What Happened In 'A Series of Unfortunate Events'? A Full Recap Of The Books
I'm sorry to say that this Friday the 13th marks the release of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix (a word which here means, "the online streaming platform that is swiftly killing cable television"). If you, like me, were a morose child who enjoyed reading about other morose children in bleak situations, then you are probably familiar with A Series of Unfortunate Events and its thirteen luckless books. However, if you are simply too distressed to re-read the entire series before the Netflix show arrives, allow me to refresh your memory on the miserable lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire: here is a Revolting Recap of A Series of Unfortunate Events.
After all, you might remember that the orphans were acquainted with a Mr. Poe, but you might have forgotten about his terrible, incurable cough. Or, you might recall Violet's keen mechanical mind, but maybe you need to be reminded of the time she built a frozen waterfall climbing device out of cutlery. Or perhaps you have a faint memory of one Count Olaf, but you have repressed the full extant of his villainy and poor personal hygiene.
Unfortunately, I am here to remind you of just what happened in that sinister series, from The Bad Beginning all the way to The End.
1'The Bad Beginning'
Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are enjoying a foggy day on Briny Beach, when their family banker, Mr. Poe, arrives to tell them that their parents have perished (a word which here means, "died in order to put the plot in motion"). Their mansion has been destroyed in a fire. The deceased Baudelaire parents have left their children a considerable fortune, but Mr. Poe is in charge of it until Violet comes of age.
The three Baudelaire orphans are sent to live with a distant relative called Count Olaf, who turns out to be a filthy and cruel actor, and not at all a capable guardian. Count Olaf forces the children to perform laborious chores, and to cook unreasonable dinners for his theatre troupe. He also casts the children in his new play, in which Violet will marry Olaf onstage. The Baudelaires soon realize that Olaf plans to actually marry Violet and thereby steal their fortune, but Olaf imprisons Sunny in a birdcage to force Violet into the role anyway. Right-handed Violet signs the marriage certificate with her left hand, however, and the Baudelaires escape Olaf's clutches—but Olaf also escapes arrest, and the orphans are left with Mr. Poe and his hacking cough once again.
2'The Reptile Room'
Mr. Poe delivers the three Baudelaires to their new guardian: Uncle Monty, a friendly herpetologist. The children help Monty to manage his reptile collection, including The Incredibly Deadly Viper (a misnamed, harmless snake). However, Monty's new assistant, Stephano, turns out to be Count Olaf in disguise. Uncle Monty believes that Stephano is trying to steal The Incredibly Deadly Viper, and plans to take the children to Peru to get away from him. The day of their trip, however, Monty is found dead, apparently bitten by one of his snakes. Mr. Poe arrives, and the Baudelaires stage a diversion while they gather evidence to expose Stephano's scheme. Little Sunny pretends to be attacked by The Incredibly Deadly Viper, but the snake is harmless and Stephano is revealed to be a fraud. He still manages to evade arrest, though, and the Baudelaires are without a guardian once again.
3'The Wide Window'
The Baudelaires arrive at Lake Lachrymose, where they will be living with their Aunt Josephine, who thinks grammar is the greatest joy in life and appears to be afraid of everything. She's especially terrified of the Lachrymose Leeches, who devoured her husband. Josephine and the children soon run across the charming Captain Sham who is, of course, Count Olaf in disguise. That night, the children discover Josephine's suicide note, next to a smashed window in her library. The note names Captain Sham as the children's new guardian—but Violet, Klaus, and Sunny decipher the grammatical errors in the note to uncover a hidden message: Josephine is hiding in Curdled Cave. The children reach her and try to sail back to safety, only to be attacked by the Lachrymose Leeches. Captain Sham "rescues" them, but tosses Josephine back to the leeches to be devoured. They make it to shore, and Sunny manages to bite off Captain Sham's peg leg, revealing Olaf's ankle tattoo. But Olaf slips away once again, leaving the children guardian-less on the dock.
4'The Miserable Mill'
The Baudelaires are sent to the Lucky Smells Lumber Mill, where they learn that their new guardian, Sir, expects them to work at the mill (despite being children). Klaus is tripped by the foreman, breaking his glasses, and is sent to see an optometrist called Dr. Orwell. Klaus returns in a trance, and ends up injuring Phil, an optimistic coworker. Violet and Sunny return to Dr. Orwell with Klaus, and discover a familiar-looking receptionist named Shirley, who just happens to be Count Olaf in disguise. The Baudelaire sisters realize that their brother is being hypnotized by Olaf's associates. After researching hypnotism, Violet and Sunny arrive just in time to stop a hypnotized Klaus from killing Sir's partner, Charles, with a buzz saw. Shirley is revealed as Count Olaf, but escapes yet again, and the Baudelaires are fired from the mill for all the trouble they caused.
