We’re nearing the end now, fellow Unfortunate Ones! Our feisty Baudelaires are currently en route to Lucky Smells Lumber Mill, where they hope to uncover the answers they seek. Will Count Olaf keep his dastardly, poorly manicured hands off them? Let’s find out! I present to you, “The Miserable Mill: Part One.”
We open with another typewritten message: “To Beatrice – My love flew like a butterfly, until death swooped like a bat.” Macabre, yet romantic. Presumably, this is another message our narrator Lemony Snicket typed to his dearly departed wife.
Now, we see Mr. Poe (K.Todd Freeman) in a state of panic. “It’s a catastrophe…it’s unprecedented…it’s unfortunate! The Baudelaires are lost and unsupervised. Do you know what that means?” he asks his associate. However, Poe’s state of panic is short lived. A whiff of something succulent catches his nose. He meanders over to a cart titled “Crock ‘O Chowder,” and commences eating a bowl of clam chowder. “Oh my…this is excellent chowder,” Poe comments. Like I said, his panic was short lived.
Meanwhile, our orphans are nestled in the bed of a truck heading to Lucky Smells Lumber Mill. “I hope Mr. Poe isn’t too worried about us,” Violet (Malina Weissman) says. Klaus (Louis Hynes) is lost in the photograph he found in Aunt Josephine’s safe.
Then, our unfortunate narrator Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton) makes his melancholic appearance. “If you like watching stories in which children enjoy pleasant rides in truck beds on their way to colorful destinations, that story is streaming elsewhere,” he states. Meanwhile, the once oblivious truck driver discovers he has three runaway children with him. “What the gum? Get a job, hitchhikers!” he shouts, promptly dumping them in the woods. Down, but not out, the Baudelaires decide to walk to the mill. “We’re almost out of the woods,” Violet says hopefully as they near the edge of the forest.
Meanwhile, Lemony dives in to explain the expression “out of the woods,” and its application to this particular situation. He also references fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood, how their stories take place in the woods. Lemony even mentions Walden: “A man menaced by revelations that we should abandon civilization and live by a pond.” “They were far from ‘out of the woods,'” Lemony ominously states.
Later, our feisty orphans arrive at their destination. “It looks like there was a fire here. Everything’s gone,” Klaus observes. We see the entire surrounding town is ashes, with the exception of the mill. “Maybe this is where our clues lead us,” Violet says hopefully. They spot a giant wall that is the exterior of the mill. “The only thing standing between us and our parent’s secrets – ” Violet starts. ” – is an enormous wooden wall,” Klaus finishes. Struck with an idea, Violet sets down little Sunny (Presley Smith) and ties her hair back. Violet means business, y’all! “I bet I could invent a catapult to get us over,” she says. Meanwhile, Sunny crawls over to the door and simply pushes it open. Where can I obtain a “that was easy” button?
While lingering in the entrance, the kids spot a sign reading thus: “Warning: Trespassers will be put to work.” “Does this make us trespassers?” Klaus asks his big sister. “We’re children,” Violet replies, brushing it off. “Those aren’t mutually exclusive,” Klaus counters, ever the pragmatist. They decide, rules be damned, and head in to explore anyway. Amid their explorations they notice a tower with a familiar eye symbol fixed at its top. “It could just be a coincidence,” Violet reasons. “It could be Count Olaf,” Klaus replies. They see a woman within the tower peering down at them. “Maybe we should leave,” Klaus says.
Suddenly, a man (Rhys Darby) comes up unobserved behind them. “Forgive me, I thought you might be trespassers but now I see you’re just children,” he says to the Baudeulaires. “We’re on a school trip,” Violet fibs. Our currently unidentified stranger identifies himself as Charles and says a lumber mill is not a safe place for children. “I should know, I run this mill,” Charles adds. Um, that’s not Charles. That’s Murray, and you kids are late for the band meeting. Flight of the Conchords, anyone? Bueller? Klaus shows him the photo of his parents and asks their new friend if he knows them. “I think you better come see my partner,” Charles suggests.
