Well, it’s about that time. With a Netflix series coming around the corner, it’s about time that I cover the last pairing of the thirteen tumultuous tomes. After seeing trailer after trailer, I realize that I should probably wrap this up as quickly as possible before falling to pieces over the series itself. Onward and inward!
Book the 12th- The Penultimate Peril
We resume our recaps with The Penultimate Peril. If you don’t remember, at the end of The Grim Grotto, we find the Baudelaire children betrayed by Fiona and her brother, the hook-handed man. As a result, they lose the Queequeg and attempt to pursue another prospect—reuniting with Quigley Quagmire. Much to Violet’s dismay, there was no Quigley at Briny Beach by the time they surfaced. Only a lot of resurfaced bad memories, and a mysterious taxi. Although this could be seen as very suspicious, the Baudelaires did not have much to lose, and took the taxi.
The most mysterious part was not the taxi waiting for them however, but the driver. Kit Snicket, an old friend of the Baudelaire parents and fellow V.F.D. associate, greeted the children to deliver them to one of the last safe places—Hotel Denouement. Kit herself is not so safe, however—she is distraught, and very pregnant. Nevertheless, she debriefs the Baudelaires over brunch about an intel mission that they are crucial to, as well as the Quagmires’ whereabouts, still at sea, fighting some rather nasty eagles. The great meeting is about to ensue, and villains as well as noble people are gathering at the hotel to settle the squabble and find the sugar bowl, once and for all.
Their disguises? Concierges. Their mission? To intercept any villainous activity, and see what the other side is up to. Additionally, learn who J.S. is, and whether they are a volunteer or a villain.
Their boss? Frank, a volunteer. Or Ernest, his villainous twin brother. Regardless, the children report to both of them.
Sounds easy, right?
The Baudelaires, disguised, separate to go about their concierge duties. This reintroduces us to characters such as the “partners” Sir and Charles from the Lucky Smells Lumbermill, Hal from the Heimlich Hospital, the staff from Prufrock Prep, and of course, our “favorite” villain. Olaf is at the Hotel Denouement as well, Carmelita and Esme in tow and annoying as ever.
Basically, if you skipped any of the previous novels, this one wraps all of our previous characters—the live ones, at least—up into a nicely categorized package.
These three chapters all happen simultaneously as well, which here means they are all separated in these adventures. The children are all asked to perform errands, and they do…even if it means delivering weaponry.
The day does seem to end after a few more of these errands, and the hotel quiets. The children compile their secrets, realizing that the hotel only revealed more questions than answers. But one thing was for sure: something big was happening tomorrow morning for the V.F.D. organization.
And quite literally, more questions descend on them, in the form of Dewey Denouement. He is the third hotel manager that, until then, kept himself hidden. Dewey was hiding for a reason, however, to discover if the Baudelaires were friends or foes.
The Baudelaires seem to attract quite a few triplets…
Everyone seemed to have eyes on the siblings in that hotel, and Dewey was one of the most crucial. At the same time, J.S. arrives…and so does J.S.
Justice Strauss and Jerome Squalor return to also aid the Baudelaire children. They explain that the meeting tomorrow is in fact a trial. Using the catalog that Dewey has hidden in the pond of the hotel, and all the evidence that noble people are bringing the next day, the entire series of unfortunate events that have followed the Baudelaires will ultimately bring the villains to justice.
But of course, not all can go well.
A very long story short, the Baudelaires and Count Olaf meet, once again. After confronting the villain and giving away that a trial is to happen the next day, the Count reminds the Baudelaires that neither they, nor their parents, are entirely noble. Particularly due to a box of poison darts, and a night at the opera that involved Count Olaf’s parents and their own. Esme has now joined them, and comments that the sugar bowl was stolen from her. Amongst all of the arguing, Olaf gets a hold of the harpoon gun that was delivered by Violet earlier in the day, and threatens Dewey. The Baudelaires, determined to not see another person die for them, step in front of the gun, and manage to talk Olaf out of it in a surprising moment of tenderness.
