A Series of Unfortunate Events: How does the series compare to the books?


A Series of Unfortunate Events kicked off the new year with its final season, and as we bid farewell to a fan-favorite series, let’s take a look at how the television show compares to the novels.

A Series of Unfortunate Events has ended, folks. The days of the Baudelaires’ crappy luck and the torment of Count Olaf is now over. And as we reflect back on the dark yet entertaining Netflix Original, it’s interesting to see how the story compares to the novels it is based on. Back in 2004, the novels were adapted into a film starring Jim Carrey as Count Olaf and fast forward nearly a decade later, we got the Netflix series.

Having watched the movie and the Netflix series, I found myself comparing the characters (can I just say the Violet from the series is an identical match to the one from the movie?) Personally, I liked Neil Patrick Harris’ Count Olaf more than Jim Carrey’s, and I think the kids in the series win by a landslide too. Since I haven’t read the books, I can’t comment on how the stories compare and differ, but that’s what this article is all about!

For those of you who haven’t read the books like me, it may not matter much how they compare to the series. However, it is still interesting to know if and how things changed, and ponder what we would have preferred instead. So, let’s take a look at some of the biggest differences between the novel and the show, shall we?

NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 11: Actor Patrick Warburton attends the “Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events” Screening at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on January 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Lemony Snicket’s role in the series is more important

According to Insider, the character of Lemony Snicket is way more involved in A Series of Unfortunate Events’ Netflix show. In the books, he’s important but plays a more minor role. He’s a member of the VFD and all that jazz, but he doesn’t keep popping up in the story as he does on the show.

If you think about it, Lemony Snicket is essentially the main character in a story about the three orphans. He’s the one who introduces the audience to the story of each episode and reminds us just how crappy the Baudelaires luck is. And because he is seen so much on the series, fans of the books are curious as to what it means.

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In the books, he’s more of a mystery, but on A Series of Unfortunate Events–not so much. Viewers know that he becomes a part of the Baudelaires story after everything takes place and they venture off the island (at the end of season 3). However, the book doesn’t really seem to shed light on him or where he falls in the timeline. Not to mention, in the series he meets them for the first time in the third and final season.

Whatever the case may be for the books, I’m personally happy that Lemony Snicket was such a big part of the series. Patrick Warburton’s portrayal of him was what made the series worth watching. His glum and blunt remarks and his “blah” attitude are the essence of how each episode plays out.

Credit: Netflix

The Spyglass

The Insider points out that the spyglass is not a part of the books at all. In fact, A Series of Unfortunate Events introduces it as a whole new angle of the story. We first see it in the premiere season when it’s used to help decode messages written in the Sebald Code. For those of you who can’t remember, this is the code that V.F.D. members created to be able to communicate with each other. No one else but knew the code, and it’s how they got things done.

If you’ve read the books then you know that in the “Reptile Room” books, everything is done manually–sans spyglass. Honestly, I think that sounds cooler than the spyglass. There is an allure to having to figure it out yourself without the help of a device.

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As we head into the second season, the spyglass’ significance comes into play a bit more. While at Prufrock Prep, the Baudelaires meet the Quagmires who have had a very similar life to them. But more curious is the fact that they own a similar spyglass suggesting that they are connected in a way that they didn’t see coming.

In the “The Ersatz Elevator” episode, the spyglass is used to help the orphans get out of the elevator shaft. Heat is created with it which allows Violet to create a hot air balloon of sorts that lifts them out of there. However, in the book, the orphans simply climb out of the shaft.

Credit: Netflix

Gustav Sebald

While in the A Series of Unfortunate Events books, Gustav Sebald (the man who created the Sebald code), is just a fleeting presence, in the show he’s so much more. And handsome might I add–and sort of looks like Bradley Cooper, no?

According to Insider, the first mention of Gustav is in “The Reptile Room” and is Montgomery Montgomery’s assistant. Count Olaf drowns Gustav in the books in a swamp versus on the show where he is drowned in a reflecting pond. Apart from creating the code that V.F.D. members used to communicate, he also made the “Zombies in the Snow” film which you’ll recall from “The Reptile Room”.

Credit: Netflix

Jacquelyn Scieszka

Jacquelyn Scieszka is not in the A Series of Unfortunate Events books, but in the series, she’s a very major character. She is seen working alongside Gustav and together they do their best to help the Baudelaire orphans. Jacquelyn finds a way to do this by becoming the odd Mr. Poe’s secretary. That Mr. Poe, though.

Credit: Netflix


So, the V.F.D. didn’t exist in the books? Say what?! Yes, that’s right. According to Insider, this is one of the biggest differences between the book and the Netflix Original. The group of people that help the Baudelaires throughout the series come and go, but aren’t specifically labeled as V.F.D. members in the book.

Credit: Netflix

The parental twist

Remember the time we thought the Baudelaire’s parents might be alive? Well, the book does not toy with our hearts this way. In fact, it is established from the get-go that they are dead. However, in the series, when the first season ended we met a mother and father (played by Will Arnett and Cobie Smulders). For a brief moment, a spark of hope ignites within us but it turns out that they are the Quagmires’ parents.

Credit: Netflix

That darn sugar bowl

Imagine not knowing what the sugar bowl had inside of it? Well, if you read the books then you actually never find out. That mystery remains a mystery. In the third and final season of A Series of Unfortunate Events, it’s revealed that sugar cubes are inside the sugar bowl (who would have thought?).

But the sugar cubes hold a special significance and are a cure against the Medusoid Mycelium–the fungus that almost took Sunny Baudelaire’s life.

Credit: Netflix

A happy ending (finally!)

The book doesn’t tell the readers what happens with most of the characters. It’s sort of left up to the reader to make their own assumptions. However, everyone seemed to get a happy ending and the series ended with everyone where they should be.

The Quagmires reunite on the hot air mobile home, while Count Olaf’s troupe go on to successfully perform in theatre. Thanks to the Incredibly Deadly Viper, the Baudelaires are able to get off the island after taking a bite of the apple that held the cure for the fungus that was slowly killing them.

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And as they sailed away, they took Kit Snicket’s baby with them and named her Beatrice Baudelaire, after their mother. The entire series ends with Beatrice a little bit older meeting with Lemony Snicket to tell him about what happened after they left the island.

Did we miss any differences and connections between the A Series of Unfortunate Events books and series? Share your thoughts in the comments!