This post contains spoilers, a word that here means “plot details about A Series of Unfortunate Events that you might prefer be kept secret until you watch the show.”
More than a decade after the last attempt to adapt A Series of Unfortunate Events for the screen, Netflix has given the wickedly funny, terribly tragic book series by Lemony Snicket (the nom de plume of Daniel Handler) a second chance. The streaming service’s eight-episode adaptation tackles the first four books in the series, but, true to the conspiratorial nature of its source material, it’s peppered with subtle references to the other nine books and to the secretive organization, VFD, that runs through them all.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of the Easter Eggs and references to the books that you might have missed.
The Bad Beginning (Episodes 1 & 2)
The Medusoid Mycelium
Justice Strauss’ library contains sections with books on “everything from Italian cuisine to the world’s most threatening fungus.” A rapid-growing, deadly fungus called the Medusoid Mycelium is a major plot device in the later books and is remembered by the couplet: “A single spore has such grim power/ that you may die within the hour.”
The underground network of tunnels used by several characters, including narrator Lemony Snicket (Patrick Warburton), has several signs bearing significant names from the series:
- Quagmire: A family similar to the Baudelaires, made up of three children whose parents are also killed in a terrible fire. The Quagmire parents, at first only identified as Mother and Father, play a significant role in the Netflix series, although they don’t appear at all in the original books.
- Snicket: In addition to our narrator, there are two other Snicket siblings, Jacques and Kit.
- Julienne: Geraldine Julienne is the star (mis)reporter of the Daily Punctilio.
- Remora: At the end of Netflix's series, the Baudelaires are sent to Prufrock Preparatory School, which marks the beginning of the fifth book in the series, The Austere Academy. Mr. Remora, a teacher at Prufrock, eats bananas and tells extraordinarily boring stories all day.
- Cathedral of the Alleged Virgin: In The Hostile Hospital, Snicket writes, “As I crouch here behind the altar of the Cathedral of the Alleged Virgin, a friend of mine is playing a sonata on the pipe organ, to calm me down and so the sounds of my typewriter will not be heard by the worshipers sitting in the pews.”
- Spats: The Baudelaires meet the dreadful Carmelita Spats, whose favorite insult is the colorful term cakesniffer, at Prufrock Preparatory School.
- Widdershins: The surname of a sea captain and his daughter, Fiona, who first appear in The Grim Grotto. Captain Widdershins also has a son, whom the Baudelaires have already met.
At first glance, Jacquelyn, the undercover agent who poses as Mr. Poe’s secretary, appears to be a brand new character written for the Netflix adaptation. But given her name, her affiliation with VFD, and an apparent history with Count Olaf, she might instead be a gender-bent version of Lemony’s brother, Jacques Snicket.
The name of the playwright behind The Marvellous Marriage is an anagram of “Count Olaf.”
The sugar bowl
When Klaus discovers Olaf’s evil plot to marry Violet, he confronts him with the information he found. “Me? I’m just having my morning coffee,” protests Olaf, “although I can’t seem to find the sugar bowl.”
The Series of Unfortunate Events books are full of references to a mysterious sugar bowl at the center of VFD's internal conflict. Though members of both sides of the organization are determined to steal the bowl from the other, we never actually learn what terrible secrets it contains. It is sometimes referred to as a Vessel For Disaccharides.
“The world is quiet here”
Gustav’s last words to Jacquelyn are a VFD code phrase and the group’s de facto motto.
References to VFD
- Lemony Snicket: “All my associates and I have managed to learn is that neither the official fire department nor the Volunteer Fire Department arrived in time to put out the blaze.”
- Jacquelyn: “There’s a Vigorously Fixed Destination your parents had in mind for you, and it is not with Count Olaf.”
- Hook-handed henchman: “Where are we gonna go now, boss?”
Count Olaf: “To a Vigorously Fixed Destination.”
The Reptile Room (Episodes 3 & 4)
After the Quagmire parents escape from prison, Mr. Quagmire speculates that the tunnel they’re in lets out somewhere south of Winnipeg. The Duchess of Winnipeg, a VFD member, is often referenced in the books, though never directly involved in the narrative.