But then, Mr. Poe comes in to ruin it all.
I’m not even kidding. The man walks in, scares Olaf and the children, and causes the harpoon gun to drop and fire—hitting Dewey in the chest, and killing him.
And although Olaf was the one with the gun in the first place, Mr. Poe saw the children fire it, accidentally, of course. This starts a rapid-fire chain effect, which results in the children and Olaf being “incarcerated” for the night, in anticipation for the trial tomorrow.
The trial itself is a piece of absurd theater, which is honestly a delight to read. Taking “justice is blind” literally and having everyone don blindfolds (and even considering removing the blindfolds as contempt of court) makes the entire system look even more ridiculous than it has been throughout the series. Considering the events of the last few books, the Baudelaires’ trial would not be as open and shut as they anticipated. To Olaf, they are now only “comparatively innocent”. Especially with the unfortunate death of Dewey just hours prior.
As the children start to explain their side of the story, it seems that something suspicious has occurred concerning Justice Strauss. The children are forced to take off their blindfolds- revealing the woman with hair but no beard, and the man with a beard but no hair sitting in the seats next to Justice Strauss – before she was kidnapped, of course.
I had the best “aha” moment here, because Justice Strauss details that these people have been on her counsel for years. Snicket gives us corrupt government AND what I think is the answer to why Count Olaf is so fearful of that pairing. They could easily lock him up if they wished, but they are also looked up to as the epitome of justice. I absolutely loved this revelation, and only wished I could’ve realized it earlier.
Anyway, I digress. As the children ignore the rules of the High Court, they discover that Justice Strauss is indeed being abducted by Olaf, who was just defending his innocence moments earlier. The Baudelaires chase after him, eventually convincing him that they need to collaborate in order to retrieve the sugar bowl, and let the chips fall where they may.In three somewhat shocking revelations, the Baudelaires decide to:
- Help Olaf unlock the vernacularly fastened door
- Burn down the hotel
- Help Olaf escape
Sunny’s incredible moment in this challenging chapter was her decision-making. From blocking the harpoon with her siblings, to making the ultimate decision to burn down the Denouement, she and her siblings had to confront many ethical decisions throughout The Penultimate Peril. It was easy to see the amount of emotional growth the trio has gone through in the last year or so.
As the Baudelaires go through with their nefarious deeds, they make up for it with another one: they try to save everyone in the hotel. Of course, that plan can only work so much: only some adults believe that the hotel was truly on fire, so it is unknown how many made it out.
But the Baudelaires did, sliding down the hotel in their boat the same way they barreled down the slippery slope of the Mortmain Mountains. They leave all the noble people behind, and in a strange way, come full circle. And so begins our last chapter begins…
Book the 13th: The End
The Baudelaires are truly out to sea in this situation. With Olaf in tow, they sail off to lands unknown…so unknown that even they do not know what they’ll reach.
After a few days of being out to sea, the children are driven mad by Olaf’s antics, as he can only be more obnoxious than evil. They almost consider pushing him overboard, but they are already racked with guilt by the burning of the Hotel Denouement.
But any annoyance Olaf may have dished out was literally washed away—by a tremendous storm. And the Baudelaires survive…but discover an island, where apparently everything comes to eventually, including their problems. They are discovered by Friday, a small girl who does what literally no adult has seemed to be able to do throughout the series- she recognizes Count Olaf as an immoral person, and banishes him from the island.
Finally. (Commentary much, Mr. Snicket?)
But all is not as it seems on the island that so easily snubbed the Baudelaire’s oppressor. The island is run by a man named Ishmael, kind yet from leader who “won’t force you” to do anything, but the pressure is so immense that it seems one will. His commands are made all the easier to follow because of the coconut cordial that is served as a tradition on the island. The drink itself acts as an opiate, something that is a bit of a caricature of islander life.
