Review: Disenchantment - Part 4

The fourth season of Disenchantment is one of several princess surprises that were released on Netflix over the past couple of months. The new season even contained a reference to another recent princess release on Netflix called The Royal Treatment. I'm not sure if this reference was intentional, but it sure seemed that way since both projects are produced by the same popular streaming service. I had low expectations for Disenchantment after a disappointing third season last year, but I was pleasantly surprised this time. It seemed like the writers either learned from their mistakes or read a lot of reviews that were similar to mine. Either way, this season had much stronger continuity and character development, and felt less disjointed than the previous releases. It's probably the best season of Disenchantment so far.

Disenchantment Season 4 poster

The season begins with Bean, who is now Queen of Dreamland, being forced by her wicked mother to marry the devil. The troubled royal teen takes the show back to its roots by running away from her wedding yet again. This time, however, she has learned from her past mistakes and escapes the doomed marriage by outsmarting both Satan and her mother. Where her first wedding was an awkward series of embarrassing and dire mishaps, this one was so cleverly executed that it had me shouting "You go girl!" to the TV.  The season also addressed Bean's pent-up feelings for Mora the mermaid, who made a few minimal appearances including a subtle nod to "The Little Mermaid." The rest of the season presented a healthy helping of growth for the rest of the show's cast as well including Elfo, Luci, and King Zog. Per her usual pattern, Queen Dagmar acted as bookends for the season and continued her pattern of cameo appearances in only the first and last episodes.

Unlike other seasons which floundered in the middle, this one did a fantastic job of taking all the major events that happened in the characters' lives so far and portraying how they have changed over the last four years. Elfo learns more about the true identity of his mother after the revelation that she wasn't an elf, while Luci must come to terms with how his friendship with Bean made him so good that he now a demon who fits in neither Heaven nor Hell. Even King Zog has a spiritual awakening when he visits a monastery and realizes that the most important thing in his life is the people he cares about, leading up to unexpected reunion with a bear selkie he had a fling with previously. Everything that happened to these characters define who they are today, no matter how random they may have seemed at the time.

Not only did this season reveal secrets about the characters, but it also expanded upon the lore of the kingdom of Dreamland. The "dream" aspect of the kingdom is taken quite literally here as the season's climax requires Bean to come to terms with a recurring dream that forces her to face her inner demon (which is not Luci). Her father insinuated that he is also familiar with the magical dreams created by the kingdom that likely led to its namesake. There were also deeper revelations that seemed reminiscent of the plot of Frozen 2 about how humans conquered Dreamland from the elves in the distant past. It even expanded upon the secret magic buried within Dreamland that caused the figureheads of Steamland to want to steal it, although that particular revelation left me with more questions than it did answers. As expected, this season ended with yet another cliffhanger, but one tgat was not nearly as frustrating as many of the previous ones.

The writers of Disenchantment have taken criticisms of the show gracefully and learned from their past mistakes. The disjointed format of the first few seasons worked well for Matt Groening's other shows that are in syndication like The Simpsons or Futurama, but modern streaming shows that are made to be binged in chronological order need more of an overarching thread that I believe this latest season accomplished. Underneath all the zany jokes and gratuitous shock value, the series found its heart by giving each character someone to fight for. Like any good princess story, all the humor in the world is empty without true love to give it meaning.

Comments

The part with season 4 being more committed with its long form storytelling reminds me of this interview that Josh Weinstein (one of the showrunners) took part in last year. Basically, with seasons 4-6 (which, like seasons 1-3, is splitting 20 episode seasons in half), they're building towards more of a conclusion. When building up to something epic, more long form storytelling and continuity callbacks become more commonplace as someone finds their groove working on a project.

https://www.skwigly.co.uk/disenchantment-josh-weinstein-part-one/

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