A Series of Unfortunate Events, 3 x 5, “The Penultimate Peril, Part One”

“Welcome to the world, little baby,” says Lemony Snicket in his usual sly foreshadowing/introductory plea to the viewers not to continue watching the show. The Baudelaires, of course, just got into a taxi with Lemony’s younger sister, Kit. In the usual sharp dialogue, Kit alludes to a pleasant, but ultimately superfluous, leisurely brunch scene in the book that has been cut from this version. Kit Snicket also debriefs the Baudelaires on the Hotel Denouement and how they must be flaneur. I had to look this up, but that‘s an allusion to the poet Charles Baudelaire. So, everything’s back on track for this episode.

After yet another pun about Hooky’s disability, Fernald and Fiona steal the submarine off camera and get away to safety. Olaf has to put on his most entertaining disguise yet – a vacationer with an East Coast accent, which isn’t terribly far off from the miserable position he actually occupies. Down to Carmelita and Esme, and not even sure who’s leading whom, Count Olaf heads to the Hotel Denouement to fetch the Baudelaires and the Sugar Bowl.

We meet the Denouement Brothers, Frank and Ernest, both played by Max Greenfield. We also meet the father of Kit’s child, a third brother, Dewey, also Max Greenfield, who recites that whole “I never want to be apart from you… except… when one of us is at a movie the other doesn’t want to see” bit that we all know from Pinterest and The Beatrice Diaries. But it works.

Frank and Ernest (both, at some point) explains the Dewey decimal system to the Baudelaires. Several libraries, especially special or academic libraries, don’t use the Dewey system anymore. Your public library likely does, but many librarians consider it a completely random system and  extremely difficult to use. Either Frank or Ernest sends each of the other Baudelaires off on a concierge chore, represented in the book by three consecutive chapters, and here by a wonderfully restrained split screen sequence. Usually, when a film or TV show splits the screen and has characters do different actions simultaneously, it drives me up the wall when I can’t watch them both. Here, it cuts the screen, and then goes back to normal – just enough sugar for my tea. Anyway, while on their duties the Baudelaires (who don’t know about Dewey) each encounter a Denouement brother on one of their errands.

Vice Principal Nero has returned and mocks tomboys in order to please Esme Squalor. Fans, we at the Game of Nerds do not watch people from under tables. Just don’t. Also back, Jerome Squalor’s got a new squeeze! (but it’s not who you think) and Count Olaf shows up, making mustaches look good, to intimidate Jerome and Babs. Meanwhile, Klaus hangs bird paper, Violet delivers a harpoon gun to Carmelita, and Sunny channels Casablanca when she tells Poe that she “despises him” even though she must trust him. Poe and Sunny have “dinner” and meet up with Count Olaf who pretends to Jacques Snicket. Poe has loads of evidence on Olaf gathered in a file, but it’s theft is prevented by the arrival of Larry Your-Waiter, whom Olaf confronts by boiling him alive in a pot of curry.

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Olaf, making a mustache look good. Photo source: Netflix. Photo by Eike Schroter.

Justice Strauss has also comes back. She’s the JS who’s been leaving the Baudelaires notes. Strauss shows up to explain that all the character have returned to act as witnesses in the trial against Count Olaf. Also, she points out how Louis Hynes used to be shorter than Malina Wasserman.

Lemony Snicket himself enters the story in flurry of jokes about family and opera references. He reunites with Kit, and comments on the three children she already has, plus one on the way, when Kit realizes that he’s never met Beatrice’s children. Kit quietly tells Lemony who the Baudelaire orphans are, and then Lemony’s demeanor – a phrase which here refers to his attitude about getting involved in the Schism – changes completely.

Meanwhile, the Baudelaire children do some math, realize that they can’t all have encountered either Frank or Ernest, and deduce that a third brother must exist, rather than assuming that the clock must have been wrong like most of us would have. Dewey reveals that Hotel Denouement conceals a secret library and offers the Baudelaires guardianship of it.

Olaf ambushes them, declares that Giuseppe Verdi is a myth, and threatens Dewey with a harpoon gun wielded by Carmelita. Dewey plays Esme and Olaf off each other, Carmelita demands to be taught to spit, and Olaf takes the harpoon gun from her. Finally, Olaf finds the courage to dump Esme and Carmelita! However, he does not have to courage to avoid pointing the harpoon gun at Dewey, even though the Baudelaires nearly talk him out of it. Olaf drops the gun, it goes off accidentally, and Dewey gets shot with a harpoon. Lemony Snicket arrives in a taxi and offers to drive the Baudelaires away.

A lot happened this episode, but it’s been my favorite part of this season. I’m not even mad that they trimmed parts of the book in order to make room for more action. Olaf attempts to make such a better choice, that it hurts when random accidents ruin it all for him. The book references and jokes pad a lot of the heavy character development, too, keeping me glued to the couch in suspense. Why does Olaf think Giuseppe Verdi and Dewey are myths? Where is the sugar bowl, and if it just has sugar, why does everyone want it? Next week, we conclude The Penultimate Peril in the penultimate episode of the series.

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Author: Aaron Heil

Follow Aaron on Twitter @AaronJamHeil or see all the different stuff he's into on Goodreads.

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