The island has quite a few traditions, the results of which lead to mostly a boring life. Even the meals are the same. While the Baudelaires are thankful for the little bit of solace is that they have on this island, they are now too used to the life that they had in the last year. Comfort does not suit them, and in that way they end up rocking the boat. (Enter Moana themes here.)
Another storm ends up breaking the monotony, as it brings more of the Baudelaire’s past lives onto the island. A raft made of books carried a pregnant and unconscious Kit Snicket (and Incredibly Deadly Viper) to shore. It is then that the islanders and Baudelaires clash, as Count Olaf (also disguised as Kit Snicket, notably his worst one yet) points out that Kit is part of the same organization, making her as evil as him and also barring her entrance to the island.
The islanders all see through Olaf’s disguise, but not his mind tricks. The islanders leave Kit on the beach, along with the Baudelaires, refusing to leave their friend.
Olaf spends his night in the cage, but not without pointing out that Ishmael has some secrets of his own. As night looms in, they are confronted by some islanders who are uncomfortable with the amount of pressure looming over them as well. They ask the Baudelaires to assist them in their mutiny against Ishmael. The Baudelaires agree, and sneak away to the arboretum, a place where any forbidden items go.
There they discover a huge secret: Ishmael’s hidden enclosure within the arboretum. Amongst all of the detritus was a huge room, leading only to more rooms. There’s a kitchen, a library, etc. In the library, the children find a haunting discovery—their mom’s handwriting, on a book of her making.
Ishmael finds the Baudelaires in the arboretum, and rather than being angry, explains it all to them. The Baudelaire parents used to call this place their home, and were responsible for many changes to the island. Ishmael sought to overthrow them, and they left the island shortly after while Mrs. Baudelaire was pregnant with Violet. The entire history of the island is detailed in that novel,and it is titled A Series of Unfortunate Events.
As morning dawns, the children gain a new perspective on Ishmael’s leadership, just as the mutiny ensues. Count Olaf returns to stir the pot, but once again his plans are foiled, and so is he. Ishmael gets his hands on the harpoon gun, and shoots Olaf in the stomach. The harpoon connects, but the Medusoid Mycelium is released and infects everyone on the island.
The children run back to the arboretum to attempt to find some kind of horseradish-y resolution, almost to no avail. But the Baudelaire parents even now protected their children, through the apple tree itself. The apples were bitter hybrids, genetically enhanced to have the solution to the Mycelium in every bite. However, the Baudelaires are too late. Ishmael convinces the islanders (you know, the ones who were planning a mutiny just a few hours ago) to come with him on the outrigger to find an antidote. The Baudelaires chase after the boat, in order to deliver the life-saving apples. But, due to peer pressure and fear, the islanders refuse any help from the Baudelaires. Even the incredibly deadly viper (or Ink) attempts to carry an apple over to them through sea.
Meanwhile, Kit is infected with the Mycelium, which acts fast in her body. Maybe enough to induce labor, which is precisely what happens next. The Baudelaires panic, and eventually enlist Count Olaf for help. He and Kit clearly had a thing before Dewey, because he not only saves her but kisses her as his final act. Count Olaf dies just as Kit gives birth, and passes away as well, leaving the Baudelaires to raise yet another orphan and completely alone on the island.
1 year later..
The children have grown even more, and followed in their parents’ footsteps of childcare, as well as making the island more convenient and conducive for all of their talents. One day however, they decide to leave the island for someone else to discover. The world full of mysteries and volunteer practices lays ahead, and the Baudelaires have laid low for as long as they could allow.
The final incredible moment here goes to all 3 Baudelaires, who raised a child with no hesitation, probably because they knew what it felt like to be orphaned. They want the best for Kit’s baby, and after so much loss, they finally get the best reward-the ability to be themselves, and not only for survival.
Well, that’s all I have for now. I’ll see you all (probably) next month for some awesome insight of the show itself. Fingers crossed that it will be just as awesome to talk about.
Have a Very Fine Day, everyone.