5'The Austere Academy'
The Baudelaires are sent to Prufrock Preparatory School, where they are forced to live in the crab-and-fungus-infested "Orphan Shack." They are bullied by nasty children like Carmelita Spats, and Sunny is forced to make staples for the horrible Vice Principal Nero. But the children also befriend the triplets Isadora and Duncan Quagmire, whose brother perished in a fire, along with their parents. However, the new gym teacher, Coach Genghis, turns out to be Count Olaf in disguise. Genghis forces the children to participate in Special Orphan Running Exercises (S.O.R.E.) until they are too tired to study or make staples. Nero plans to expel the children and give them to Genghis to home school. The Quagmires impersonate the Baudelaires and run laps in their place, but they are found out, and the Baudelaires are expelled while Olaf and his associates kidnap their new friends. As they are being dragged away, the Quagmires try to tell the orphans about something called "V.F.D."
6'The Eratz Elevator'
The Baudelaires are sent to live at 667 Dark Avenue with their new guardians, Jerome and Esmé Squalor. Esmé is all about what's "in" and what's "out," and orphans happen to be "in" (for now). She's planning an "in" auction, but the auctioneer, Gunther, turns out to be (you guessed it), Count Olaf in disguise. While investigating Gunther, the orphans realize that the building has a false, or ersatz, elevator on the top floor, and at the bottom of the shaft they find the Quagmires trapped in a cage. The Quagmires are going to be smuggled away as part of the "in" auction. After trying and failing to rescue their friends with ersatz welding torches, the Baudelaires decide that the Quagmires must be hidden in lot #50, which is simply called "V.F.D." However, Esmé shoves them down the elevator shaft, and the Baudelaires discover a secret passage... that leads to the ruins of the Baudelaire mansion. They arrive at the auction just in time, but V.F.D. turns out to stand for "Very Fancy Doilies." Olaf and Esmé escape with the Quagmires in the ensuing, doily-related chaos.
7'The Vile Village'
The Baudelaires' next guardian is the entire Village of Fowl Devotees (or "V.F.D." for short). The town is filled with crows, and ruled by a strict Council of Elders. The children are sent to live with Hector, the town handyman, who is working on a secret hot air mobile home in his barn. Every night, they discover a mysterious new couplet poem that appears to be from Isadora Quagmire. Before they can riddle out the meaning of the poems, though, the Council announces that they have captured Count Olaf. But it isn't Count Olaf at all... it's a different man with a unibrow and an eye tattoo named Jacques Snicket. The next morning, Jacques is found dead in his jail cell. A man called Detective Dupin arrives, who turns out to be (say it with me now) Count Olaf in disguise. He frames the orphans for Jacques' murder, and they are arrested, to be burnt at the stake. Using a makeshift battering ram, the Baudelaires break out of jail and decode the poems. They free the Quagmires and try to escape in Hector's hot air mobile home... but the Baudelaires are shot down with a harpoon gun, leaving the Quagmires and Hector to fly away. Now wanted for the murder of the false Count Olaf, the Baudelaires escape before the police arrive.
8'The Hostile Hospital'
On the run from the law, the Baudelaires are picked up by the Volunteers Fighting Disease, who take them to Heimlich Hospital. The orphans get jobs in the hospital's Library of Records, but Esmé finds them and captures Violet. Mattathias, the Human Resources Manager of the hospital (and, coincidentally, Count Olaf in disguise), announces over the intercom system that Violet will be receiving a "crainiotomy" to remove her head. After some creative use of anagrams, Klaus and Sunny disguise themselves as very short doctors and manage to rescue her. Esmé then sets the hospital on fire, and the orphans have no choice but to escape the blaze by hiding in the trunk of Count Olaf's car.
