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A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS Recap: A “Miserable” Season-Ender

A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS Recap: A “Miserable” Season-Ender

It gives me no pleasure to tell you, sir or madam or the honorific of your choice, that this recap of the A Series of Unfortunate Events episode “The Miserable Mill: Part Two,” has spoilers in the beginning, spoilers at the end, and very few moments of non-spoilage in between. Should you prefer to be surprised, it is suggested that you depart–which in this case means “go to a different web page”–and look at something happier and less-spoiling, like this bunny playing Jenga.

We have come to the end of season one, but it doesn’t feel like any kind of ending. This show’s idea of closure on that score is a forced musical number sung by different members of the primary cast in different locations. Yes, we get it, Neil Patrick Harris likes to sing. But this didn’t feel as organic as the other numbers; more like somebody went, “Look, we have to do something that feels like a wrap-up, even though there is nothing within the story which works to that effect.” Episode seven’s big twist might have been a good season-ending cliffhanger, but the show tried to leave us with another, even though it only confirmed something we all should have known at this point.

Fortunately, if I may use such a word to describe this particular show, author Daniel Handler is apparently hard at work on season two already, which will be 10 episodes and cover books five through nine. Then, if a third season happens, it need only be eight again to get 10 through 13 in.

Harris sang the last verse of the opening theme in character as his newest guise, Shirley the receptionist (I’d love to think this is a riff on “Shirley you cannot be serious!” and it probably is, seeing how Handler loves wordplay and grammar).

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Poe began the episode with an amazing mix of crying and coughing that somehow did not choke him, as his pristine office was revealed to be becoming more and more like Lemony’s old apartment, with newspaper clips all over the walls. Poe being Poe, he was less sad for the poor Baudelaire children than he was that having lost them might affect his promotion, and more specifically, that it might get him downgraded to handing out cannolis to incontinent adults on the new accounts staff. An oddly specific punishment, to say the least. As Poe fainted uselessly, his wife assured him she would get back to her journalistic roots and find the children for him.

Of course, we know full well that they’re at the Lucky Smells mill, and after a brief digression on the subject of newspapers with Lemony, who’s seemingly back in the old apartment across from the theater that he previously ducked out on, we got back to the Baudelaires, with Klaus still hypnotized after Olaf-in-drag/Shirley said the keyword.

Ooh, I was close with the Shirley pun. Per Violet, “You mean Shirley Count Olaf?” The full fake name is Shirley St. Ives, which does not immediately seem like an anagram of anything else. And here comes Don Johnson in a pedicab, eating dessert and extolling the benefits of free health care. I approve this casting choice so much.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Still hypnotized, Klaus began to operate heavy machinery without reading the instructions first, which was most definitely out of character. Sure enough, the giant stamping machine went haywire and crushed Phil’s leg. Being an optimist, he promptly extolled the benefits of half-priced pedicures.

Better movie idea: Zombies in the Snow, or Hypnotists in the Forest? Phil saw the latter, and said he didn’t really get it, but liked that it was in black and white. It does seem that every movie in this world is directed by Ed Wood.

Sir had no sympathy, complaining that the accident–which also broke the tree de-barker dispenser–would cost him an inordinate amount of money…and with the utterance of the word “inordinate,” Klaus snapped out of it. And Charles seemed to be developing a backbone, promising to give the Baudelaires some key information about their parents. This, of course, is the equivalent of saying “I’ll be right back” in a horror movie.

In keeping with the black and white theme, Lemony sent us into a flashback, showing that Sir had made a deal with Orwell and Shirley/Olaf, but had no idea his workers were so compliant because the evil doctor hypnotizes them. We got treated to the sight of Neil Patrick Harris flirting with Don Johnson (“Oops! Dropped another pen!” is my favorite Harris line delivery in this one), and the latter ogling Harris’ fake boobs–this is why we watch, is it not? Olaf/Shirley explained she wanted to adopt the orphans, Sir said he wouldn’t part with them because child labor is just too convenient, and Shirley managed to get out of him that he would get rid of them if they became costly, e.g. by causing an accident. Hence, the leg-crunching we saw previously.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Determined to get un-hypnotized, Klaus went back to Dr. Orwell’s, with Violet and Sunny in tow, just in time to see Charles being hypnotized into wanting the Baudelaires gone. The Baudelaires ran to a nearby closet to hide, in which they found actual skeletons, which of course led to a diversionary scene in which Lemony explained what the phrase “skeletons in the closet” means. He really is starting to become a bit like the annoying friend who points out all the obvious plot points while you’re both watching a movie, but at least he’s Patrick Warburton, and thus funny. Also, maybe kids watching will learn stuff.

