Avid readers generally remain steadfast in their belief that the book is always better than the movie or TV show, but this isn't to say that some adaptations can't be good. In fact, the Harry Potter film series and The Lord of the Rings trilogy are excellent. Even Game of Thrones fans seem to acknowledge the HBO series as a worthy adaptation. One of the reasons fans have doubts is because making a book into a movie or television show usually means that things get lost in translation. Favorite characters disappear, the sequence of events is shifted, and the setting is usually changed to a more cost-effective filming location. Fortunately, Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate Events is a tried-and-true replica of the books . . . except for these changes. Major spoiler warning!
The Bad Beginning (Episodes one and two)
- The Baudelaire parents are alive . . . or, so we thought. No bodies are recovered in the fire, so we assume that Mother (Colbie Smulders) and Father (Will Arnett) are the children's parents. They escape their kidnappers, fight off a drunken mob and angry refrigerator repairman, and survive a plane crash, all the while hoping to reunite with their children. Towards the end of episode seven, however, viewers learn that they are actually parents to the Quagmire children, not the orphaned Baudelaires. Despite this meaning that the Baudelaire parents most likely did perish in the fire (which is true to the books), the events surrounding the Quagmire parents are unique to the TV series.
- On the show, Mr. Poe introduces Eleanora as his wife. In the books, Eleanora is actually Mr. Poe's sister, and his wife is named Polly.
- On the show, Mr. Poe's secretary Jacqueline is a secret VFD member who tries to keep the children safe from Count Olaf's clutches. However, her character doesn't exist at all in the books.
- Unlike the books, the meaning of VFD and the secret society are hinted at almost immediately. When Lemony Snicket enters into the remains of the burnt Baudelaire mansion, he says, "Neither the official fire department nor the volunteer fire department arrived in time to stop the blaze." The reference was quick, but it was there.
The Reptile Room (Episodes three and four)
- In the TV series, when the Baudelaires arrive at Dr. Montgomery's house, they continue to share a room (though luckily not a bed!), despite each getting their own rooms in the books.
- Excluding the final reveal that Stephano is Count Olaf in disguise, the Baudelaire trio doesn't spend a lot of time in the Reptile Room in the TV series. In the books, each child is given a specific job to do. Violet is responsible for inventing new snake traps, Klaus must read up on the species, and Sunny has to bite rope into manageable sizes.
- When Uncle Monty receives the coded message at the movie theater, it reads: "Hello Monty. Danger! Take the children on the SS Prospero to Peru." In the books, not only does the Sebald code work differently, the message read: "Attention! Hidden in the snowman is a survivor of the fire. Meet us in the town where this film takes place. Bring the three children. Your new assistant is not one of us. Beware!"
- In the TV series, Uncle Monty doesn't plan a trip to Peru until he receives the secret message instructing him to do so. In the books, he had been planning on doing it all along as a fun trip for the family.
- In the books, Uncle Monty confronts Stephano and tears up the tickets so that no one will be able to go to Peru. In the series, the tickets remain intact, and when Stephano gets his hands on them, he plans to kidnap the children and take them away. Even though his plan fails, he boards the ship himself, but is confronted by Jacqueline . . . which is another thing missing from the books.
- In the TV series, Stephano blames the Incredibly Deadly Viper for Uncle Monty's murder and the Baudelaires use Sunny as bait to prove that the snake isn't dangerous at all. In the books, the children use Sunny's relationship with the Viper as a distraction, while Violet snoops for proof that Stephano is Count Olaf. Furthermore, in the TV series, the Viper slithers free, whereas in the books, he's captured along with the other snakes.
The Wide Window (Episodes five and six)
- In both iterations, Aunt Josephine gives all of the Baudelaires gifts when they arrive. However, Klaus receives an electric train in the books, unlike the deck of cards he receives (and later re-gifts to Sunny so that she can play poker) in the series.
- In the books, the children accompany Aunt Josephine to the market and are there when she first encounters Count Olaf disguised as Captain Sham. In the series, the children stay behind and Aunt Josephine later surprises them by bringing Captain Sham home.
- In the books, Captain Sham calls Aunt Josephine on the phone to make their date. Terrified of being electrocuted, Aunt Josephine refuses to answer the phone so Violet does so instead. Realizing it's Count Olaf on the phone, Violet pretends it's the wrong number and that he's reached the Hopalong Dance School by mistake. Aunt Josephine finds Violet's answering the phone to be very brave, which gives her courage to answer herself when Count Olaf calls back. This entire sequence is missing in the TV series.
- In the TV series, a waiter (and secret VFD member) at The Anxious Clown suggests that the children eat peppermints to induce an allergic reaction that will free them of Count Olaf. In the books, eating the peppermints is Violet's idea.
- In the books, the gates to the docks are locked and the keys are in the hands of Count Olaf's henchman, who is standing guard. The children concoct a plan and battle the henchman, barely escaping his grasp. This entire sequence is missing from the series, where the children get onto the docks and steal a sailboat with ease.
- In the TV series, Count Olaf rescues Aunt Josephine and the Baudelaires from their sinking sailboat by letting them board the ferry. When he threatens to throw Aunt Josephine overboard to the leeches, she finally becomes the fierce and formidable woman she once was and stands her ground to protect the children (but is thrown overboard anyway). In the books, Aunt Josephine is much more spineless. She eagerly lets Count Olaf have the children and even vows to change her appearance, switch identities, and leave town forever if he will spare her. He agrees, but then pushes her overboard when she corrects his grammar.
- In the books, after Captain Sham is exposed as Count Olaf, he locks Mr. Poe and the children behind a gate so that he and his henchman can escape. In the series, the children hide in the back of a truck when no one is looking, escaping from both Count Olaf and Mr. Poe.
The Miserable Mill (Episodes seven and eight)
- In the books, Dr. Georgina Orwell is killed when she falls into the buzz saw. Potentially too graphic for television, this is adapted so that she burns in a furnace.
- In the books, Violet and Sunny sneak into Sir's library to read a book that Dr. Orwell donated and discover that secret words are used to hypnotize and control subjects. In the series, all three Baudelaire children learn this when they sneak into Dr. Orwell's office and overhear her discussing secret words with Count Olaf (disguised as Shirley the secretary). Furthermore, Violet and Sunny sneak into the Mill's library to read up on the history of the town fire, not hypnotism.
- At the end of episode eight, Count Olaf and his henchman escape the Mill before Mr. Poe arrives, causing him to disbelieve the children when they tell him of Shirley and Dr. Orwell's evil plan. Even Sir escapes the angry, un-hypnotized mob, and his partner, Charles, leaves the Mill to find him. In the books, Shirley and Foreman Flacutono are locked in the library and the adults (including Sir and Charles, who never flee the Mill) discover the left ankle tattoo, exposing them to be Count Olaf and his henchman in disguise.