The A Series of Unfortunate Events book series was one of my favourite reads as a child. It was darkly mature, funny and utterly distinct from anything else at the time. When I heard Netflix was producing a TV series, then, it naturally intrigued me. Long form storytelling is really the only way to tell the story of the Baudelaire orphans and their battle with Count Olaf.

The first season was rough, though. I don’t think the acting was particularly bad, stilted and flat is exactly in the tone of the books, but a lot of stuff doesn’t translate as well. For instance, while in the books the conceit that the three main children are just about the only intelligent characters works perfectly. As a reader, you can suspend your disbelief enough to buy all of the adults’ stupidity. As a viewer though, every simple oversight or ignorance of blindingly obvious facts can be extremely irritating. And I get that it’s supposed to be but I don’t see why I’m supposed to act like being annoyed is entertaining. Also, while I don’t mind reading that Mr Poe is always coughing, that’s a completely different thing to actually hearing him retching and hacking every 40 seconds.

Happily, though, the second season does fix a lot of this. They re-frame the most annoying characters, (cough, Mr. Poe… cough cough) less as essential plot points and more as occasional funny cameos. Patrick Warburton as Lemony Snicket is spot on and Neil Patrick Harris shines as Count Olaf. There are a couple of Olaf jokes in this season that are legitimately fantastic. They copy some of the straight-faced insane asides of the books into dialogue and this isn’t great. While the ability to re-read and make sense of grimly delivered absurdity is extremely rewarding, finding the progress bar and pulling it back on Netflix or (as I had to do quite often) toggle subtitles is irksome.

Another difficulty of translating the series is how intentionally convoluted, deliberately confusing and cheekily vague the books are. They raise plots only to callously drop them. They mislead constantly with no conclusion. I must have read them at least 10 times and I have no real idea what the overarching plot is. In a TV show, however, you sort of need to answer questions and give people a reason to keep watching. They do add a lot of stuff to attempt this which doesn’t always work.

All in all then, as of Season two, it’s a pretty decently written show that’s usually enjoyable. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they handle the tonal shift of the final book and if they’ll answer what’s in that infernal sugar-bowl. I hope not.