‘Disenchantment’ finds its footing

Netflix’s animated, medieval-themed TV show, “Disenchantment,” created by Matt Groening and Josh Weinstein, features the voices of Abbi Jacobson as Bean, Eric Andre as Luci, and Nat Faxon as Elfo. 

Groening also co-created “The Simpsons” and “Futurama,” which originally aired on Fox.

Bean, also known as Princess Tiabeanie, meets Luci, a demon, and Elfo, an elf, after she accidentally kills Prince Merkimer, who she was supposed to wed in an arranged marriage. 

Since the first season of the show primarily focused on Bean, Luci, and Elfo’s adventures, the storyline rarely progressed until the final two episodes. And even though the second season began as a non-episodic journey through hell, the plot stalled during the middle section of the series.

The third season was released on Netflix Jan. 15.

After falling into an underground world full of eerie-looking elves, Bean, Elfo, and Luci attempt to escape from Queen Dagmar – Bean’s estranged mother. While back in Dreamland – the castle in which Bean resides – Zog, Bean’s father, is trying to save himself from being murdered.

Eventually, Bean, Elfo, and Luci escape the underground world, and meet up with Zog, who ended up surviving a tragic demise.

Instead of forcing jokes upon the viewers, the third season focuses more on Bean, Luci, and Elfo’s adventure – while adding a few irrelevant gags into the mix. This makes for a more enjoyable viewing, since the comedy doesn’t become the focus of the show.

Furthermore, the third season’s comedic moments primarily took the form of spoken dialogue, rather than slapstick violence. Due to this, the jokes were funny and natural.

Along with the comedy and improved plot, the well-written central characters were expanded upon even more. For instance, Bean was significantly further developed, in terms of her character motivation and perseverance.

Instead of focusing on the bad attributes of Bean, “Disenchantment Part III” examines her character on a much more emotional level than previously seen on the series. Rather than getting drunk with elves or causing mayhem with her friends, she is developed into a thoughtful and intelligent princess.

The show’s side characters were further developed as well – instead of being one-dimensional characters used for long-running gags, they were more fleshed out, but not to the extent of Bean. For the most part, the first season fell short, due to the underdeveloped characters, but the most recent season fixes most of the lackluster character arcs.

But even though the most recent season of “Disenchantment” improves many of the previous two seasons’ problems, it certainly isn’t perfect. In fact, a major downside is that the writers of the show wrote themselves into a corner yet again, due to the overly ambitious final episode.

Much like the previous two seasons’ endings, the last episode raises way more questions than answers and ends on an abrupt note. Due to this, the show’s writers usually scramble to write themselves out of the plot holes, since the first episode of seasons’ two and three felt rushed and discombobulated.

Along with the misguided conclusion, the animation was sub-par. While Groening’s shows are not known for being the best animated, I expected a significant improvement from the last season.

While this wasn’t an issue for the most part, it did take away from a few of the season’s most crucial moments – especially with close-ups of the characters’ faces. For the most part, I’m not often bothered by crudely drawn characters and landscapes, but it feels a little off for this type of show.

“Disenchantment” as a show has always suffered from a continuous lack of heart. Although the third season brings more empathy to its characters, a majority of the side characters – along with a few central ones – don’t show remorse for murder.

I believe Groening should stick to his original formula, rather than try to make an edgy show. After all, “The Simpsons” and “Futurama” didn’t try to be the next “South Park.”

Even though it is nowhere near as flawless as Groening’s other two shows, “Disenchantment” feels unique and fresh. Despite getting off to a rocky start, the series has developed into a fun, somewhat raunchy show aimed at adults. Rather than having a heavy focus on the jokes, the third season balances the gags with superb adventure.

While “Disenchantment Part III” does fall short in a few aspects, the adventurous tone of the season makes up for most of its shortcomings. For the most part, the writing is snappier, the jokes are funnier, and the character development is vastly improved. 

Despite the first and last episode of the season being somewhat mediocre, “Disenchantment Part III” expands on Groening’s original vision in a positive way.

Grade: B 

“Disenchantment” proves it doesn’t need to follow the same formula as “The Simpsons.”