Hello, Netflixers! I’m back at it again with another recap of A Series of Unfortunate Events. As you can see by the above image, Count Olaf is up to his usual antics (mostly involving disguises) in his quest for the Baudelaire fortune. Let’s dive right in, shall we? I give you episode five titled “The Wide Window: Part One.” Those afraid of spoilers should be wary!
After the rollicking theme song, we open with a typewritten message. “For Beatrice – I would much prefer it if you were alive and well.” Methinks Beatrice is Lemony Snicket’s dearly departed wife.
Then we see a Lachrymose News 13 broadcast. Newscasters give you a brief breakdown of the plight of the Baudelaire orphans. I did some digging, and the definition of lachrymose is “tearful or given to weeping.” Hmm. Anyway, once the newscasters are finished they cut to our beloved narrator Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton). He is standing in front of a weather map. Lemony explains while using weather metaphors how tragic the Baudelaire story is.
Later, we see Poe (K. Todd Freeman) and the Baudelaires get off a boat in a quaint little village. They are standing on Damocles Dock in Lachrymose. Poe explains that Aunt Josephine will be unable to meet them at said dock. So, the Mortuary Money Management banker gives them taxi fare and his “second favorite candy” peppermints. “Should we have told him we’re allergic to peppermint?” Klaus (Louis Hynes) asks. “How do we get a taxi?” Violet (Malina Weissman) wonders. They hope Aunt Josephine, being”fierce and formidable,” can answer all their questions about the strange happenings around them. “Does anyone need a ride somewhere for a reasonable fare?” a taxi driver inquiries. Well, that was easy.
Meanwhile, as the taxi driver whisks them off to Aunt Josephine, he explains that Hurricane Herman is coming. He then goes on to divulge in the themes of Herman Melville’s works. I like literate taxi drivers.
While the children are en route to Josephine, we see Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) rowing ashore. Well, being pulled by his henchmen. “Only when I’m alone can I court the muse and dream up the next step of my glorious scheme,” he says, like a true villain. When they reach the shore we hear one of the twins yell “Land, ho!” “I told you to stop calling me that,” the other twin replies. I love wordplay.
Later, the kids arrive at Aunt Josephine’s dreary home. Violet is nervous about what’s to come. “It’s like we’re standing on the edge of a precipice with no idea what’s below,” she confesses. Well, they are technically standing on one, since Josephine’s house sits atop a very, very steep cliff. Klaus hopes their aunt can answer their questions. Lemony cuts in with some sage wisdom: “Standing on a precipice is better than slipping on a precipice or falling off a precipice.” This show also contains life advice!
Meanwhile, the Baudelaires ring the disconnected doorbell. A sign on the front door reading “Please go away” does not put the children at ease. Just when Klaus is moving his hand to knock the door swings open. “Don’t knock, you might get splinters,” Josephine (Alfre Woodard) says frantically. Klaus notes the disconnection of the doorbell. Josephine counters that she was afraid of getting electrocuted. We see that Aunt Josephine is petrified of her reflection when she catches sight of it in a mirror. She seems to have an irrational fear of everything. Josephine has the kids follow her, while chiding them to “mind the rug,” as they might trip and break their necks. Good grief!
They reach the end of a hallway. “I know you’ve seen many unusual things and you must have many questions,” Josephine says. She reveals her library, claiming they will find answers there. Josephine’s library is a beautifully antique room with a giant glass window overlooking Lake Lachrymose. The aunt to the Baudelaires explains that she couldn’t meet them on the docks because she’s too haunted by her past. “Does this have anything to do with our parents?” Violet asks. Josephine reveals the tragic story about her husband Ike and his passing. She also explains that her and Ike were friends with their parents. “I told Ike to wait an hour before swimming – he waited forty-five minutes,” Josephine dramatically intones. Ike, as it turns out, was devoured by the Lachrymose Leeches that breed in the outskirts of the lake.
