Welcome one and all to the Last Door on the Left – a travel agency for the adventurous soul. Have you always wanted to see the world beyond the wardrobe? Longed to wait for the train at 9 ¾? Pined for tickets to hear Plava Laguna sing at Fhloston Paradise? Look no further.
Hello and welcome, my world-weary wanderers and woebegone wayfarers. The long, dark days of winter are upon us, and with them, the dreaded doldrums of dreary drudgery. But fret not, friends! We here at the Last Door on the Left have just the thing to cure you of your cold and sunless blues: a fresh adventure! And where, pray tell, shall we be sending you for this excursion? A sun-drenched beach to combat that mid-winter melancholy? A trek through time and space to distract from encroaching ennui? Not this time. No…Today, the Last Door on the Left opens on the Beaudelaire Estate. Because nothing says “my life actually looks pretty good” quite like bearing witness to someone else’s series of unfortunate events.
The first part of our journey starts at the Beaudelaire mansion. Alas, we cannot time our arrival to do anything but watch as the majestic structure burns to a blackened, hulking, husk of its former glory. The tale of woe is only made more tragic as the Beaudelaire children – now orphans – disembark into the still smoldering ruins, hoping against hope that the news of their parents’ demise has been premature. This once-beautiful home stood as a testament to intellect and education, and now all that remains of that legacy is ash and mystery and three grieving but resilient youngsters who look to their immediate future with trepidatious hope.
Packing Pro-Tip #1: Lots of black. I, myself, am usually a proponent of a vibrant and colourful wardrobe – and I can’t bring myself to recommend against packing at least one pop of colour! – but for this particular trip, black on black is both practical and chic. Effortless to match because it really *does* go with everything, black manages to strike both the appropriately funeral tones required of starting our tour at the site of the tragic deaths of the Beaudelaire seniors, as well as the eminently functional ones needed to explore the mysteries of an inscrutable inferno without showing every soot mark.
As the Beaudelaire orphans are chauffeured away from the enigmatic embers of their ancestral home, and forward, on toward their ‘closest’ relative (a mere 37 blocks away!), so, too, shall we follow in their footsteps and continue on to the second stage of our tour: a meet ‘n’ greet with Count Olaf.
The Beaudelaires’ new neighbourhood, while not exactly what they were used to 37 blocks over, is nonetheless appealing at first glance, greeted as they are by a lovely lady justice upon arrival. Justice Strauss, having heard about the calamitous accident that befell their parents, is happy to welcome the Beaudelaires to the block. Her pleasant red brick home with beautifully tended gardens and flowering trees is a much-needed – but ultimately, sadly erroneous – balm to the unfortunate orphans’ souls, as they have only to look across the street to Count Olaf’s drab and dolorous doorstep for disappointment to once more sink in.
Count Olaf himself is another force to be reckoned with. An actor with more conceit than compassion, more greed than gift, and more sly stealth than sympathy, Count Olaf seems an odd choice as the Beaudelaires’ new guardian. He appears as one much more interested in having a staff and an audience than in acquiring children, though he DOES seem determined to do the latter. A fortune-related Freudian slip or two later, and the mysterious appeal of orphans to the least paternal person on the planet is crystal clear. Staff, captive audience, AND massive fortune waiting in trust all in one fell swoop? Amazing.
Savvy Traveller Side Note #1: Travel insurance. Count Olaf may not strike anyone as the swiftest current in the sea, but just because a riptide, he ain’t, doesn’t actually make him any less dangerous. Let’s take a lesson from the Beaudelaires: be prepared.
Packing Pro-Tip #2: Inspector Gadget hat. We can’t all be Violet Beaudelaire and successfully invent whatever we need on the fly, so I heartily suggest packing to be prepared. You never know when you might end up in a locked vehicle, parked on a set of train tracks, needing to divert an oncoming train. Go Go Gadget Grappling Hook might come in handy. I’m just sayin’.
After triumphantly thwarting the conniving Count Olaf and his train wreck shenanigans, the Beaudelaire wards are once more swept off into the slightly hapless handling of their banker, Mr. Poe, who brings them to another distant uncle: the herpetologist, Dr. Montgomery. At first, Monty is almost as terrifying a figure as evil Count Olaf, draped in snakes as he is. As in life, though, appearances can be deceiving, and dear uncle Monty turns out to be as gentle as his poor, much maligned viper. Hope begins to trickle back into the battered Beaudelaire hearts as plans are made to traipse off to Peru for fun and science!
Alas, how quickly hopes are dashed when a (poorly) disguised Count Olaf shows up, claiming to be research assistant, Stephano, and kills Dr. Montgomery! All to get control of the Beaudelaires and their enormous fortune. Circumvented in his ruse again by the orphans, Olaf disappears, shedding his Stephano disguise in pieces as the children are once more carted away to the next relative in line.
Savvy Traveller Side Note #2: Keep an eye on the details. There is more to this story than meets the eye. Was that a spyglass in the burning Beaudelaire mansion? Did uncle Monty have the same spyglass? Why WAS that viper so friendly? What is it that links this series of unfortunate events?
Next stop on the Beaudelaire adventure tour is aunt Josephine’s on the water. Do come in! Quickly. But not TOO quickly. You don’t want to trip and decapitate yourself. And heavens, don’t go in the kitchen. You certainly can’t use the stove, you might set something on fire. And you can’t stand near the refrigerator. It might fall and crush you! You can sit and read. Perhaps this wonderful treatise on grammar? Aunt Josephine loves grammar more than anything. In fact, when Count Olaf arrives – in the form of Captain Sham, the aunt-charming, grammar loving, seaman – it will be the grammar in her suicide note that helps the Beaudelaires decode it to find her. Sadly, it will also be her obsessive need for correct grammar that gets her fed to the Lachrymose Leeches.
Savvy Traveller Side Note #3: When the sign says “Wait 1 hour after eating before you swim”, WAIT ONE HOUR AFTER EATING BEFORE YOU SWIM.
After nefarious Count Olaf convinces Mr. Poe that he has rescued the children, it’s back to Chez Olaf for his most malignant machination yet: The Marvelous Marriage. Having discovered that he can’t actually access the Beaudelaire fortune by offing the orphans, Count Olaf opts to wed the fourteen year old Violet in a wedding ceremony disguised in a play. The catch? The ceremony will be official because the ‘actor’ officiating is Justice Strauss (who doesn’t know it’s not a play!). Violet is forced to comply because the Count has Baby Beaudelaire bound in a cage, hanging from the tallest tower, ready to take the plunge if Violet won’t.
Packing Pro-Tip #3: Sunglasses. When Klaus Beaudelaire is motivated to get his head out of his books and apply his knowledge – mostly because his sister Violet can’t in this one case – his light is really going to shine. No, literally, he understands refraction well enough to recognize how a series of lenses work together to focus light tightly enough to burn. It’s going to be VERY bright. Not only will he save his sisters from the evil enterprise of Count Olaf, he reveals the Count as the iniquitous incendiary behind the felling of Beaudelaire Mansion.
And so we leave the Beaudelaires, presumably safe in the hands of their banker, Mr. Poe. Count Olaf, for the moment, at any rate, recognized for the monster he is. There is some closure, at least, at the end of this series of unfortunate events for the Beaudelaire orphans. It does, however, beg the question of what next, does it not?
Perhaps Violet, Klaus, and Sunny (Baby Beaudelaire) need only to come knocking on the Last Door on the Left?