While they head inside, Charles explains the surrounding town used to be called Paltryville, but supposedly it was anything but: they had not one, but two hot yoga studios, a world market and were planning on adding a water park. Unfortunately (as most things on this show are), the terrible fire incinerated everything save the mill and the building with the eye symbol. Once indoors, they are introduced to Charles’ partner, simply called “Sir.” “Call me sir…because I’m the boss. They all have to do what I say, even my partner here,” Sir (Don Johnson) bluntly states, referring to Charles. “Doesn’t ‘partner’ mean ‘equal?'” Klaus inquires.
Now, our narrator interjects to describe the different meanings of “partners.” This particular scenario indicates that Sir and Charles are domestic partners. I am fond of this.
“I do all the work, he irons my clothes,” Sir explains. “I also cook your omelettes,” Charles happily adds. He then explains how he found the Baudelaires roaming about the mill unsupervised. “I thought we could take them in. Give them a loving, normative home,” Charles says. Sir thinks they should be treated like adults and put to work in the lumber mill. “Don’t argue with me, we’re partners,” Sir demands, ending the pseudo argument. “Does that mean we get to stay here?” Violet asks hopefully. “In this economy, children are lucky to have a job,” Sir replies. He asks for Violet’s name. Upon hearing “Baudelaire,” the conversation shifts. “You know our name?” Violet inquires. “Of course I do. Every man, woman and child in Paltryville knows that name,” he responds. Klaus shows Sir the photo of their parents. Sir reveals that the Baudelaire parents burned down Paltryville.
Meanwhile, Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris) hitches a ride with the truck driver from earlier. “Tell me, truck driver, you’re sure there were three of them?” Olaf asks. Once the driver confirms that yes, there were three of them, Olaf comes in with a follow up question. “Did they seem like orphans with an enormous fortune?” Our poor truck driver admits to ignorance, saying he threw them out within 2.5 miles of Paltryville. Olaf immediately appears to be lost in fond memories. “You’ve been there?” the truck driver asks. “It’s been years,” Olaf replies happily. “Did you ever know a woman who took your heart and rattled it like a baby in a cage?” Olaf inquires our driver, destroying all personal barriers that should be up when around strangers. Once they reach the decimated remains of Paltryville, Olaf pays the driver with a coupon.
Meanwhile, our orphans have settled, albeit uncomfortably, in the worker’s barracks. They overhear their fellow mill workers gossip about their parents in front of them. “I hear their parents were arsonists,” one worker says. “That’s ridiculous. Did any of you actually meet our parents?” Violet asks, confronting them. “Do you know anything about what happened to this town?” she continues. All is silent from our once Chatty Kathys. “Then you shouldn’t be spreading rumors,” Violet concludes, dropping her invisible mic. Violet is my spirit animal. A lone worker goes to sit with them, introducing himself as Phil (Chris Gauthier). “So where are your parents now?” he asks them. “We’re orphans,” Klaus replies morosely. Phil says they’re lucky to live unsupervised lives. Suddenly, a voice over the intercom says: “Lights out, two seconds.” Immediately, the lights shut off. “But it’s only 6 o’ clock,” Klaus protests.
After their encounter with Phil, Lemony steps in to describe the Baudelaire’s newfound friend as an optimist. “Do not confuse optimist with optometrist. Though both can be dangerous,” Lemony warns. While the kids are pouring over their welcome packets (although to be honest, this place seems the opposite of “welcoming”), they notice there is a library. I love that there is always a library! Kudos to this show for encouraging reading. “Maybe you could research what happened here and clear our parents’ names,” Violet suggests to Klaus. “The mill has machines. Maybe you could make wooden planks out of trees faster,” Klaus adds. Violet hops on the optimism train. “But since we got here we haven’t seen Count Olaf once,” she says.
Meanwhile, our melancholic narrator steps in to correct Violet. She is asking the wrong question. “Where does Count Olaf’s ex-girlfriend live?” would be the proper question.
