By Sasha Tucker New York City, New York
The third installment of Disenchantment, released in January, is more plot-focused than its predecessors. The show, created by Matt Groening of The Simpsons and Futurama, follows the misadventures of Princess Bean of Dreamland (voiced by Abbi Jacobson) and her two friends, Elfo (Nat Faxon), an elf; and Luci (Eric Andre), a two-dimensional demon from Hell.
At the end of the last season, our three heroes narrowly escaped being burned at the stake by the citizens of Dreamland. Episode 1 finds them in an underground catacomb populated by a species of Trogs, subterranean elf-like creatures with bug eyes. The subsequent episodes follow the trio up to the surface world, into Steamland (a neighboring, post-industrial kingdom), and back to Dreamland.
The show is undoubtedly compelling (and easily bingeable)––the characters, even in their most basic forms, are inherently funny and complement each other. In this season, Bean is willing to take on more responsibility as her father’s sanity dwindles. In seasons 1 and 2, Elfo and Luci were very much the angel and devil on her shoulders, but season 3 finds the trio working together rather seamlessly (plus the quips and digs that Elfo and Luci cannot help but make at each other).
Dreamland is, at its core, about a teen on the cusp of adulthood. Season 1 Bean was a slacker and procrastinator whose motives and morality remained foggy; season 2 Bean risks it all to save a friend; and season 3 Bean risks it all to save her kingdom. There is character development, sure, but Dreamland often skips over the intriguing concepts of its universe (like Luci’s two-dimensionality) and in its thickest plot moments leaves behind its characteristic humor.
A stand-out moment of season 3 was Bean’s return trip from Steamland. She and Elfo wind up on a boat with a mermaid named Mona in tow, and when they are shipwrecked, Bean is rescued by Mona. The two spend a day together, culminating in a kiss (and maybe more) on the beach. The whole day may or may not have been a dream, but regardless, it was the first time Disenchantment put its protagonist in a consensual romantic situation (and a queer one at that). Bean is growing up.
There’s a clear arc forming. Bean has some kind of destiny to fulfill (as all fantastical heroes do), and this season effectively highlights her capableness. Hopefully, the fourth installment will balance humor, character development, and plot more effectively.
Once you accept that Dreamland is genreless and its characters don’t ever go away (as one townsperson put it, “I mean, people get turned to stone or burned alive, and the next thing you know, they’re walking around, no harm, no foul.”), you can enjoy the show’s wry and punny humor. The plot is rather convoluted and perhaps riddled with holes, but you should stick around for the one-liners and moments with heart.