By: Webster Tilton
Disenchantment, for those who haven’t watched, was created by Matt Groening who also created The Simpsons and Futurama. And if you read these reviews then you’re aware that I’m fond of saying, “This show/movie is like X, if X were actually good.” And the temptation exists to do the same thing here, but there’s a problem. Futurama is one of my favorite shows of all time, and I haven’t seen an episode of The Simpsons in 20 years. Let me confess up front that I hate The Simpsons just for existing. Nothing could possibly remain fresh, interesting an uncompromised for that long. And if memory serves (though I grant, this is an iffy proposition) the show started to suck around season 7, which was why I stopped watching.
And it might not be a reasonable comparison in any case. While Disenchantment clearly came from the same mind, it’s a very different creature. It has season long story arcs, a relatively small cast of characters, and the freedom to use adult language and situations. The best thing about the show is that the characters have a way of taking up residence in your head and you can’t help but like them and care what happens to them. Having accomplished the most critical (and difficult) goal of any show, Disenchantment has earned some flexibility on everything else.
Rather than being hysterically funny, the humor of Disenchantment is more of a constant undercurrent that gets tapped into now and again for a solid, snarky laugh. The show does have excellent writing, snappy dialogue, excellent animation, great voice acting, and a good story arc. Its tone is cynical and slightly sad, because every character in this world wishes it was a better one. But they’re stuck with what they’ve got, and they do their best to cope. The main character, Princess Tiabeanie, is the unwilling heir to the kingdom of Dreamland. She has no interest in or talent for ruling a nation.
She doesn’t understand or like herself very much, but she knows what loyalty means and she cares about doing the right thing. In the first episode of season one, a group of conspirators summon up a personal demon to help ruin her. But Bean is already a hard drinking, self-loathing slacker and all the demon (Luci) has to do is just roll with it. The third member of the core trio is Elfo, an elf who escapes from Elfland because he finds it endlessly repetitive and boring.
As events progress, Elfo becomes less of a naïve fool, Luci outright defects from his assigned task of destroying Bean, and Bean discovers some self-worth by learning that the things she’s good at are valuable. And by having two deeply flawed friends that depend on her. She was always the center of the story, but season 3 gives us major evolutions to her character that forges a deep emotional connection with the audience. Now, instead of just finding her amusing and quirky, we genuinely care what happens to her.
The same thing happens to her father, King Zog, and several other secondary characters who were previously nothing more than human (or humanoid) catalysts to set events into motion. The show is still evolving, and I believe the best is yet to come, but the existing 3 seasons give us good reason to hope for more.