After she has a minor breakdown, Josephine picks herself up and reveals her new passion in life: grammar. She has devoted her life to the study and application of grammar. “It is the greatest joy in life, don’t you find?” Josephine asks gleefully. A clock screeches, signifying lunch time. It must be a specification that all clocks make a loud noise. Makes for good comedy, at least.
Later, the four of them enjoy cold cucumber soup (yuck). Aunt Josephine confesses another one of her fears: she is fearful of turning on the stove (hence the cold soup). Our favorite paranoid aunt also divulges a little of her past as a snake charmer in Egypt. See, kids, she used to be fun! However, when children press for more answers she refuses to talk about her relationship with their parents or living with Monty (oooh!). Aunt Josephine is proving to be a tough egg to crack.
As they continue their lunch, Josephine tells the children it’s safe to be afraid of everything. “Get her help,” Sunny (Presley Smith) says. That baby is smarter than everyone on this show. And so expressive! Klaus asks her if she ever thought of moving somewhere else, where she didn’t have to live in fear. They could discuss the weird things occurring. Well…she’s also scared of real estate agents.
Meanwhile, Lemony exits a clothing store called “Look! It Fits!”while wearing a very bright orange coat. He describes rational fears vs. irrational fears. “Nothing sinister has ever come from the real estate market,” he states.
Then we see a man exit a restaurant called “Anxious Clown.” For the record, I would never set foot in any establishment associated with clowns. Anyway, he whistles while he sweeps around the entrance. He moves outward in said sweeping until his broom brushes a pair of feet. “Count Olaf!” he exclaims. “I didn’t think I’d see you here after all that unpleasantness with Snicket,” he says to the Count. With Snicket, eh? “The Baudelaires are safe and sound, and learning everything about our organization,” he continues. He also states while their initial training should have commenced years ago, it’s not too late. “Their new guardian is the most fierce and formidable of our organization!” the waiter says to Olaf. “Snicket?” Olaf asks, confused. “Isn’t he dead?” the man counters. The two men are having a tug-of-war with a broomstick.
While this is happening, Olaf explains that the Baudelaire fortune will be his. “You and your ridiculous comrades will be swept away,” the vicious Count threatens. With that, the broom breaks in half, sending our waiter to meet the ground. He says the Baudelaires will stop Olaf – reports indicate that they have incredible gifts. The waiter makes the mistake of revealing their guardian’s name. Now Olaf knows Josephine’s name. The Count’s henchmen swarm the restaurant worker, smiling creepily from above.
Later, Josephine gives the kids gifts: a doll for Violet, cards for Klaus and a rattle for precocious Sunny. Aunt Josephine tells them their safety is of the utmost importance. In a ploy to send her away, they ask if she’s frightened of the incoming Hurricane Herman. She runs into town to pick up supplies in preparation for the storm.
We see the children eating while Aunt Josephine’s in town. “She means well, even if she’s terrified of everything. We shouldn’t complain,” Violet says. Klaus, on the other hand, wants to complain. He gives Sunny his card deck, being the poker-loving baby she is. They kids decide it’s time to work.
While in Josephine’s library, Klaus uncovers a safe that, of course, they must break into. Being the incredibly gifted youngsters they are, they figure out the code to unlock said safe. Pictures of Josephine doing feats of bravery live inside it. “She wasn’t scared of anything,” Violet says in awe. Memories of Ike could also be found. Klaus pulls out “The Incomplete Histories of Secret Organizations,” curiosity peaked. It’s the very same book Strauss had in her library!
Suddenly, they hear Josephine coming home. They lock the safe and pretend nothing’s amiss. Josephine strolls into the library with supplies – two bags chock full of limes. Perhaps that’s the secret to surviving tropical storms? Aunt Josephine reveals she knows she’s a disappointment to the kids. She used to be not only friends, but associates with their parents. “You can’t be terrified forever,” Josephine states with conviction. She confesses she met a man and was going on a date for fried egg sandwiches. “Just be nice to him, won’t you?” she pleads. After calling for him, we hear “I’m hobbling as fast as I can, Josephine,” from the hallway.
