Disenchantment continues with its weakest season yet.
- 🪄 Visually stunning
- 🪄 Funny enough
- 🪄 Every joke goes on for too long
- 🪄 Too much plot
- 🪄 Not enough Luci
This post contains spoilers for Disenchantment season 3.
Disenchantment has finally returned. Netflix's definitely-not-for-kids cartoon created by animation legend Matt Groening (as in The Simpsons) hasn’t fared all that well with critics but has been pretty well-received by Netflix viewers. Season 2 was definitely a step in the right direction, giving us plenty more character and world development. We were really starting to get to grips with Dreamland and its many surrounding kingdoms, despite the sheer random nature of Groening’s newest animated world. We got a lot closer to protagonist Bean (Abbi Jacobson) and learned a lot more about Dreamland’s history.
With everything starting to fall into place, Disenchantment was beginning to become a promising hit, so Netflix ordered an additional 20 episodes that would be spread across two seasons. Originally slated for release sometime in 2020, season 3 finally landed on January 15, 2021.
So, was it worth the wait? Not really.
We pick up exactly where Season 2 left us. Bean has been tried by her own brother for being a witch and for the assassination of King Zøg (John DiMaggio). Consequently, she's been burned at the stake with her mischievous friends Luci (Eric André) and Elfo (Nat Faxon). Right as the flames engulfed them, the trio fell down into a deep pit filled with elf-like beings called trøgs. Here, they’re confronted by Queen Dagmar (Sharon Horgan) who’s returned to drag Bean back into fulfilling whatever infernal destiny is lined up for her.
From here, the story goes completely off the rails. King Zøg, who is not dead, has to thwart Prime Minister Odval (Maurice LaMarche) and the Archdruidess's (Tress MacNeille) plans to dethrone him, going completely mad in the process. Steamland appears to pose a threat to Dreamland once more, Prince Derek marries an aged fairy called Sagatha, and we follow Bean and the gang to other kingdoms like Bentwood on some stupid side-quests. If you’re a Disenchantment devotee, you’ll love revisiting these worlds and seeing more of them. However, some of these aimless journeys leave some episodes feeling disconnected from the others.
This is because Disenchantment crams way too much material into its third season, resulting in each mini-arc feeling unresolved or underdeveloped. For example, the mid-season return to Steamland is set-up as way more significant to the story than it actually is. Likewise, the stop-off at mermaid island does almost nothing to move the show on, either. This stream of new, pointless ideas continues right the way to the end of the season, with new villains and friends even cropping up just before the credits roll on episode ten. There’s just far too much established to ever be dealt with in just 10 episodes, so Season 3 ends far too abruptly without answering most of the questions posed throughout.
I’d be less harsh if a lot of the jaunts to other kingdoms were entertaining but, for the most part, they’re full of lazy jokes. Whilst season 3 starts off with a wide variety of gags and fun cameo characters, Disenchantment quickly gets bogged down in overly-long visual gags and tired parodies that drag on way too long. You’ll grow particularly tired of King Zøg’s maddened gibberish well before the season is over, and Elfo’s jokes about marriage and treating women right when he falls in love with a boat (yes, you read that right) really fall flat throughout episode 6.
Worse still is the fact that Luci, Bean's wisecracking, delightful demon companion, is almost entirely missing for several episodes. Luci's absence severely increases the number of awkward, horny jokes that we get from Elfo, vastly throwing the group dynamic out of whack. This makes the middle episodes more cringe-inducing than comedic. The trio is at their best together, where Luci's sarcasm can punctuate the dead air from Elfo, so the decision to remove him just doesn't make sense.
Despite this, there are still some laughs to be had; Elfo’s insatiable trøg lover Trixy (Lauren Tom) had me laughing out of pure discomfort, and I am definitely a sucker for the return of the show's singing walruses. With a cast comprised of A-list actors and comedians, you get some fantastic performances from the likes of Richard Ayoade and Sharon Horgan alike. Even minor characters like Stan the Executioner (Noel Fielding) also gets some of the best lines in the entire season, and I’ll happily admit to belly-laughing at his torture gag in the final episode. It’s just a shame that the good jokes have to be found between dated visual references to Donkey Kong or a ritual which involves Elfo and twenty trøgs forming a circle and spanking each other’s bare arses underneath the full moon.
The show’s biggest strength is still its visual direction, as Disenchantment’s world and creatures are consistently among the most interesting of all of Groening’s creations. In season 3 we flit between Dreamland, the twisting caves underground, mermaid island’s tropical paradise and the harsh steampunk carnival of Steamland Alongside the psychedelic drug trips and beautiful, dense landscapes, we get a vibrant cast of distinctive characters, each one as unique as the last. Apart from an occasional recycled frame or two of animation (which is barely noticeable) each episode is visually striking in its own way. Characters move naturally and dynamically and stand out from the more painterly, dramatic backgrounds.
Overall, Disenchantment's third season is its weakest by some margin. It attempts to give fans of the show more of the wondrous locales and fantastic creatures but loses its plot and direction in the process. There are still laughs to be had along the way, but not enough to stop entire episodes feeling almost entirely like wasted time. With ten more episodes already in production, here’s hoping Disenchantment’s fourth season will be an improvement and will solve many of the puzzles from Season 3.
Disenchantment Season 3 is available on Netflix now.
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