This post includes spoilers for “A Series of Unfortunate Events.”
“A Series of Unfortunate Events” is, as you might have guessed from the title, not a happy story.
It’s about three children — Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire — whose parents die in a fire that burned down their home and live in a series of inadequate foster homes as they’re chased around by a unibrowed man named Count Olaf, who wants to steal their family fortune.
In Daniel Handler’s book series, it’s clear that the Baudelaire parents are dead. The whole story hinges on that fact.
The show, however, adds a twist. At the end of the first episode, there’s a scene where Will Arnett and Cobie Smulders are dressed in fancy clothes and locked up in the back of a van. “I’m worried about the children,” Smulders says.
After the scene, the credits roll, and we learn that Arnett and Smulders are “Father” and “Mother,” respectively.
The show makes you think that the parents are actually alive, which would change everything.
Throughout the following seven episodes, we get glimpses of these parents as the Baudelaires try to foil Count Olaf’s schemes. They seem to parallel the Baudelaire adventures. As Uncle Monty plans to get them to Peru in the third episode, we see the parents in Peru. And at the end of the sixth episode, the father mentions they flew through a hurricane, while the Baudelaires evaded a hurricane around the same time.
As it turns out, the whole thing was a red herring. In the seventh episode of the season, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are standing on one side of a “Very Fancy Door” at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill, expecting a visitor to come right through it. At the same time, we see the parents outside a “Very Fancy Door” that looks identical.
When the parents open the door, there’s isn’t a miserable mill, but a lushly decorated mansion. “Duncan, Quigley, Isadora!” the mother calls out.
That’s the big reveal. The parents are actually Mr. and Mrs. Quagmire, parents of three children Duncan, Quigley, and Isadora Quagmire. They’re another set of characters in the books. Beatrice and Bertrand, the Baudelaire parents, we learn, are definitely dead.
It’s a particularly good trick. In the book series, the Quagmire children don’t appear until the fifth book, “The Austere Academy.” The first season of the television show adapts only the first four books, so you don’t expect the Quagmires to show up. It also makes the realisation that the Baudelaire parents are really, truly dead all the more crushing.
But the twist still raises a lot of questions, plot-wise.
The Quagmire children have parallel fates to the Baudelaire children. Their family, too, was very wealthy, and their mansion burned down in a fire that killed their parents, leaving the children orphaned.
And both the Baudelaire and Quagmire parents, before they died, were members of the same secret society that the Baudelaire children are trying to learn about.
After the Quagmire Mansion fire, Duncan and Isadora are placed in Prufrock Preparatory School, where they meet the Baudelaire children (Quigley gets separated and joins them later). In one of the last shots of the eighth and last episode of the season, we see the Baudelaire children, Duncan, and Isadora all on a bench together in Prufrock, but they haven’t met yet.
But if that’s the case, when does this whole subplot with the Quagmire parents escaping Peru take place? It seems to be before the rest of the events of the show, but do other things take place in between? Will we see them meeting the Baudelaire parents in the future?
We’ll find out in the show’s second season, and there’s no doubt it will be unfortunate.
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