Review: Disenchantment - Part 2

I had high hopes for the second season, or "part," of Disenchantment, even though I was mildly disappointed with the first set of episodes. Having a show about a princess who wants to be a good person but constantly makes bad decisions is pretty ground-breaking for a genre of characters who always do the right thing as second nature. Princess Bean follows in the footsteps of Fry and Homer Simpson from Matt Groening's other shows, but she stands out as his first female protagonist. After these new episodes of Disenchantment, I'm beginning to think he does a better job making his side characters interesting than his protagonists. All of his leads tend to be simple-minded drunkards whose sole purpose is to give the average viewer someone to relate to. I might be biased, but I think the most interesting character in The Simpsons is Lisa Simpson, not Homer, and the most interesting character in Futurama is Leela, not Fry. In the case of Disenchantment, I would give that award to Queen Dagmar, with Elfo as a close second. For that reason, I feel that Dagmar's lack of screen time in the latest batch of episodes hindered the momentum of the show.

The second part of Disenchantment begins with Bean on a ship to an unknown destination with her newly revived mother, Queen Dagmar. Bean is eager to get to experience a part of her childhood that she missed out on, especially after sacrificing the chance to bring back her best friend from the dead. However, Bean soon learns that the maternal side of her family is full of psychotic and dangerous people who want to use her to fulfill some sort of dark prophecy that would likely hurt everyone she cares about. Our troubled princess wants nothing to do with this and runs away, which parallels the series premiere where she ran away from her wedding. A common theme in Disenchantment is that Bean always knows what she doesn't want, but not what she does, which is likely the source of her alcohol addiction. The one thing she does know for certain is that she was wrong to sacrifice Elfo for her mother, so she proceeds to find a way to bring him back.

That's when we see most of the footage that was teased in this part's trailer. Thanks to Bean's demon companion Luci, she and Elfo make their way into Hell where they reunite after Luci, true to his "Lucifer" namesake, double-crosses everyone multiple times, including the devil himself. He sends Bean and Elfo on an emotional roller coaster, which is welcome after the dip in excitement after Bean abruptly ran away from her mother and the mysterious prophecy. After this, the show becomes rather stale. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise since its creator is currently on the 31st season of The Simpsons, but for some reason, I was expecting the pacing of his Netflix series to be different. The Netflix format encourages binge-watching instead of week-to-week increments. I was incredibly intrigued to learn about Dagmar's deliciously wicked plans for Bean and what sort of latent powers Bean might have within herself, but this seemed to be all but forgotten until the final seconds, with the exception of a few mysterious dream sequences involving a music box.

I didn't feel that Bean grew much as a character in these episodes, but that's more or less the case for Matt Groening's narratives. The only things she values in her life are her friendships with Elfo and Luci and her addiction to drinking, though that did seem somewhat less prevalent in this part. Her relationship with her father, King Zog, got tested multiple times during these episodes, but it doesn't help that Zog is just as much of a hot mess as she is, if not more so. We also learned more about her half-brother, Prince Derek, who tends to get immediately forgotten the second he goes off-screen. Bean reveals that she had always been jealous of Derek because Dreamland, like many medieval kingdoms, invokes the law known as primogeniture, in which a first-born prince has a claim to the throne over a first-born princess. Derek, on the other hand, does not have the same hard feelings toward Bean, at least until an unfortunate misunderstanding in the finale.

Overall, the second part of Disenchantment was roughly the same as the first part. They both contained intriguing story points during the first and last couple of episodes and very little of value in the middle. Bean is likable enough as a character, but not particularly interesting. If I were to improve this season, I would have put Dagmar in it more instead of having her go completely off the map until it's convenient. The strongest aspect of these episodes was that they further developed Bean's relationships with Zog, Derek, Elfo, and Luci. Thanks to the numerous filler episodes, we learned a lot about each of these characters as they came to terms with who they are and what they wanted to be. I'm less eager for the third part now that I've seen the pattern of filler episodes, but there's just enough that we haven't been told to make me curious enough to want to know more.


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