Later, our villainous Count arrives in Paltryville. He arrives at the eye building and while outside swipes some flowers from a flower pot. We see the woman (Catherine O’Hara) from the tower sitting at a desk throwing darts at an invisible dartboard. Olaf knocks on the door. Finally, the dartboard is revealed to be a picture of our very own Count Olaf. He continues knocking, she continues throwing. “Who is it?” the woman asks. “I’m looking for a Doctor Orwell.” Olaf replies from outside. Dr. Orwell immediately launches into a makeup frenzy – hastily applying lipstick and coloring her roots with a marker of some kind. “Who’s calling, please?”she counters. “I’m just an old friend,” Olaf responds. “Dr. Orwell isn’t here right now. She doesn’t have any friends,” Dr. Orwell says.
Then, in true Olaf fashion, he propels into a soliloquy about soulmates who share the “same dubious moral codes.” He mentions how brokenhearted he is and how he wants very much to “forget the whole thing.” Dr. Orwell finally opens the door ever so slightly to peer up at Olaf. “You changed your hair,” Olaf muses. “I swore I would never let you darken my door again,” she says. “You left me to drown,” Orwell continues. “Water under the bridge,” Olaf dismisses. “That’s where you left me!” she counters. This dialogue is gold, folks. Bravo. Orwell says she has her own evil scheme and doesn’t need Olaf mucking it up. “Even if I told you we had another chance to destroy the Baudelaires?” Olaf teases. Orwell changes her tune. “Fate and fortune has brought us together,” he adds. “How big a fortune?” Orwell asks.
Meanwhile, the Baudelaire orphans lie in bed that night arguing about their next move. Violet wishes to stay to clear their parents’ names while Klaus thinks it best they leave. “But staying is the best way to find out what our parents were hiding,” Violet argues. “The best way to find out would be to ask them. But we never can,” Klaus replies forlornly.
Later, we see the Baudelaire parents hiding out in the woods. “We can’t keep hiding like this,” Mom (Cobie Smulders) says. “You’re right. Our enemies are too close,” Dad replies in agreement (Will Arnett). “I mean from the children. We can’t keep hiding this part of our lives,” Mom clarifies. She adds that once they reunite they will divulge every detail of their hidden lives with the children. “We need to make it out first,” Dad states. “We’re not out of the woods yet,” Mom says. We see they are standing amid the wreckage from their plane while several people are searching around them with flashlights.
We see the following morning yields nothing positive regarding the children’s unfortunate situation. Lucky Smells Lumber Mill’s new Foreman is banging on pots to wake up the workers. “Hurry up! It’s log day!” he shouts. Sounds like leg day, but exponentially worse. “Now grab the debarker and start debarking!” he demands. Our kids stand in line to receive a debarker, which they will use to strip the bark off logs. “I love log day!” Phil the annoying optimist exclaims. Now, we see the kids at work. Violet and Klaus seem to be having a rough go at it, whereas little Sunny is a natural. She is putting her chompers to good use and working faster to strip the bark.
Later, the bell sounds for lunch. “I hate log days,” Klaus mumbles. They are only allotted five minutes for lunch. So what’s on the lunch menu, you may ask? A heaping helping of gum. Yes…gum. “Gum isn’t lunch. It’s not even a snack,” Klaus says. On top of that, their paid wages consist of coupons, not actual money. “That can’t be legal,” Violet says. “It’s not like we have a constitution,” Phil replies. When Klaus asks why they don’t leave, the entire group stands up and announces in unison: “Lucky Smells is our life! Lucky Smells is our home!” This eerily cult-like statement proves to be the catalyst for the Baudelaire children’s hopeful escape.
While the other mill workers enjoy their gum, the kids sneak off to find the library. Unfortunately, Sir and Charles impede them from their research. “Trying to get out of log day, are ya?” Sir confronts them. “I told you the library would be good for morale,” Charles tells him, ever the morale booster. Sir demands them to get back to work and leaves in a huff (of cigar smoke, of course). Klaus asks Charles if he knows about the illegal doings of the mill. Charles tells them they must understand that Sir had a very terrible childhood. “I’m having a very terrible childhood right now,” Klaus says to him as he shuts the door in their faces.
