While the new Netflix series Disenchantment, created by Matt Groening and co-developed with Josh Weinstein, has received mixed reviews, I binged it quickly and found plenty to like. This medieval fantasy send-up is different from The Simpsons and Futurama which is a good thing. Perhaps not as overtly funny as those two shows, it is still a worthy series. Here are six notable reasons why.
1. Princess Tiabeanie (aka Bean) turns the concept of the Disney Princess on its head — she’s bucktoothed, drinks a lot, chases men, and refuses to obey the patriarchal whims of her dopey father, King Zøg. She is also smarter and more self-aware than other Groening protagonists Homer J. Simpson and Philip J. Fry, making the humor less reliant on her being a buffoon. Yes, she does a lot of dumb things, but she also aspires to be something greater in an environment that does not encourage her to do so.
2. Despite Luci being a trouble-making demon who loves to stir up chaos, he also ultimately cares about Bean and Elfo, the goofy, naive “angel” on her shoulder to his devil. (Yeah, Elfo can be annoying, but hopefully he’ll mature. And we can nix his crush on Bean. Ain’t happening.)
3. Unlike the endless series of “What If?” scenarios of The Simpsons and Futurama, there is a narrative arc for Disenchantment that keeps the timeline moving forward with even minor characters re-emerging in linear fashion (such as Prince Merkimer, a marriage suitor for Bean who has been magically transformed into a talking pig). If Netflix decides they will stop with Season 2, we will likely get a resolution to the bigger story which involves two mysterious mages (the Enchantress and Cloyd) watching over Bean’s progress with a sinister slant to their agenda.
4. There is a lot of mature humor — an occasional overt sexual reference or bit of gore — that would not emerge on other Groening shows. But it fits within the world of Dreamland and its surrounding territories, particularly during the sinister “Hansel and Gretel” parody of Episode 5, “Faster, Princess! Kill! Kill!” This isn’t a family-oriented show. I’m sick of family-friendly animation anyway. You can see plenty of that at the movies.
5. The first season takes a darker twist at the end that leaves us with a cliffhanger and raises the stakes. I like that the whole show is not just played for laughs, and that — SPOILER ALERT — the loss of one major character and arrival of another heralds new things for the overall story.
6. Mark Mothersbaugh has created a spirited score for the show, and his main theme feels like a medieval dance number filtered through a New Orleans Dixieland sensibility. It’s fun, funky, and original.
Is the first season of Disenchantment perfect? Far from it. There is room for improvement, as has historically been the case with many long-running television shows (presuming this will be one). Not every episode is consistently funny, and there are many times I have laughed harder than at others. The Mary Sue has made the legitimate complaint that there need to be more women on the show, and we will see how that pans out in the second season.
Overall, this is a good first season that heralds greater things to come. Let’s see if the writers and creators are up to the task of expanding Bean’s journey and the world that’s been laid out.