A Series of Unfortunate Events boss breaks down the 'emotional' series finale
Warning: This post contains spoilers from the third and final season of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Read at your own risk!
Since Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events began, Patrick Warburton’s dutiful narrator Lemony Snicket has warned that the tragic story of the Baudelaire orphans wouldn’t have a happy ending, which turned out to be only partially true in the third and final season. Sure, Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes), and Sunny Baudelaire (Presley Smith) probably didn’t live happily ever after, but the series’ conclusion was far from miserable. In fact, it was heartwarming and brought a sense of closure the entire story, and diverged from Daniel Handler’s original book series in several interesting ways.
In the series finale, Lemony meets Beatrice Baudelaire II, his niece. Lemony’s sister Kit (Allison Williams) gave birth to Beatrice right before her death, and the Baudelaires adopted her and named her after their mother, with whom Lemony was in love before he went on the run for a murder he didn’t commit. (This explains why he’s been so invested in the orphans’ tale.) It turns out that Beatrice II has been the one following Lemony this entire time. When the two finally sit down to share a root beer float, Beatrice explains what happened to Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, an answer that has evaded Lemony all these years.
“What I love about our show, which isn’t in the book, is how Lemony Snicket bookends the show,” executive producer and showrunner Barry Sonnenfeld tells EW. “He’s in the first episode, and what he says at the very beginning, the very first lines of the first episode, we hear him say in the last episode. We now totally understand why he’s been narrating the show, which is not in the last book. I find the fact that we bookend three seasons with Lemony Snicket incredibly emotional.”
Sonnenfeld is right; the ending of the book series is far more open-ended. The End concludes with Violet, Klaus, and Sunny deciding to sail away from the island a year after Beatrice’s birth and returning to the depressing adult world, and readers never find out what happened to the orphans. With the show’s uncle-niece diner scene, Sonnenfeld believes the show has a “real ending that feels like it was probably in the book even though it wasn’t,” he says. “It doesn’t feel like we imposed that ending on the show or somehow made it happy or saccharine. It feels like it’s the way Daniel should’ve ended the book.”
He adds, “What I love about it is that people that know the books won’t be angry at us or say, ‘Look what they did!’ And those who don’t know the book will just think, ‘What a perfect ending.’”
Surprisingly, this ending wasn’t planned from the beginning of the show. “Believe me, when we started season 1, and when Daniel wrote all 13 of those books, it was never his intention or ours to have this ending,” Sonnenfeld says. “I love when you can actually pull it off and make it seem like it was on purpose.”
The final scene wasn’t the only change the show made in bringing the final chapters of the Baudelaires’ story the screen. The final season also answered several dangling questions from the books and introduced some new details that expanded the world of the story. Below, Sonnenfeld addresses some of those changes and other major decisions in the third season.
The importance of the Sugar Bowl
Whereas book readers never found out what was in the Sugar Bowl — the MacGuffin that both sides of VFD were after — viewers of the show did. In the series finale, it was revealed that the Sugar Bowl contained a cure and inoculation to the deadly Medusoid Mycelium.
“The Sugar Bowl drove me crazy,” says Sonnenfeld, explaining why he decided to tie up this dangling thread.
Of course, what’s interesting about this revelation is that there were already several cures for the virus floating around the show’s world, specifically horseradish and, as we find out in the finale, apples. That redundancy, it turns out, was on purpose.
“I think [the contents of the Sugar Bowl] is also a little bit metaphorical in that it’s a lot of people fighting over things that they don’t have to fight over,” says Sonnenfeld. “What you find out is in the Sugar Bowl could definitely be manufactured, created, or duplicated independently of the Sugar Bowl.… It all ultimately is a certain amount of to-do about something that could’ve been fixed a different way.”
While Sonnenfeld isn’t sure whether or not Handler intended for the Sugar Bowl to contain a cure, he does think the author was also using it metaphorically.
The tragic opera night flashback
In “The Penultimate Peril” episodes, viewers finally learn what caused the schism via an extended flashback to a night at the opera. Many years ago, Lemony attended the opera with fellow VFD members Esmé Squalor, Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris), and Kit, the latter of whom were an item at the time; Olaf’s father, the fire department chief, was also in attendance. Unfortunately, the night took a tragic turn when Beatrice, who performed earlier in the night, accidentally killed Olaf’s father with a poison dart after she and Lemony stole the Sugar Bowl from Esmé. Lemony took the fall for the murder, which explains why he was on the run during the entire series. Furthermore, this incident clarifies Olaf’s motivation for the three seasons.
“I knew I wanted to have that opera scene on screen and I wanted the fire chief to be Olaf’s father. That [wasn’t] in the books, and that was something I asked [story editor] Joe Tracz to do because I wanted to have real emotions about why Olaf hated the Baudelaires so much,” says Sonnenfeld. “That’s another example of not taking a hard left turn and changing the rules of what the books were. It sort of cleans up some of the reasons for people having such specific emotions.”
Lemony Snicket shares scenes with Kit and the Baudelaires
Another big development in the final season is that Warburton finally got the chance to share scenes with other actors. For most of the show’s run, Warburton only spoke to the audience because he was simply narrating the story from the present; however in “The Penultimate Peril” episodes, a past version of Lemony not only shares a cab ride with Kit, but also introduces himself to the Baudelaires and offers to help them escape their latest predicament at the Hotel Denouement.
“Joe, Daniel, and I thought, ‘Can we pull it off that these two stories intersect and that Lemony could actually exist in real time with the Baudelaires?’ Because if we could, how fantastic would that be to get to see Lemony interact with other actors and to meet the Baudelaires so you go, ‘What?! What’s about to happen?! How are they screwing with us the audience?’ You so don’t see it coming,” says Sonnenfeld.
More importantly, Sonnenfeld also found the idea very moving. “When he’s sitting in that car with Kit and he says, ‘Can I get a ride?’ [sighs] It breaks my heart,” he says, explaining how this moment ties into the full-circle ending, too. “I just love it. I love that it’s Warburton. I love how much we’ve cared about him for three seasons and now we know why he’s been sad, why he’s been on the run, who’s been knocking at this door for the last three years.”