Anyone who’s read the books in A Series of Unfortunate Events knows that the Baudelaires never have the best of luck. While full of clever wordplay and cultural references, Lemony Snicket’s novels aren’t notorious for being the most optimistic books in children’s literature. After losing their parents to a fire, the hapless children encounter Count Olaf, a villainous actor keen on their inheritance, as well as a string of questionable guardians. As much as we’d like a happily ever after for the orphans, all we get by the end of a series is a question mark.
In the final installment of the books, The End, the Baudelaire children, Count Olaf, and Kit Snicket end up on an island. Olaf and the children manage to escape from a trial for the death of Dewey Denouement and climb aboard a boat together. They arrive on an island run by an austere leader named Ishmael who doesn’t trust the new visitors. The inhabitants offer to help the Baudelaires if they agree to overthrow Ishmael. While searching for weapons, the orphans learn that their parents had once led the island democratically.
When the mutiny takes place, Ishmael stabs Olaf in the stomach and unintentionally shatters his helmet full of a poisonous fungus, which quickly spreads across the island. The Baudelaires find horseradish apples that counter the poison, but everyone ultimately abandons the island with Ishmael. Kit refuses to eat an apple, fearing the potential effects on her unborn child. Olaf, in a redemptive moment, carries Kit down to the beach so that she can safely give birth to her baby girl, Beatrice. The Baudelaires stay on the island for a year after Olaf and Kit die. The book ends when they journey back to the mainland, and we don’t know if they ever reach land or pass away at sea.
Perhaps the third season of the Netflix series will give us a clearer interpretation of what happens to the Baudelaires and Kit’s child. (The second season ends with an adaptation of the ninth book, The Carnivorous Carnival.) If anything, though, I foresee a similarly ambiguous ending. But the optimist in me thinks that Beatrice and the clever orphans make it somehow. No matter how rough things get, Violet’s inventive spark, Klaus’s encyclopedic knowledge, and Sunny’s large, sharp teeth rarely ever fail.