“For Beatrice – My love for you shall live forever. You, however, did not.”
If you are still with us reader, you would have noticed by now the unique way that each episode is introduced. Lemony Snicket yearns for the love of his deceased sweetheart whose life was untimely taken from her in their own personal series of unfortunate events. More about this is described through the book series, as well as The Beatrice Letters, but I am only here to spoil the Netflix series (and possibly little bits from the books) and nothing more!
The Reptile Room was probably my favorite book, based mostly on the name and the sheer number of lizards and snakes that were included within. The series stays true to that and the reptile collection was nothing but spectacular. To begin, Mr. Poe starts by apologizing to the Baudelaire orphans for leaving them with an unfit guardian (duuuh duhhh) and is driving them to meet their new guardian Dr. Montgomery Montgomery, who is a distant cousin of their father’s. The children should have been living with Dr. Montgomery from the beginning, but Count Olaf had his own hand in the debacle. So here we are, in a new home that finally seems safe. Uncle Monty, which the children have taken a delightful liking too, seems to have somewhat of a suspicious aire to him. Not to mention the mysterious resignation of his reptilian research assistant or the strange picture of Monty and the Baudelaire’s parents locked in a piano. It all feels a bit off, but I’ll go with it because Monty has the coolest mustache in cinematic history.
The Baudelaires finally feel like they might find happiness in their home with Uncle Monty, especially with the friendship of the Incredibly Deadly Viper – a completely harmless snake with a misnomer name. Cue the literary genius of defining difficult words in an exciting way for adolescent preteens! Seriously, these books were gold for that. Uncle Monty also teaches the children great respect for animals, particularly those that may seem dangerous, and Lemony Snicket throws in excessive dramatic irony by saying that no harm will come to anyone in the Reptile Room, which will soon become very untrue.
What seems like only a day goes by before Klaus starts acting like an angsty teenager, bothered by the hidden secrets of their parents’ previous lives, when misfortune came to their doorstep. Literally, misfortune came to their doorstep in the shape of Stephano, Dr. Montgomery Montgomery’s new assistant. As we all knew, Count Olaf would not stay away for long and his disguise does nothing to hide his true identity. What we were not expecting was that he took the picture of the Baudelaire parents and Uncle Monty in the piano! While that might seem like an insignificant tidbit of information, I was pleased by the underlying tone of a past history there! I am also grateful for the much more sinister behavior of Olaf in these two episodes. Nothing like some theatrical knife brandishing.
The children find themselves to be grateful as well. Uncle Monty clearly does not buy into the Stephano disguise and the ridiculous story of the Scientific Society Seeking to Soothe Stress and Suffering, otherwise known as SssssS (no…listen SssSssS). And to clarify, people who really love reptiles don’t own alligator skin suitcases. Just another reason to hate Olaf. Relieved to finally have a guardian who is not easily tricked, the Baudelaires play along with Uncle Monty. Monty even insults Mr. Poe and Justice Strauss who were hoodwinked by Count Olaf! And so the children were quite convinced that Monty had their best interest in mind and they would be able to stop Stephano in his tracks. Oh how they were wrong. They couldn’t even stop him from breaking the fourth wall in the scene about movies.
At the movies, Uncle Monty receives the “Verified Film Discount” (oh god V.F.D. references so early!) and Stephano spends most of the time trying to distract Monty from deciphering the hidden messages in the movie. I’m not all that pleased by the extra details to the storyline as I mentioned before with the whole parents being alive thing, but it does help greatly in making events make sense. In real life, it wouldn’t make sense to take three children on a random scientific expedition to Peru. Yet it does make sense if Peru is somewhere safe from Count Olaf and where their parents happen to be.
We all know that a simple escape would never be achievable. Olaf is on to the plan and his comrades attempt to kidnap Uncle Monty. Thankfully, they were unsuccessful and the children return unscathed to Uncle Monty’s home with four tickets to Peru, leaving Stephano behind. But Olaf will not stand for this. Snicket’s dialogue foreshadows that Uncle Monty is going to let us down at some point.
Sadly Monty was hoodwinked and never thought Stephano was Olaf. Instead he mistook Stephano as an spy from the Herpetological Society which was oh so very wrong. Unfortunately the rest of the story is only an array of…misfortune. Misfortune for Monty, misfortune for the Baudelaires, and misfortune for the Incredibly Deadly Viper. The following morning the children awake to tragedy, a common occurrence in their lives, and that is a dead Uncle Monty. Crumpled over his desk in the Reptile Room, there is only one explanation here: Stephano. *stage left enter Stephano to whisk the children away to Peru, not to be reunited with their parents but to lose their enormous fortune that never should have been made such public knowledge*
Thankfully, Olaf/Stephano did not get too far with this plan. After a coincidental car accident with Mr. Poe, the children are spared from an unwelcoming Peruvian expedition with Olaf. But they still are not safe. As anyone would predict, Poe does not believe the children, and Olaf has more hijinks up his sleeve. With the arrival of Nurse Lucafont, whose name is actually a loose anagram for Count Olaf, we know nothing good can come of this. Attempting to frame Monty’s death on the harmless Incredibly Deadly Viper (known by his friends as Ink), Stephano makes a good case. Poe is more likely to believe him over the children and the children have very little evidence except Monty’s oh so funny misnomer joke, and said snake happens to be on the loose. The children are quickly dismissed as being useless in the investigation and reassured that the “adults will take care of it.’ As if that ever happens in that series. So Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are left to their own devices: inventing, researching, and biting!
The children split up. Klaus sneaks into the Reptile Room to gather vital information on the Incredibly Deadly Viper, and Violet and Sunny look for evidence to prove Stephano is the real murderer. With the help of Sunny’s sharp teeth, Violet crafts a lock pick and finds the murder instrument in Stephano’s suitcase. Sunny is also reunited with her snake friend! Yay snake friend! Back at the ranch – or the Reptile Room – Klaus found Uncle Monty’s research journals noting the harmlessness of the Incredibly Deadly Viper. At this point Poe takes the children a bit more seriously and after wiping away the make-up that Olaf used on his ankle, Olaf’s true identity is revealed as is his cheap taste in make-up.
As per usual, Poe is useless in the situation, Olaf escapes, and the children are left with even more questions about their parents and their lives. After the children come face to face with Jacqueline in Monty’s hedge maze, the woman who was once Mr. Poe’s secretary and is now disguised as the golden statue in Monty’s hedge maze, they know where they are going next.
“Find your Aunt Josephine. She is a fierce and formidable woman!” The advice from Jacqueline wasn’t all that needed since Aunt Josephine was next on Poe’s list of suitable guardians, but it’s nice to know that his thought isn’t his alone.
To end the episode, the viewer sees the underground tunnels again and you’ll notice that the names that appear have a lot to do with the connections between characters and the upcoming storyline. At least Jacqueline is a badass. She can totally defeat Olaf since all Poe could possibly do is give him a nasty cold.
By the way, I’m still sick of the mysterious parent gag. I want answers and I want them now!