Then, in hobbles the master of disguises, Count Olaf. He calls himself Captain Sham, complete with an eye patch, sailor’s hat and wooden leg. Of course the children see right through the disguise. “He’s Count Olaf!” Violet tells Josephine. “Who is this Count Omar? He sounds handsome,” Olaf quips. Josephine is having none of it. The two lovebirds decide to regale the kids with their first meeting…a few hours ago.
Back in the past, we see Josephine moving about the town market. She is drawn to a seller with limes. Olaf saunters (more like hobbles) in and they share their love for the fruit. His henchmen are standing off to the side, really selling the Count to Josephine. He explains the Lachrymose Leeching accident that cost him his left leg. “My right leg was not strong enough to rescue my left leg,” he reveals forlornly. “That’s just how it happened to my husband,” Josephine says. Not only is Captain Sham a seaman, he is also a rental boat agent, similar to a real estate agent. Josephine is intrigued.
Meanwhile, back in the present, Captain Sham says he believes the Baudelaires are “wonderful, obedient orphans.” When Josephine goes off to get ready, the children have some alone time with the sea captain. They continue to accuse him of being Olaf, that’s he’s not a sea captain. “Yes I am, it says so on my business card,” he says. Once Josephine is ready, they leave for their date. “We have to go after her,” Violet says decisively. They pull up a map that shows half a dozen fried egg restaurants within driving distance. Violet and Klaus fear that Olaf will kill her like he murdered Monty.
Later, our orphans rush outside to save their aunt. Unfortunately (as many events on this show are), they are stopped by Olaf’s henchmen. “Going somewhere?” Hook Handed-Man (Usman Ally) asks menacingly. The others add that the children would be safer inside, where nobody can harm them. Violet, Klaus and Sunny head back inside, defeated.
Meanwhile, we see the waiter from Anxious Clown tied up and attempting to scoot toward a telephone. However, he falls over dead in the process.
Later, locked away in Josephine’s house, the children concoct a plan to save their aunt from potential death. Violet ties her hair back, saying she found fishing net in the kitchen she could use as a ladder to scale the cliff. Klaus asks her what will happen when they reach the lake. She is out of ideas, and Klaus slinks back to the couch in defeat. “The world is scary and we should be afraid of it,” he states. Everywhere they go, Count Olaf is there. Violet gently reminds him of what their mother used to say: “Do the scary thing first, then get scared.” Again with the useful life advice!
Meanwhile, Captain Sham is serenading Josephine in the back of a taxi cab with a jaunty sea shanty. Josephine is not amused. Their taxi driver is the very same driver the children had in the beginning of the episode. “It’s a lake, actually,” he corrects the Captain.
Later, we see the parents decoding a telegram in their possession.”I do hope the children are safe,” the father says. Mother says they should be safe as long as their enemies don’t have air canons. After successfully decoding said telegram, they pull off a tarp concealing a plane. There are bullet holes in the wings of the aircraft. “It’s like our honeymoon,” the father quips.
While the Baudelaire children are home, we hear a window shatter from the library. The children run upstairs to find a person-shaped hole in the wide window overlooking the lake. A “suicide note” is left for the kids to read. It appears Josephine jumped out the window, unable to continue living a life of constant fear. Our poor orphans are devastated. Lemony interjects, revealing an important piece of information. “They were wrong. Aunt Josephine is not dead at all. Not yet.” How ominous and foreboding!
The Baudelaires have to be the unluckiest kids on the planet! What is this secret organization Josephine works for? How is Olaf involved in all of it? What kinds of “gifts” do the children possess and why were they supposed to train from a young age? What is Lemony Snicket’s true role in the events transpiring? Will the children ever enjoy cold cucumber soup? Luckily there’s a part two, my pretties!
A Series of Unfortunate Events is streaming on Netflix.