Now, that’s more like it.
If the first two chapters of Disenchantment pushed setting over character and humor, then “Chapter III: The Princess of Darkness,” the series’ first stand-alone episode, finally brought the laughs. The episode’s opening sequence is the series’ finest, funniest sequence to date, featuring some stellar gags, including the herald walking around announcing that “all is well,” if you don’t count the death, disease, and rampant poverty, and the Dreamland police force making walkie talkie sounds in their bullhorns. It’s silly and invokes the fantasy setting exceptionally well. Plus, who doesn’t love a good chase sequence, especially when it ends with an aristocratic lady drowning in a lake.
The episode features Bean fully leaning into her rebellion, much to the chagrin and confusion of her father. She steals her stepmother’s drugs (snake root, comparable to cocaine), wreaks havoc around town, and eventually raids her own family’s tomb for jewels at the behest of gender-conscious street villains. Zøg genuinely worries about Bean, but doesn’t listen to her valid explanation for her wild behavior: “What do you expect from someone who’s got no control over her own destiny? So I turn to booze, drugs, and my evil little friend.” It makes sense that Bean would push back against a social order that demands her be silent, pretty, and married all at once. But Zøg doesn’t understand all that, so naturally he and his wise council conclude that she’s been possessed by a demon.
Speaking of Zøg, “Chapter III” features some great voice work courtesy of John DiMaggio. Abbi Jacobson, Nat Faxon, and Eric Andre all do fine jobs in their respective roles, but it’s a treat hearing Futurama alums flex their voices in slightly new directions. Zøg might be fairly one-note (he yells, he rules the kingdom, he yells some more, etc.), but DiMaggio has so much fun with it that it’s hard to get too worked up over the static nature of the character. His painfully slow realization that Bean is responsible for the crime spree is an episode highlight (“Let’s have a look at this no-good pile of scum, starting at the feet…”) and he gets countless funny lines that are aided by his raspy Queens car mechanic-like delivery, e.g. “Oh, sweetie. I can see the sparkle in your eyes is gone. It’s such a relief.”
“Chapter III” also briefly expands on the Luci character, mainly setting some boundaries for his wickedness. Luci might be the devil on Bean’s shoulder, but he’s much more passive than the other evil monsters lurking in the shadows of Dreamland. He prods Bean to give into her dark nature, as a cursed demon is wont to do, but he doesn’t exactly set her up for imminent death. The exorcist Zøg hires to remove the demon from Bean’s soul, however, very quickly settles on burning her flesh as the appropriate course of action. Luci, forced into the position of being the good guy, puts out the flames around Bean’s bed only to be captured by the exorcist and carted off to a volcano to be disposed. Bean and Elfo quickly realize that they need Luci to have any fun whatsoever, and so they chase after the exorcist to save him from destruction.
Still, elements of Disenchanted persistently rankle. Even though this episode is easily the series’ best so far, it still feels like there’s one too many story beats that drag the action down as it goes from point A to point B. The street villain digressions aren’t funny enough to justify stalling the episode twice, and though the community of demons in bottles is a nice Futurama-esque detail, it still needlessly draws out Luci’s eventual rescue. These episodes would benefit from tighter structure, but considering that each episode is 27 minutes long at minimum, I should probably accept the loose pacing as par for the course.
However, I do appreciate that “Chapter III” doesn’t continue the series’ strained serialization. Many streaming shows rely on the audience’s built-in preference for binging to push hyper-serialized narratives, even when the series can’t support it. So it’s a nice change of pace that “Chapter III” works as a discrete unit. Even though the episode ends with Bean, Elfo, and Luci setting all the demons free and spreading evil around the world, everything will effectively reset in the next episode, which almost feels like a throwback concept at this point. Sometimes the simplest pleasures are the ones you long for the most.
- On Disenchantment Signage: There are quite a few in this episode. 1. “Bridge Out: Next Time Pay Your $@&# Bridge Tax!”; 2. “Royal Tombs: You Can Take It With You”; 3. “Mt. Piping Hot Suckhole: Must Be This Tall To Sacrifice”; 4. “King’s Council In Session: Eavesdroppers Will Be Dropped From Eaves”; 5. “VII-XI: Open Since The Year 711,” which is my personal favorite and might be the series’ funniest sight gag to date.
- Speaking of the 7/11 humor, the rolling dead squirrels a la rolling hot dogs is a wonderful touch.
- The shadowy figures that tasked Luci to corrupt Bean’s mind return once again. They’re still mysterious and their scenes exist mainly to remind us that they’re still around.
- I appreciated that a single lemon is Zøg’s most prized possession, which he acquired during the Lemon Crusades, and he apparently stares at it while drinking vodka sodas.
- “I’ve tried everything—screaming, yelling, everything!”
- “Your weird cat? I’ll pulverize him! I’ll pet him in the wrong direction! I’ll put a cucumber beside him! That drives ‘em crazy!”
- “No demon could survive this preposterous degree of jiggling!”
- Here’s Bean’s drug-fueled band rant in full: “Wow. My God, you guys, we should start a band. Yes, we sound amazing. We’ll fix up an old carriage and tour the country, playing what we want to play, never selling out, never splitting up. Elfo, you’re out of the band! We’re a duo now. The fans didn’t even notice. Luci, you fell off a balcony, or were you pushed? We’ll never find out. Dreams come true because I am a solo act now! The fans love my voice. I have dreadlocks, but then I shave my head, like a true artist. Why is the crowd booing? Oh no, I’m the talentless one! Elfo, you came back! Lucy, I thought I pushed you. I mean, we’re together again. Let’s get out there. We’re back on top. Nothing will stop us now. Oh no, I have cancer. What?!”