Luci, Bean, and Stan the Executioner
Image: Disenchantment (Netflix)

In “Chapter IV,” Disenchantment hung a lampshade on the flexibility of their fantasy world via a stranger who complains about the lack of hard-and-fast rules in Dreamland. It’s almost as if the writer were priming the audience for “Chapter V: Faster, Princess! Kill! Kill!” in which Disenchantment further breaks from the medieval fantasy genre and incorporates fairy tales into the proceedings. In the back half of the episode, Elfo stumbles into an inverted version of Hansel and Gretel where Hansel and Gretel are the cannibals who lure unsuspecting people into a candy house they’ve taken over. While this will likely bother some nerdlingers, I relish any opportunity for Disenchantment to keep building outwards, even if that means some genre mixing. After all, The Simpsons and Futurama never let their boundaries remain fixed; they kept expanding until they encompassed the entire universe.

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Unfortunately, “Chapter V,” the weakest episode of the series since the pilot, suffers mostly because it inelegantly smashes two dull stories together. The first story follows Bean’s banishment from the castle until she proves her worth. Following his discovery of Bean’s disastrous rager, Zøg sends her off to a nunnery, but she quickly gets kicked out for questioning religion. She soon finds herself at the home of Bunty, her lady-in-waiting, who lives with her husband Stan the Executioner and her large brood of children. Bean tries to land a job, but after failing at sheepherding (she herds them off a cliff), lighthouse keeping (all the ships crash into the rocks), and pet shop assistant (she butchers all the pets), she’s just about ready to give up. Just before she crawls back to her father, Stan offers her apprentice work as an executioner. Before she can get her feet wet, however, she’s tasked to kill a crazy witch who reportedly abducted many people in the woods, including Hansel and Gretel.

Of course, when the time comes, and all of Dreamland prepares to watch a bloody decapitation, Bean can’t follow through. A failure and a quitter and a loser, she walks away to the woods in shame, and just when she’s ready to give up hope, she sees tracks from Elfo, who escaped Bunty’s grasp after she babied him for too long. Bean and Luci investigate the trail and find that it leads to a candy-covered house manned by the famous Hansel and Gretel, only Elfo is being roasted alive and they plan to make a “Bean” casserole.

Thus begins the episode’s second story, which involves Bean killing the deranged Hansel and Gretel before she and her friends end up their dinner. Luci saves Elfo from the oven and Bean evades a series of candy-themed booby traps to kill Hansel and Gretel, which lifts the curse on the imprisoned witch, allowing her to speak with words instead of exclusively through cackles. Bean gets to set the innocent witch free in front of the whole kingdom, only she doesn’t reveal to the witch that her candy house blew up, and her twin sister that lives in the attic died in the explosion. Nevertheless, Bean receives a medal from her father, who tells her he’s proud.

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Neither the “Bean makes her own way” nor the “Bean fights Hansel and Gretel” stories are particularly compelling. For one thing, the two stories feature razor-thin premises: Bean wallowing in self-pity after barely failing at a handful of tasks can hardly sustain interest for as long as it goes on, and while Bean’s fight with Hansel and Gretel contains some neat action, it mostly begins and ends exactly how you’d expect. (Also, the “Elfo regresses into a baby” B-plot is pretty lame all around.) It’s nice to see Bean eke out a win, even one that’s fairly compromised, and see her relationship with Zøg develop a little bit, but “Chapter V” is uneven and boring. Plus, the majority of the episode’s jokes are stale—a big book of golf jokes used as a torture device, warmed over German stereotypes, meat and candy puns, etc. The whole episode is pretty uninspired, but at least we learn that Zøg instated a yelling tax that has come back to haunt him. It’s a bright spot in an otherwise grey chapter of the Disenchantment saga.

Stray observations

  • On Disenchantment Signage: 1. “Our Lady of Unlimited Chastity: Live Prude Girls”; 2. “Little Orphan Annex”
  • Stan might be the friendliest, cheeriest executioner in any world: “Well, we best be heading to work. It’s an executioner joke! You’ll hear all of them in the first 15 minutes, then it’s basically just human tragedy.”
  • The nuns chant a pretty catchy mantra: “I am bad and you are bad and we are bad together / Humanity’s a wretched life but God is slightly better.”
  • Sorcerio crafts a special effect for Zøg that will make smoke come out of his ears whenever he’s mad. Of course, it doesn’t go off at the right time.
  • Some nice gags: The guy selling blood ponchos at the execution, and the other guy selling “Me Flavored Water” for 15 cents.
  • “You’re a good-for-nothing, and you’re good at nothing, and you’re not coming back ‘til you appreciate all the money I poured into yelling at you.”
  • “Just use the force! Centrifugal force!”
  • “Do I detect some kind of mallow? I want to say marsh…”
  • “Don’t be modest. You killed these mentally ill siblings fair and square.”

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