I absolutely love Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society, but I also haven’t read the first book in the series since 2013, so I don’t have strong memories of it. Mostly I remember clever children, recruited by a quirky but kindly man who use their wits and their friendship to solve puzzles that are actually puzzling (not always true in middle grade books) and ultimately save the world.
Does the show deliver on that? So far, yes, though not exactly in the ways I might have imagined.
I think translating the quirkiness of the book from page to screen is a tricky task, and the writers have done an amazing job with the show. It could have been corny or over-the-top, but they have struck a good note. Some things are strange, but they’re not patently ridiculous. I also actually laughed a few times, which I was not expecting.
I also enjoy most of the actors. Constance Contraire is a bit older than she is in the book (because it would be hard to cast a precocious two year old), but it works, and the writers have also made her a bit annoying and mean without giving her so many lines and chances to insult the other characters that the viewer would want to throw her off the screen. Reynie is a bit uncertain of himself, but I’m awaiting his character arc as he grows into the leader of their little group. Sticky is scared of things but willing to go through with them when necessary. The actor who plays Kate has an inclination to yell her lines, I guess in an attempt to embody Kate’s quick, confident, and no-nonsense attitude, but overall it’s fine.
Mostly I’m stuck on Mr. Benedict himself. Tony Hale successfully plays him as eccentric while also kind, concerned about the children he has recruited for his mission. However, he simply doesn’t fit my image of Mr. Benedict from the novels. I certainly imagined someone much older, and so far I think there’s still room to portray Mr. Benedict as incredibly intelligent. He did figure out what The Emergency is, when no one else could, but his brief explanation doesn’t really highlight the fact the man is supposed to be a genius.
I admit I was a bit skeptical going into watching this adaptation. I also was surprised to even learn it existed, as I only began seeing some tweets from Disney+ a couple weeks before its release and saw no other marketing (and have seen no one discuss or review it since its premiere.) However, it’s really fun. It’s a pretty well-done adaptation so far, and I can’t wait to see more.