By the time you get to the thirteenth book in a series, you've invested a lot. There is an implicit faith in the author, faith that you will see a return on investment in the form of resolved mysteries and concluded plotlines. With the Series of Unfortunate Events in particular, many hoped to learn more about Lemony Snicket himself, about his beloved Beatrice and about the Baudelaire parents. Some people wanted to learn more about the reflection of the Hotel Denouement, while others wanted to know how Sunny became a celebrity chef, as alluded to in The Beatrice Letters. Some people even wanted a happy ending.
I never expected that much. I had expected a "win at a price" in The End, a conclusion where the Baudelaire orphans would discover some sense of home but would still have to deal with the consequences of a world full of schisms. Did I get what I wanted? It's hard to say. I was left with an overwhelming sense of indifference when I reached the last page of the last volume of the Baudelaire/Olaf saga, and that indifference itself was perhaps the greatest disappointment.
It wasn't entirely unexpected. When I last discussed Lemony Snicket, I noted:
There has been a mystery amid the unfortunate events since about the midway point, when we were introduced to VFD. That mystery grew in the later books, and though I don't have an elaborate theory for how this series will end, the way I do for that other grown-up grabbing kid lit series, I am now, after those last few books, far more curious about how these mysteries will play out. Up until about book nine, all the mysteries were incidental to me. Now, I would probably feel a twinge of disappointment if the series were to conclude without some answers.
And, unlike Harry Potter, that's not a given.
I wound up feeling that twinge. Even with my uncertainty about resolution, The End left me unsatisfied, like eating a tuna fish sandwich when what you really wanted was a cheeseburger. I reached the end, but things didn't feel complete. This, in some ways, goes with the theme of the books: Life is messy and it is unrealistic to expect bow-topped conclusions. But the Baudelaires are fiction, and even if they weren't, we human beings tend to give our stories narrative arcs that conclude with some kind of tidiness in the ending. The only part of this story that really concludes is Count Olaf's; with Olaf dead, the Baudelaires will face new challenges.