Review: Disenchantment - Part 3

I have a lot of mixed feelings about Disenchantment. I love the concept of a fantasy princess show from Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons and Futurama, which both have deeply flawed protagonists that people would not associate with the heroes or heroines from fairy tales. Bean is a new kind of princess who is more likely to hang out at the local tavern instead of attending a royal ball. Her two sidekicks, Elfo, a lovesick runaway elf and Luci, a demon who was kicked out of Hell, give the show plenty of humor and charm. The biggest flaw derives from its format. The Simpsons and Futurama were long-running episodic series that pumped out a lot of episodes that could be watched in any order with the intention of being syndicated on network television. Netflix series are designed to be binged, which means they release small chunks of episodes that give enough of a cohesive story to satisfy viewers for another year while they wait for the next season. So far, Disenchantment has failed to tell a satisfying story in any of its first three seasons and instead gives us three piles of filler episodes that lead up to a tantalizing teaser for the next season that never lives up to the hype.

Disenchantment Season 3 Poster

The third season of Disenchantment is a slog of a binge. I found it difficult to pay attention to the thinly linked episodes because nothing that happened seemed to matter in the grand scheme of things. I was hoping that this season would focus more on Bean's relationship with her mother, but Queen Dagmar was only in it marginally more than the previous season. Most of the episodes expanded on more of Bean's zany adventures running through the fantastical kingdoms of her world with Elfo and Luci. It seemed like they were always trying to get away from someone, but it was difficult to keep track of who or why, which made me less invested in the chase. Her brother, Prince Derek, had five minutes of character growth involving a unicorn and a saggy faery, which was nice, but it felt so unnecessarily rushed and mixed in with irrelevant gags that didn't help move the story or build the world. One highlight of the season was Bean's whirlwind romance with Mora the Mermaid, revealing her orientation as a queer princess.

Mora the Mermaid

Woven beneath this season's wacky exterior is an underlying theme of loneliness. Its plot inconsistencies are compensated by this consistent theme. Every character struggles with a desire to be loved. This theme was most prevalent with Bean's father, King Zog, who is literally buried alive at the beginning of the season. When he escapes, he struggles with severe mental illness, which is treated as a joke with dark undertones. Zog suffers a great deal of trauma and loneliness throughout the season until he is reunited with Bean, who is determined to not give up on him. Bean has always been a lonely outcast, but her desire for love is emphasized even more by the tragic brevity of her romance with Mora the Mermaid. Elfo takes a break from his pining over Bean to seek out a relationship with a fortune telling head he meets at a freak show, which ends in tragedy as well. In the end, Bean and her friends begrudgingly come to terms with the fact that they are doomed to never find a deeper relationship than the one that they share with each other.

Zog - The Emotionally Unstable King

The biggest contributor to the problems with this season is its lack of a consistent villain. Every episode seems to have a new bad guy. While that would work fine for a Saturday morning cartoon from the '90s, it makes it difficult to enjoy of for a 10-episode arc. I didn't even have time to figure out Queen Dagmar's goal in kidnapping Bean during the first episode before Bean escapes and encounteres a new threat. By the time she tracsd down the wicked Arch Druidess in Steamland, it turns out someone else might have been the true threat, but she runs away from there before we could determine exactly how. In order for this show to be a true success, it should have a single villain with a clear motive. If it were up to me, that villain would be Dagmar to allow more time for Bean to explore her messed up relationship with her mother.

Overall, this season was a miss for me. It suffers from the same problems as the other two and ends just when things start to get interesting yet again. They've already played this trick on me twice before, and I'm over it. I'm sick of being strung along with the implication that something big is about to happen only to wash, rinse, and repeat another set of filler episodes. I am sad to say that after three seasons, Disenchantment has failed to reach same the level of character growth or worldbuilding as Futurama. The teasers for the next season look amazing, but after the way this one turned out, I will be entering it with a healthy amount of skepticism.

Comments

I do wish that more of Josh Weinstein's influence was in this series. If you don't know who he is, he helped Matt Groening develop this series. He also worked on The Simpsons during the 1990s, was a writer and producer on Futurama, and worked on season 2 of Gravity Falls. I figured a similar charm to his work on those shows would've spread here.

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