely in her library, puts the adoption book she was perusing away. She instead pulls out a book titled “Incomplete Histories of Secret Organizations.” Hmm…
We end with the Baudelaire parents in a jail cell. They are attempting escape. Our unfortunate children’s mother (Cobie Smulders) has a grappling hook and a Molotov cocktail, while the father (Will Arnett) finds a secret door on the floor of the cell with the same eye symbol that is tattooed on Count Olaf’s ankle. A symbol that has appeared quite a bit throughout the series thus far.
Phew, a lot happened in this episode! It seems like we haven’t seen the last of the “handsome and good looking” Count Olaf. Who is Dr. Montgomery? Why are the parents trapped in a cell? Was the “fire” a distraction, to make it appear they died? What does that eye symbol mean? SO MANY QUESTIONS! I’m excited to keep watching and find out. I hope you are too!
A Series of Unfortunate Events is now streaming on Netflix.
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