What Are Volunteers In ‘A Series Of Unfortunate Events’? The Books Provide Precious Few Answers About The Mysterious V.F.D.
A Series Of Unfortunate Events has been, at its core, a tale of mystery. Perhaps one of the biggest chunks of this tale yet to be fully explained is the cryptic "V.F.D.," whose initials keep intertwining with the Baudelaire orphans' quest to find out what truly happened to their parents. In Season 2, A Series Of Unfortunate Events offers fans a glimpse as to who their parents (and their associates) actually were. Spoilers ahead for Season 2 of A Series of Unfortunate Events and the book series. So, who are the volunteers in A Series of Unfortunate Events?
As is eventually revealed in the book series — and somewhat in Season 2 — the volunteers are the people who make up V.F.D., or the Volunteer Fire Department. They put out fires, both figuratively and literally, but the details of what that actually means in practice have remained pretty abstract. They also use a series of secretive codes and symbols to communicate with one another, and they do have one common identifier — the tattoo of an eye on all their ankles. It's a symbol of the V.F.D., and one of the first things that threw the orphans, viewers and readers for a loop. At first, it was just a sinister detail that Olaf had inked onto his body. Then, it was spotted on the more noble likes of Jacques and Lemony Snicket, and presumably is something that all volunteers have drawn onto their ankles.
Count Olaf himself was also a volunteer at some point, but a "schism" divided the V.F.D. into two opposing groups — Olivia Caliban tells the orphans in Season 2 that some of the V.F.D. decided that it was better to start fires than to put them out. Details of this schism, like details of many mysterious plot points in the books, were never fully revealed, but it appeared to center around a mysterious sugar bowl. Though no one quite seems to be sure what's inside it or what the bowl's significance is, there are plenty of theories about what actually happened. Regardless, it's clear that whatever went down within the members of the V.F.D. made Olaf and his cronies the enemies of the volunteers that remained intact.
In both the books and the series, it takes forever for the orphans to learn even the smallest details about volunteers and the true nature of their parents' work. That's a recurring theme for A Series of Unfortunate Events, and part of what makes the series so frustrating and addictive. Just when you think things are looking up, Lemony Snicket swoops in to assure you that this is, in fact, not the case. For every time the Baudelaires find a clue — like a tape or a book or a recording — that could reveal everything they've ever wanted to know about their parents, it's quickly destroyed. And, heartbreakingly, every time it seems as though an actual competent adult has come to help save the day, they are just as quickly ripped away in the cruelest of fashions.
The truth evades the Baudelaires, and in turn, the viewers and readers. The key to everything may be finding out exactly who all the volunteers are (or were), and what caused the rift between them, but that closure is never fully granted. Though that can be frustrating, it also means that people are still discussing the V.F.D. and its mysteries, piecing together clues even years after the series' final book was published.
We can be sure from the books and series that Count Olaf, Jacques and Lemony Snicket, the Baudelaire parents, and the friends of the Baudelaires who have served as the orphans' guardians, were apparently all volunteers. Viewers have seen other volunteers like Larry Your Waiter and Jacquelyn working behind the scenes to help the Baudelaires, and Jacques Snicket said in a recording that the orphans found that even if the volunteers lose members or have to go into hiding for a little while, they'll never truly go away. So while the true nature of the volunteers, and of the schism that divided them, remains shrouded in uncertainty, one thing seems set in stone — the Baudelaires were never truly abandoned.