Stating the obvious, Netflix’s ‘Disenchantment’ comes from Matt Groenig, the creator of seminal shows like ‘The Simpsons’ and divisive second series ‘Futurama,’ which is evident from the irreverent humor and the unique graphics. However, the show which is now in its third season after premiering on Netflix in 2018, doesn’t enjoy a similar fan following. In fact, I feel that most Simpsons stans have conveniently given up on the saga of Princess Bean and her unlikely sidekicks Luci and Elfo.
What is the story about?
When we left her in season 2, Bean (Abbi Jacobson) had successfully rescued Elfo (Nat Faxon), only to be burned at a stake with him and Luci (Eric Andre) by the superstitious Dreamland folk. They manage to escape at the last minute by falling through the ground and landing in a catacomb. When Season 3 begins, Bean is shocked to come face-to-face with her evil mother Dagmar (Sharon Horgan) who is ruling the place with Trogs, a subterranean community. On the other side, Odval (Maurice LaMarche) and Druidess (Tress MacNeille) continue to plot against King Zog (John DiMaggio) and put Bean’s half-brother Derek on the throne, only to realize that the young boy has a mind of his own.
The trouble that plagues Disenchantment from last season to now is still the same. In the need to fulfill Netflix’s prophecy of binge-watching, the show has steered Groenig away from the roots that make The Simpsons and Futurama oddly enduring shows. The showrunner has created immersive worlds of whimsical characters who can constantly adapt to change in society, and thus keep subliminally referencing popular culture, politics, climate change, technology and other issues as and when they reach their peak discourse. In the serialization of Disenchantment, it seems more like a typical fantasy saga, full of horny creatures, a princess who is saving her family and her rightful throne, a brother who discovers a secret curse. The first few episodes are used to get us acquainted with the new world of Hell and Steamland, and the drama is wrapped up in the second half. It’s all very plot-driven, rather than humor or character-driven, giving us a feeling that there won’t be much to explore with future seasons.
To drive the plot forward, but to also keep the coming-of-age of characters like Bean and Elfo as central to the plot, Disenchantment has to take them out of the familiar world of Dreamland and into newer settings. Like another fantasy adventure saga, Game of Thrones, it is about multiple storylines that are broken into chapters seemingly to come together at the very end. But while this may lend itself well to the serious and gruesome tone of GoT, it doesn’t match Groenig’s sense of humor. Thus, in the interest of keeping the story alive, this part of Disenchantment is low on jokes severely, with only one or two proper LOL moments per episode.
With Ken Keeler joining the writing team for season 3, what does end up happening is keeping the focus on Bean and her relationships, her upbringing, and how she deals with her own sense of self. Part 2 made a lot of progress in trying to mend her fractured relationship with her father, and this season, she sees some progress with Dagmar. Perhaps in an episodic format, it would be easier to come to terms with Bean’s mending relationship with Dagmar, considering the latter is just PURE EVIL. But to wrap up this part with this focus on her growth and family, their catharsis comes way too quickly. Still, it’s great to see Bean experiment with her sexuality and understand her place outside Dreamland, even if it comes at the expense of us not concentrating much on Elfo and Luci. The season dives deep into more mature content with some serious concerns of Bean’s inadequacy and abandonment issues with her parents. The questions of love, loss, and mental breakdown are handled with immense sensitivity.
The voice work from most of the artists is standard from previous seasons, but Sharon Horgan and Noah Fielding are especially excellent as Dagmar and executioner Stan. Richard Ayoade and Matt Berry’s voice work may seem a bit reminiscent.
Music & Other Departments
Obviously, the show has ample scope for innovative character work, and just like Groenig’s other shows, it delivers. The art is consistent and quirky. The animation really pushes itself due to the fantasy element, and some sequences are even more ambitious than previous seasons.
The best parts of Disenchantment Part 3 come from the creativity shown when exploring the new world of Hell and Steamland, making the show’s world feel more diverse and enchanted. The show still makes many not-so-subtle remarks on morality and mortality, even if it is in the garb of lazy science fiction that is adapted to convenience. Whatever rules Derek applies as King lend themselves to some satire on monarchy and tradition. Everything to do with Bean’s development as a person and a would-be monarch is commendable. The creators, however, have run themselves into a conundrum. The creation of new universes warrants new characters, and that should have been done from the get-go if this were that type of fantasy drama.
Most of this season is spent on utterly inconsequential sub-plots that don’t actually add to the plot, but make it seem more story-driven than anything else. Some of the jokes are just recycled from previous seasons because the show can’t get out of its limited milieu. But the worst hit is that season 3 hardly has any jokes at all. I fear if Bean’s saga has just stopped being as edgy and funny as it was when it first began, even if this season is slightly better than the second in terms of her character development and creativity in writing.
Did I enjoy it?
Jokes are low, but the sheer concept and characters of Disenchantment are still fun and heartening to follow. If you’ve already been watching, it’s not the worst distraction.
Do I recommend it?
Only if you’re already on the bandwagon. Disenchantment Part 3 doesn’t break any new ground in humor or commentary. And it ends on a biting cliffhanger which means I will be invested for another year, but you shouldn’t have to unless you’re one of us.