9'The Carnivorous Carnival'
Hidden in the trunk of Count Olaf's car, the Baudelaires are taken to Caligari Carnival, where they use some of Olaf's own costume pieces to disguise themselves as carnival "freaks." Violet and Klaus become the two-headed Beverly and Elliot, and Sunny is Chabo the Wolf Baby. They befriend the other freaks and perform in the freak show, but Olaf wants to throw one of the freaks into a pit of lions to draw a bigger crowd. The orphans plan to escape with the mysterious Madame Lulu, who believes that one of the Baudelaire parents is still alive up in the mountains. But then, naturally, Beverly and Elliot are chosen to be eaten by lions. They manage to stall, but Lulu falls into the lion pit, and the Baudelaires must once again escape with Count Olaf and his troupe to avoid a quickly spreading fire. This time, Olaf and his employees take Sunny in their car, with Violet and Klaus riding in the travel trailer caravan behind. But, as the car makes its way up into the mountains, Olaf's newly recruited freaks cut the trailer free, leaving Violet and Klaus careening down a steep slope.
10'The Slippery Slope'
Violet invents a way to slow the speeding caravan, and Violet and Klaus escape before the caravan tips over the mountainside. They head up the mountain to rescue Sunny, but are attacked by Snow Gnats and must take shelter with the Snow Scouts in a cave. Their old bully Carmelita Spats is there, but so is a mysterious boy who leads them to the burnt remains of the V.F.D. headquarters. Meanwhile, Sunny is forced to cook lox for Olaf and his troupe on the peak of Mount Fraught. The mystery boy turns out to be Quigley Quagmire, the third Quagmire triplet, and he and Violet climb a frozen waterfall to save Sunny, using Violet's cutlery-based invention (they also totally kiss and it's cute). They reach Sunny, and devise a plan to rescue her by tricking Esmé into helping them. But they arrive too late, and all the Snow Scouts are caught in a giant net carried by eagles. The Baudelaires and Quigley escape on a sled, but the frozen waterfall thaws as they slide down, and they are separated from Quigley in a rush of water.
11'The Grim Grotto'
The Baudelaires are rescued by a submarine called the Queequeg, captained by Captain Widdershins. His stepdaughter, Fiona, is a young mycologist who falls for Klaus. The Baudelaires and Fiona venture out into the Gorgonian Grotto to search for a mysterious sugar bowl, but Sunny is exposed to deadly medusoid mushrooms. The children return to find that the Queequeg has been taken by Olaf's submarine, the Carmelita. With the help of the Hook-Handed Man, who is both Olaf's associate and Fiona's brother, the orphans are able to return to the Queequeg just long enough to save Sunny's life with some well-timed wasabi. An unknown shape on the radar threatens both submarines, and Fiona allows the Baudelaires to escape in the Queequeg, although she stays behind with her brother. Using a decoded message from Quigley as their guide, the orphans travel back to Briny Beach, where all their troubles began.
12'The Penultimate Peril'
This time, instead of following Mr. Poe, the Baudelaires leave Briny Beach in a taxi driven by a pregnant Kit Snicket. They are taken to the Hotel Denouement to work as concierges, and told that the hotel managers are Frank Denouement (a volunteer) and Ernest Denouement (a villain). Frank and Ernest as indistinguishable, however, and the Baudelaires end up encountering nearly all of the guardians and villains who have plagued them through the previous eleven books while working as concierges. They then meet Dewey Denouement, the helpful third Denouement triplet, and learn that all of the noble people from their past are arriving at the hotel to put Count Olaf on trial and search for the sugar bowl. But of course, Count Olaf himself arrives to threaten Dewey with a harpoon gun. The Baudelaires accidentally discharge the gun, which fatally wounds Dewey. They and Olaf are put on trial for his murder, and all four escape together in a boat after setting the hotel on fire, putting Olaf and the orphans in quite literally "the same boat."
The Baudelaires and Olaf are shipwrecked on an island ruled by a man called Ishmael (but he prefers "Ish"). Kit Snicket also washes up onshore, as well as The Incredibly Deadly Viper. The islanders soon turn against the Baudelaires, marooning them on a coastal shelf with Olaf. But two rebel islanders invite them to join a mutiny, and the Baudelaires discover that their own parents were once leaders of the island. Ishmael harpoons Olaf, shattering a helmet of the poisonous medusoid mycelium, and dooming all the islanders. The Baudelaires try to save everyone with horseradish hybrid apples, but the islanders decide to sail away instead. The Baudelaires are left with Olaf and Kit, who goes into labor. Olaf gives Kit one last kiss before he dies, and the Baudelaires help to deliver Kit's daughter, who they name after their own mother, before Kit also dies. One year later, the Baudelaires and baby Beatrice set sail for the mainland on the boat Beatrice. As for whether or not they survive the journey... Lemony Snicket has reached the end of his research, and we'll never know what other misfortune the Baudelaires may have encountered.