I really loved this series of books. I'd actually forgotten how much I loved it! The first episode of this show has really reignited my love for A Series of Unfortunate Events.
One of the first things I noticed about this show was that the actors actually look like children! You don't have to suspend your disbelief when the narrator tells you their ages. Klaus and Violet look very young, and it makes it really easy to feel horrible for them. The children are very talented actors too.
This series does not pull any punches. Everything is as horrible as it was in the books. Everyone is awful and cruel to the children, and it makes a huge impact to see the dark dialogue from the books applied to the innocent children you see on the screen. Most of the dialogue isn't exactly what was in the books, but it stays close and is very effective.
Olaf is absolutely horrible. Count Olaf is so incredibly awful that at times his horribleness veers right back into dark comedy. He has a song and dance number for goodness sake! You start to think he's ridiculous, and then, bam! He slaps Klaus across the face and you're reminded that Count Olaf is no joke. In my opinion Neil Patrick Harris plays him very well, because you do feel like he's ridiculous and silly sometimes, but most of the time you're just horrified by him and the way he treats the children.
I like that the series kept the narration aspect of the books too. Lemony Snicket is actually a character! He's really well cast too, he has a deep voice and a very somber face and black suit. He's also the only character so far to actually empathize with the children, which I really appreciate. Everyone else is so unsympathetic and awful, it's good to see someone who understands how horrible the situation is.
Another thing I noticed was the colors. Everything is desaturated and gray and it really fits the mood of the series.
Overall this first episode has me really excited to watch the rest of this series! I'm really glad such a good adaptation of one of my favorite series exists!