Disenchantment

⭐⭐½ based on 2 reviews.

tl;dr: A huge amount of potential to be the Futurama of fantasy but it has yet to pay off. Some fun characters and decent plots, but it can't decide on what type of show it wants to be.

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Animated Sitcoms

Part One

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Probably the weakest outing by Groening to date, but still enjoyable. Much like Futurama, the pilot episode is largely problematic and fails to accurately outline the characters or narrative tone, but once it settles into a rhythm you start to see some of the clever satire the team are known for begin to shine through. Unfortunately, the longer the show goes on the more that narrative tone seems to conflict with itself. What starts out as a serialised story becomes a simple episodic arrangement poking fun at fantasy tropes (and doing so well), before morphing back into a serialised arc at the end. That it finishes with a genuinely intriguing note is almost more frustrating, leaving me really wanting season two but not sure which version of the show is better.

A really interesting cast too. Obviously John DiMaggio is present, but also Matt Berry and a cameo by Noel Fielding?!? Not complaining, love them both, just weird to see them pop up in an American run animation!

Part Two

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

The first season was a slow build with a very promising setup, having fleshed out an interesting premise and some enjoyable characters. Unfortunately, season two completely fails to utilise that momentum, instead sliding backwards to become a show that doesn't seem to know what it wants to be.

There are almost no repercussions from season one of note, as Bean's mother is quickly revealed to be a sorceress in league with the shadowy figures we've been observing, well, observe. Not only that, but in the first three episodes pretty much everything from season one is reverted or forgotten; there are some small dialogue changes and the effects are felt continually, but only in minor ways. Elfo's death is righted in one of the best episodes of the season, with some fun (but well balanced) jabs at religion whilst fleshing out this universe's afterlife a bit more; having managed to foil her mother's plan to kill her (or at least, screw into her skull), Bean's mum pretty much disappears; after about a week, Bean and co manage to de-stonify the kingdom. Sure, in the only piece of character development all season that feels causally linked to the story, Oona does leave to become a pirate, but otherwise no one seems that effected.

More frustratingly, though, is the fact that Disenchantment has picked up a whole new irritating trait: setting up plot lines and immediately abandoning them without explanation. One episode sees Bean and Elfo travel to the land of the ogres to find a magical berry cure. During the course of that adventure it is heavily implied that Elfo's mother is an Ogress, and quite possibly the Queen, but nothing comes of it and the hints are so in-your-face that it feels frustrating. In another, we get to meet Leavo, the first Elf to leave, who has become a pirate. For reason's never explained, he chooses to not only help our main characters get home, but also to convince the whole elvish race to abandon their home and come live in Dreamland. Whilst the episode hints heavily that some secret power or item is stored beneath Dreamland, which the elves covet, it simply ends with Leavo laughing and is then forgotten completely. We never even find out why the elves stay in Dreamland, living in shantytowns; it's like an entire episode was cut and no one realised. And then there's the whole episode around Bean's nightmares, weird musical box, and how "dreams in Dreamland are more powerful" which. Never. Goes. Anywhere. Either!

Which is all a bit of a shame, because when the show stops trying to set up running plot lines and just lives in the moment, it can be quite fun. Gags around mermaids, adventurers, pirates, and various other tropes are fun enough, though never actually laugh-out-loud funny, but where Disenchantment really shines is when it gets away from Dreamland. Much like Dankmire in season one, the best world-building happens in other lands, particularly Hell (as mentioned) and Steamland, which is just beautiful and incredibly interesting. That doesn't really help matters though, as it keeps reminding you how dull Dreamland actually is, lacking any kind of heart. Similarly, the best episodes are those that veer away from the big plots and central characters, becoming more like Futurama in being self-contained. An episode centring around a bank heist is genuinely fun and the plot around Zog's brief romance with a bear-lady (or forest selkie) has some of the most original ideas of the season, even if the rest of the episode is completely forgettable.

Ultimately, though, Disenchantment keeps trying to tie things back to some fuzzy, overarching plot, which has become completely lost in the woods of its own creation. I don't care about Bean's mum or the prophecy any more, which is a shame because they were such interesting elements of season one. I'm annoyed that the end of the season is another cliffhanger, particularly because it makes so little sense. The secret society aren't mentioned in season two at all until they're needed to brute force a plotline about Bean being tried as a witch! It seems to want to tread the fine line between weekly self-contained episodes, like most comedies (particularly Groening) ones, and more narrative-driven attempts like Final Space, but manages to screw both up and just fall down in the middle. I'll probably watch season three (or season two, because even their seasons appear to be irritatingly obtuse) but I won't be holding my breath.

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