The pseudonym “Lucafont,” used by the henchperson of indeterminate gender while disguised as a nurse, is a near-anagram of “Count Olaf.”
When Jacquelyn and Olaf are one-upping each other’s weaponry on the SS Prospero, Jacquelyn wins by brandishing a harpoon gun. This type of weapon that is wielded repeatedly throughout the series—and Count Olaf has good reason to be afraid of it.
References to VFD
- Monty: “It’s a misnomer. Do you know what that means?”
Klaus: “A very wrong name?”
Monty: “A Very Fitting Definition.”
- Ticket-seller: “I’m giving you the Verified Film Discount.”
- The opening credits of Zombies in the Snow read “Vitiated Film Distribution Presents a Film by Gustav Sebald.”
The Wide Window (Episodes 5 & 6)
Momento Morris’ Souvenirs
Misspelling aside, the name of this Lake Lachrymose souvenir shop seems to be a play on “Memento Mori,” the Latin phrase meaning “remember you will die” and the slogan of Prufrock Preparatory School.
The real Lemony Snicket
Daniel Handler, the author of the Series of Unfortunate Events books, makes a cameo as a vendor selling fish heads at the outdoor market.
The Anxious Clown
When the Baudelaires, Mr. Poe, and Captain Sham visit this theme restaurant, their waiter, Larry, says, “I didn’t realize this was a sad occasion.” Since the Baudelaires are supposed to be mourning the death of their Aunt Josephine, the meal really is a sad occasion, but the sentence is also one of VFD's many code phrases.
References to VFD
- A sign in a shop window advertises Vastly Flavorful Desserts.
- A woman in the market is selling Very Fresh Dill.
- The Quagmire parents decode a Very Far Distant telegram.
- Josephine: “Not long after this photograph was taken, your parents and I had to make a Vastly Frightening Decision.”
The Miserable Mill (Episodes 7 & 8)
Buddy’s Refrigerator Repair
Mr. and Mrs. Quagmire encounter “a most unfriendly refrigerator repair-person,” which could be a very subtle allusion to Verbal Fridge Dialogue, a method of communication utilized by VFD in which the contents of a refrigerator communicate a message. (For instance, the darkest jam jar in the fridge will contain the initials of the message's recipient, while the number of olives can signal the date of a gathering, as explained in The Slippery Slope.)
This pseudonym used by the hook-handed henchman at Lucky Smells Lumber Mill is yet another "Count Olaf" anagram.
“If there’s nothing up there, then what was that noise?”
Count Olaf, in disguise as Shirley, asks this question when the Baudelaires’ presence is discovered in Dr. Orwell’s office. It is similar to the VFD recruitment phrase, “If there’s nothing out there, then what was that noise?”
The Pony Party
As the Baudelaires await their visitors to the mill, Snicket interrupts to urge viewers to stop watching and imagine a happy ending to the story instead: “Pretend the woman at the door is the Duchess of Winnipeg and she’s come to throw the Baudelaires a pony party at her chateau.”
Some editions of Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography come with a reversible book jacket that features a mock cover for a fake, alternate-universe series of books called The Luckiest Kids in the World, by Loney M. Setnick. The first volume’s title is The Pony Party!
Isadora, Duncan, and Quigley Quagmire
After the Quagmire parents' identities are revealed, we also meet their children, who will soon cross paths with the Baudelaires. As the Quagmire adults confer, Isadora is reading a book about female Finnish poets, Duncan is writing in a notebook, and Quigley is sitting by a globe. As we will later learn in The Austere Academy, Isadora is a poet and Duncan is an aspiring journalist. Quigley’s interest is cartography.
Vice Principal Nero
At the very end of the series, while the Baudelaires wait in the Prufrock Preparatory School lobby, you can see the silhouette of a figure playing the violin through an office window. That silhouette belongs to Vice Principal Nero, who cannot play the violin but insists on doing so anyway.
References to VFD
- Sunny and Violet find an inscription from their father inside a Verified Functional Dictionary.
- Charles: “But I can tell you they are just on the other side of that Very Fancy Door.”
- Mr. Quagmire: “There are fires all around us, figuratively and literally.”
Mrs. Quagmire: “It’s time we mount a Vigorous Fire Defense.”