Later, while they are at work, Klaus develops a theory that the new Foreman is really Count Olaf. He takes it upon himself to prove this theory. While the Foreman appears to be snoozing, Klaus discreetly lifts up his pants leg to check for an eye tattoo on his ankle. “What are you doing, midget?” the Foreman asks brusquely. Klaus fibs that he needs a new debarker. “They’re over there, rich boy,” the Foreman says smugly as he kicks Klaus. He falls face first and his glasses take a fatal tumble. The not-so friendly Foreman promptly steps on them. Violet rushes to her brother’s aid, claiming the Foreman kicked him. “How can I kick him when I’m up in this booth?” the Foreman asks, feigning innocence.
Phil claims that Klaus needs to see an optometrist. “Dr. Orwell treats all the workers,” he adds. “Maybe I can find some answers,” Klaus tells Violet. Phil accompanies him to Dr. Orwell’s office.
Meanwhile, Olaf is buttering up Dr. Orwell in a way only he can – with copious amounts of cringe. “Your cruelty is as sweet as this coffee I’m dumping sugar into,” he teases. “Let’s run away to Europe and find a charming country to take over,” he adds. Okay, I think that line would actually work on me. Right on cue, the phone rings as Olaf is about to go in for a smooch. Who knew the Count could be suave? “Dr. Orwell’s office?” he answers in a high pitched voice. “He’s on his way,” he tells Orwell after he puts down the receiver.
Later, we see Phil and Klaus standing outside Dr. Orwell’s optometrist office. Klaus comments on how the eyeglasses poster outside reminds him of The Great Gatsby. “It represents the eyes of God staring down and judging society as a moral wasteland,” Klaus tells Phil regarding the symbolism behind it in the novel. “Doctors are your friends.” Phil says to Klaus. Lemony interjects here to inform us that doctors aren’t your friends, just as lawyers and angry refrigerator repairmen aren’t technically your “friends.”
Meanwhile, we see the Baudelaire parents standing in the middle of the road. They stop an approaching vehicle. “Ordinarily we wouldn’t impose but we’re in urgent need of a ride,” Mom says to the driver. In response, the driver exits his car armed with a wrench. He wields it like a weapon. “Partners?” Dad asks Mom. “Always, darling,” she sweetly replies. Mom proceeds to kick the driver’s ass. Go Mom!
Later, Violet and Sunny sneak back to the library for some covert research. “We better hurry before the Foreman realizes we’re gone,” she says. Violet flips through several books, noticing a common theme: all of them are on the history of Paltryville. They are all written by Sir and literally identical copies. She turns to chapter twelve, which details the fire of Paltryville. “The Baudelaires were unequivocally responsible,” the chapter starts. However, the remainder of the paragraph was scribbled out. Violet starts flipping to chapter twelve in the rest of the books with the same result. Finally, she stumbles upon a book with said chapter that isn’t defiled. Suddenly, Sir makes his appearance. Violet and Sunny jump behind a sofa to hide. He sees the open, unsullied book and promptly rips out the page. Charles calls for his name and Sir leaves.
Meanwhile, Sunny Baudelaire stumbles upon a dictionary. Curious, Violet opens the cover and sees a quote written in a familiar hand. Said quote was written by none other than Bertrand Baudelaire – their father! In a sweet turn of fate, Violet is able to eavesdrop on the conversation between Charles and Sir. “They’re good children. I don’t see why we have to lie to them. The truth is right in your book!” Charles protests. Sir mentions he ripped out a page that revealed the truth. They must continue to cover certain things to keep Lucky Smells Lumber Mill running. Throwing in a lie about the Baudelaire parents is the cost of doing business.
Later, Klaus and Phil wait in Dr. Orwell’s office. Orwell makes her grand entrance and introduces herself to Klaus. “Looks like somebody broke your glasses,” she tells him in observation. She plans to whisk him off for an eye exam. “Wave goodbye to your friend,” Orwell instructs Klaus as she takes him away. Phil heartily waves back.
