“Disenchantment” Part Three Casts a Spell
Reading Time: 4 minutes
Legendary cartoonist Matt Groening created a timeless classic with “The Simpsons” (1989-) and a cult favorite with his foray into sci-fi, “Futurama” (1999-2013). His latest creation, “Disenchantment,” takes a step into the past to create a new, rather unconventional, fairytale.
“Disenchantment” follows the alcohol-fueled adventures of Princess Tiabeanie (Bean for short), her personal demon Luci, and Elfo—an ironically grumpy elf. Together, the three navigate the fantastical world of Dreamland and beyond, going on misadventures ranging from chasing exorcists and curing elves to escaping prophecies, and everything in between. On a quest to save the kingdom from Bean’s estranged mother, crazed theologians, and various invaders, the characters must traverse new worlds, while revisiting a few old ones and learning a great deal about themselves along the way.
The character development in Part Three is even more extensive than that of past seasons. Most notably, Bean’s personal growth is immense. Previously, audiences saw her evolve from a reckless teenager to a brave adventurer. In this season, however, Bean matures emotionally, having to come to terms with her father’s insanity, and steps up to replace him as the Queen of Dreamland. Audience members are also exposed to a more vulnerable, naive side of Bean as she explores her sexuality in a few heartwarming episodes. In season two, the three leads develop together, but this season separates them to allow for individual growth. Season three advances the “antihero” role Luci has been playing: in spite of being a demon, his kind nature is even more evident after this third installment. In seasons one and two, Elfo—while pessimistic compared to his Elven relatives—was the optimist of the group. This season, even though he maintains his silly charm, an array of heartbreak and disappointment forces him to take off his rose-colored glasses. The episodes also follow King Zog’s gradual descent into madness after a near-death experience. In addition to the growth of the main characters, nuance is also added to previously unimportant side characters as they become more integral to the plot. For example, Bean’s amphibian ex-stepmother, Oona, helps Bean deal with her father’s insanity and acts as a much-needed mother figure. Even though some screen time is taken away from the main cast, the development of these secondary figures proved necessary for the show. The stories of the supporting cast were key to discovering some of the mysteries of Dreamland and opened up several new possibilities for season four. In earlier seasons, it seemed like these characters were simply sources of comedic relief, but season three confirmed that they will each play significant roles in saving the kingdom.
What makes “Disenchantment” a standout among Groening’s other shows—and other animated comedies in general—is how plot-driven the show has become. In Parts One and Two, “Disenchantment” toes the line between an episodic format and a more grand, unified plot; most of the episodes stood alone, with “mini-arcs” at the beginning and end of every season. Following a multi-episode quest, the characters would return to Dreamland to continue their misadventures. Part Three consistently pushes the story forward, and the episodes benefit heavily from the serialization. After this season, it seems that the show has settled heavily into its story and is no longer concerned with going back home. Because of this switch, “Disenchantment” Part Three really delivers in the world-building aspect. While the previous seasons took place primarily in Dreamland, the newest installment of “Disenchantment” branches out and creates a developed world, integrating new locations into the plot. However, this narrative shift is bound to face some growing pains. Some episodes in Season three are jam-packed with story, leaving little room for humor, while others are a bit slower and take unnecessary detours. Despite this, as a whole, season three is well-paced and strikes a comfortable balance between telling a story and amusing the audience.
The cast also finds their footing and gets into the groove of their characters in season three. Abbi Jacobson is perfect as Bean and does a great job of capturing her rough-around-the-edges personality. Nat Faxon is hilarious as Elfo, guaranteeing a laugh whenever he cracks a joke. However, Luci’s voice actor, Eric Andre, is easily the best of the three, offering snide, philosophical remarks that are welcome in almost any scene. John DiMaggio—better known as Futurama’s Bender—maintains his wonderful performance as King Zog, though, with Zog’s limited role this season, DiMaggio isn’t able to explore his character as deeply as others. Regardless, the cast is a highlight of the show and manages to deliver countless laughs, even during a more plot-heavy season.
Visually, “Disenchantment” is by far Groening’s most stunning series. The superior animation was already clear from seasons one and two, but the varied environments of season three just highlight it further. From the vibrant subterranean Trogland to the lavish and ostentatious Bentwood, the modern steampunk-esque Steamland, and even the quaint and charming Mermaid Island, every location and sequence is absolutely mesmerizing. Even if “Simpsons”-brand humor isn’t for you, “Disenchantment” is worth watching for the captivating visuals alone.
Part Three was a massive step forward for “Disenchantment,” giving viewers an extremely intriguing storyline while maintaining the level of hilarity audiences have come to expect of Groening. Even though the humor wasn’t front-and-center this season, the character development, world-building, animation, and captivating plot make this series a delight to watch. The show’s consistent improvement hints that the best is yet to come.