The title of A Series of Unfortunate Events is by no means a misnomer.
In every book and installment of the Netflix TV series, tragedy, frustration, and inconvenience impact the lives of not only Violet, Sunny, and Klaus Baudelaire, but all of their associates, friends, and enemies, too. But which unfortunate event in A Series of Unfortunate Events is the most unfortunate? Well, that's not easy, because each book contains dozens of tough breaks for a variety of characters; choosing the absolute worst things to have happened in this story is tricky.
So, with an eye toward the Netflix adaptation of the Lemony Snicket books, here are the 12 most unfortunate events ranked by how much they’ll crush you when you watch the show, and their importance in shaping this bleak (and very funny) fictional world.
Spoilers ahead for all of the Netflix adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Also, unless otherwise noted, this list was created thinking about the way things happen in the series, which might be different — or more unfortunate — in the books.
Ish founding VFD to begin with
In The End, we learn Ishmael created the mysterious VFD organization in an effort to fight both literal a figurative fires all around the world. If he’d never taken an interest in the Snickets, the Quagmires, the Baudelaire parents or Count Olaf, none of this would have happened at all. In The End, Count Olaf hilariously says to Ish: “You LITERALLY started it.”
Mr. Poe getting hired to head the Department of Orphan Affairs
Whoever decided that the coughing banker Mr. Poe should be in charge of Orphan Affairs in the mysterious city in which much of the action takes place, was to be blunt, an idiot. Pointing to one thing Mr. Poe did wrong would be difficult, because, in the first half of the series, he appears at the end of almost every other episode, shuttling the Baudelaires to a new location or guardian, always with disastrous results.
The separation of Baudelaires and their fourth sibling in The Beatrice Letters and The End
Though the TV series seems to leave off on a happy note, it should be noted that the reason why Beatrice II is looking for Lemony Snicket after the end of “The End” is that their boat sinks at some point after they set sail. While the show doesn’t make this explicit, the idea that Beatrice is looking for Lemony Snicket in the future comes from the book The Beatrice Letters, which was published right before The End back in 2006. In this book, there was an awesome poster with punch-out letters. When you arranged the letters, you got this message: Beatrice Sank. In addition to being the name of their mother and adopted baby sister, Beatrice is also the name of the boat the kids are on at the end of the show.
The Baudelaires choice not to go with Lemony Snicket in The Penultimate Peril
In one of the biggest changes from the books, Lemony Snicket briefly meets the Baudelaire orphans at the Hotel Denouement and offers him a ride in his taxi. In the book, a mysterious man meets them, but it’s never made clear who he is. Obviously, the fact that the orphans don’t go with Lemony Snicket is a bummer. We’d like to think he could have taken care of them!
The death of the Baudelaire parents in The Bad Beginning
It would be weird to do a list like this and not include the unfortunate event that started it all: the mansion fire that kills Bertrand and Beatrice Baudelaire at the very start of The Bad Beginning. Still, you can’t rank this the worst thing that happens to the kids, because come on, tons of kids in adventure stories are orphans. It’s kind of part of the deal of being a fictional child in exciting stories. Just ask Harry Potter and Oliver Twist.
Kit Snicket’s childbirth death in The End
This one is way too sad for words. The heroic Kit Snicket tragically dies on the Island right after she gives birth to her daughter. It was sad in the book. It was crazy sad on the show.
The murder of Jacques Snicket in The Vile Village
Because Nathan Fillion is so perfect and charming in the role of Jacques Snicket, viewers who hadn’t read the books were probably shocked that the character was killed off so quickly in the second season. In the books, it’s a sad thing that the Baudelaires don’t really understand. But in the show, it’s a gut punch.
The accidental poisoning of Count Olaf’s dad in The Penultimate Peril flashback
Unique to the show, we learn that Count Olaf was made an orphan by a poison dart accidentally thrown by the mother of the Baudelaire children, Beatrice. Lemony Snicket takes the fall for this crime, which makes him and Olaf into instant mortal enemies. Without Count Olaf’s schemes, you don’t have a series. So the tragic origin story of this villain is easily one of the worst things that happens, even though it probably happens before the Baudelaire children are born.
Fiona’s betrayal of Klaus in The Grim Grotto
It’s not all death! Some of the hardest things in the series are connected to the emotions of the kids. When Fiona Widdershins betrays Klaus in “The Grim Grotto” is awful because up until that point, Klaus had never really had feelings like that for anyone. Sure, everyone knows your first love can hit hard, but this was really rough.
Violet’s separation from Quigley in The Slippery Slope
One of the most tender scenes in the entire series is when Lemony Snicket says he will “afford the eldest Baudelaire her privacy” in relation to a moment she shares with Quigley Quagmire while the two are climbing the mortmain mountains in “The Slippery Slope.” Violet’s crush on Quigley is the absolute sweetest thing in both the books and the show. The fact they are separated — and probably never see each other again — is nearly worse than all the deaths on this list combined.
The accidental murder of Dewey Denouement in The Penultimate Peril
The revelation of the third Denouement brother feels like a godsend to the Baudelaires. Not only is Dewey awesome, but it seems like he and Kit Snicket can really keep the kids safe. The fact that he’s killed by a stray harpoon from a harpoon gun that the Baudelaires drop isn’t ironic. It’s just sad. In a way, the Baudelaires unwittingly kill the guy who could have made their lives better.
This is doubly sad because Dewey is the father of Kit Snicket’s baby, meaning Beatrice II never knew her father. If Dewey hadn’t been shot on accident, the Baudelaires would not have had to burn down the hotel. They would never have gone to the island, and everything about their lives might have been... happy.
Olivia Caliban getting devoured by lions in The Carnivorous Carnival
In the Netflix show, the character of Olivia Caliban is substantially expanded from the books. Starting out as an excellent librarian at Prufrock Prep, she’s soon recruited into VFD by Jacques Snicket. In The Ersatz Elevator Jacques and Olivia share not only '60s spy-style adventures, but also touching and exciting romance.
After Jacques dies in The Vile Village, Olivia continues her quest to help the Baudelaires, only to be thrown to the lions in The Carnivorous Carnival. It’s easily the most gruesome death in the show, and also the saddest. Of all the characters in A Series of Unfortunate Events, Olivia was the one who felt the most like an innocent bystander; a well-meaning person who simply got gobbled up by the insanity of things she had only begun to understand.