Back in Orwell’s exam room, she situates him in chair complete with extensive examination equipment. Alliteration for the win, folks. “An eye exam is necessary for all my patients,” Orwell informs Klaus. She comments on how nervous he looks. She commences the eye exam. They get on the subject of his parents. “Everyone thinks they did this bad thing. But they never even met them,” Klaus tells her. “I met your parents,” Orwell confesses. Instantly, he is cuffed by wrist and ankle to the chair, while a brace is placed on the crown of his head. “Standard procedure for nervous little boys,” she says. A medley of images flashes across the screen, from words to images and everything in between. We see Klaus’ eyes change. He is hypnotized. “Yes, you little bookworm, tell us what you see,” Olaf coos, disguised as a woman this time.
Later, Violet and Phil eat dinner. Violet is worried about her brother. The latter returns, to Violet’s relief. “We were worried. You were gone so long,” she says. Not only is Klaus uncharacteristically silent, but he is also sans glasses. “What was it like inside the eye?” Violet asks. “I’m happy to be here, Sir,” Klaus responds, smiling blankly. Violet informs him of Sir’s deal to cover up the fire. Again, no reaction – her statement is met with silence. While they lay in bed, she feels she disappointed their parents by not protecting Klaus.
Morning greets them with a brash demand. “Get up, Lumber Laborers!” the Foreman yells. He then asks over the intercom if Klaus would like to bring his baby sister with him. He happily jaunts away with Sunny, without shoes. “Lucky boy, it’s wood chipper day. Would you like to make some mulch?” the Foreman asks Klaus. Klaus begins using the wood chipper with Sunny on his hip. Violet rushes to his side and takes Sunny away, fearful for what’s happened to her brother.
Later, we see Sir on the phone. “Baudelaire orphans working at the mill? That’s ridiculous, they’re children,” he says, promptly hanging up. Then, we see Dad hanging up the receiver in the vehicle they just hijacked. Mom inquires what’s wrong. He replies nothing could possibly be wrong – even with everything they’ve been through, they’re finally going to reunite with their kids. We see their car entering Paltryville.
Meanwhile, Violet tells Klaus she “misses him an inordinate amount,” to which Klaus snaps out of his hypnotized state. When Phil asks what “inordinate” means, Klaus immediately replies with a definition. Yep, Klaus is definitely back. “Where was I? Why am I not wearing shoes?” he asks, bewildered. The Foreman tells the Baudelaires go to the “very fancy door,” because they have visitors. Charles meets them outside. “Who is visiting us?” Klaus asks. “I don’t know. But they can’t come inside, because that would be trespassing and they would be put to work,” he replies in a matter-of-fact manner.
While all of this is happening, we see the parents are on the other side of the fancy door. Yes, yes, yes! Time for a heartwarming reunion scene! Mom and Dad open the very fancy door. “Duncan, Quigley, Isadora! Come here, you three!” Mom shouts warmly. We see three children who are NOT Violet, Klaus and Sunny run toward them for a group hug. No, no, no! This is not what I signed up for! “I beg you to turn this program off now. Imagine this story has a happy ending,” Lemony pleads as he “turns” the camera away from the Baudelaire children. When the very fancy door opens on the children’s side we see Dr. Orwell with Count Olaf…dressed as a woman.
“The misery does not end here,” Lemony continues. He informs us that the optometry building used to be the headquarters of a secret organization. “Where is Count Olaf?” is a question all of them should have asked, according to our narrator. “My, my, my, aren’t you a lucky boy,” Olaf coos as he helps Klaus put on his new glasses. This triggers the hypnosis once again. Klaus is in a trance.
Later, we revisit the scene with Sir on the phone, but we see who was on the other end of that interaction: Poe. Turns out the excellent chowder wasn’t such a deterrent as to prevent him from searching for the kids. We see him check off the Lucky Smells Lumber Mill from a list as he continues to inquire of their whereabouts.
I have one word for you: WHAT? That door scene ripped my heart into a billion pieces! If those weren’t the Baudelaire parents, then where are the real ones? Maybe those children are stand-in kids, decoys of some kind? What is the history behind the eye tower? The secret organization that used to reside there? What is Sir trying to cover up, and why? Too many questions! Time to hit up that finale.
A Series of Unfortunate Events is now streaming on Netflix.