One of the biggest open-ended mysteries in the Series of Unfortunate Events books has surprisingly been answered in the Netflix show. In addition to playing fast-and-loose with the chronology of the ending of the story in the final episode, the TV series adaptation also spills the tea — or the sugar — on the most famous anti-MacGuffin of the series; the Sugar Bowl.
Massive Spoilers ahead for the entire third season of Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. Even if you’ve read the books, you might want to stop reading this now if you haven’t finished the show.
In the original Daniel Handler books (AKA “Lemony Snicket”) the Sugar Bowl is a late-game mystery object which is being coveted by both sides of the VFD schism. In other words, though the Sugar Bowl doesn’t pop up until the last few books, the story later implies many of the struggles between the secret agents were all about who could possess the Sugar Bowl. Though the books left the contents of the Sugar Bowl vague, the show answers it outright, with mixed results.
As Kit Snicket explains in the Netflix version of “The End,” the Sugar Bowl contains … sugar. But that sugar is laced with medicine which can permanently innoculate anyone against the deadly Medusoid Mycelium fungus. In the show, the Baudelaire children point out that horseradish or wasabi can cure someone of the deadly infection caused by the fungus, but Kit counters, saying the sugar in the Sugar Bowl cures you permanently.
This is a change from the books, only because it’s one of the few times the show specifically answers a question which was previously left, perhaps intentionally, vague. Is this answer a good one? Will it satisfy longtime fans of the books or newer fans of the TV series? The answer is unclear, but it does feel a little rushed. And, part of the beauty of the Snicket books was its unwillingness to be too literal about certain adventure tropes. But, here, outside of the pages of a smart contemplative book, the show was forced to split the difference between being evasive and giving the audience some kind of conclusion.
The show was probably a little sweeter because of the revelation, but that might be slightly misaligned with the bittersweet source material. Even so, for those who have been wondering for over a decade, we finally have a simple answer. However, if you’ve got kids who are reading the books for the first time, maybe don’t let them watch the show yet? Debates about the Sugar Bowl are part of the fun of this series.
A Series of Unfortunate Events season 3 is streaming now on Netflix.