Lemony did let drop the real reason he’s so depressive, though–his love Beatrice literally wrote a 200-page book about why she could not be with him, and he has it still. That’s an epic dis track.

Reckoning the entire mill staff must be hypnotized, Klaus needed to find the word that would snap them out of it, and his first impulse was just to read the dictionary aloud, but soon it became clear that would take too long. But before he could find another way, the foreman–whose rubbery hands are a giveaway that he was actually the hook-handed henchman–said Klaus’ code word again, and re-hypnotized him.

And now…a scene of the parents who aren’t the Baudelaire parents? It would appear from all available evidence (though unmentioned as yet on the show) that this couple are in fact the Quagmires, who in the books also died in a fire and left their kids a great fortune; this should come into play more next season. Indeed, it looks like we just saw the start of that fire, as a mysterious figure outside the house used a spyglass to refract light and start a blaze. This will come into play more next season.

A Series Of Unfortunate Events

Back at the mill, a whistling and blissed-out Charles was tied to a log, as Olaf ordered the hypnotized and willing Klaus to send the log straight into a large buzz saw.

NETFLIX JOKE! “Haven’t you learned anything this year…week…season?”

Thanks to the henchman messing up and saying “fire,” Violet deduced that was the word to snap the employees out of it….and can I just point out that “Fire!” might be said a lot at a lumber mill, so this was a really stupid part of Orwell’s plan? And is anyone surprised that Lemony just had to interject and talk about yelling “fire!” in crowded places? Once again, the author’s room was compromised, so he yelled “Fire!” as a diversion to get away; meanwhile, back in the Baudelaire timeline, Violet yelled it over the PA system, and everyone snapped out of their gum-loving trance. Except Klaus, whose word was different, but Violet realized she could order him just as easily as Olaf could.

Charles took an incredibly long time to get near the saw blade. Definitely some narrative time-cheating here, but enough of it for Sunny to chew through the ropes. (Seriously, kids, just unleash Sunny’s teeth sooner in every episode, and you’ll save a ton of time. Not that time is measured in tons.)

Dr. Orwell showed up just in time to command Klaus not to listen to his sister, but then got in an argument with Olaf, who found her plot too high-concept (this is of course dramatic irony, as Lemony will soon butt in and remind us…or maybe not! Not this time). Anyway, their argument revealed that “inordinate” was Klaus’ word, and he came to. In a really, really awkward bit of choreography, the mill workers broke down the door, and Orwell backed into the furnace by mistake. Seriously, that could have been handled better, but other than that my fears of Bo Welch as a director were misplaced.

Faced with a full-on labor dispute, Sir ran away, and Poe’s wife led her hubby to the mill, which she found after hearing there’d been an accident. Good old Poe, now the “Vice President of Orphan Affairs,” refused to believe any of what the kids told him, as per usual. But before Charles left to search for his partner, he gave the children an unmarked page from the history of the mill book, revealing that their parents were not responsible for the town fire after all, but had put it out instead.

No more new guardians for the Baudelaires; instead, they are going to boarding school, namely Prufrock Preparatory, built by a depressed architect who made all the buildings look like tombstones, because of course. Before Poe left them there, he gave Klaus a package, containing the spyglass filter Jacqueline stole back from Count Olaf.

And then the final revelation: in the school’s trophy case, an old photo of young Lemony and young Olaf, arm in arm, both smiling. We know they were connected, but now we know how.

It also turns out Warburton can sing pretty well.

Are you ready for season two to just show up already? Let us know in comments!

Images: Netflix

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