Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Disenchantment goes all steampunk in the penultimate episode of the season

Illustration for article titled Disenchantment goes all steampunk in the penultimate episode of the season

It was only a matter of time before science, or “stience,” landed in Dreamland. The kingdom ruled by false magic and superstitions would eventually have to confront technology sooner or later. The citizenry probably couldn’t predict that it would arrive in the form of an airship they just assume was a dragon, but when Bean shoots it down with a single arrow, they find Sky Gunderson, Air Captain of Yesteryear, inside. It doesn’t take long for Zøg and his cronies to throw him in the dungeon to await execution after being befuddled by his insistence that he’s not a shape-shifter and his magic whistle/hammer, aka his gun.


“The Electric Princess” pokes plenty of fun at Dreamland’s innate fear of the future. They’d rather believe a man turned into a bat to escape through the window of a dungeon prison than that same man could create an explosive device with regular items. But credited writer Jamie Angell really spreads his satirical and imaginative wings when Bean and Gunderson travel to a steampunk city, where everything is steam-powered and whose urban architecture are a chronological mish-mash. Simply put, the city is a visual delight, and a nice aesthetic break from the cheekily primitive world of Dreamland. There are cars (horses with wheels), automatic lights (buzzbrighters), even submarines (escape whales or electrofish). Bean’s eye-opening walk through the city features Disenchantment at its most awesome. This is what it looks like when you’re surrounded by people who aren’t ruled by base impulses and false beliefs.

Of course, it’s not all steam-pie in the sky. For one thing, Gunderson turns out to be a prick, someone who lords his knowledge and superiority over Bean, and views her merely as someone with the potential to be his “special intern.” (“Wow, that’s the kind of thing a guy says before I punch him in the gut,” Bean says, picking up on the gross implication.) Worse, he’s in league with a woman named Harriet who planned to deliver a gun to someone in Dreamland so they can kill Zøg. Bean gets wind of the plan and steals a steam-powered hot air balloon-esque machine to get back to Dreamland before it’s too late.

Bean has to face two enemies before she can inform her father of the truth. First, Gunderson, who stows away on the ship and tries to throw her off of it, but he’s easily dispatched by throwing a potato at his goggles. Second, however, is a little trickier: institutional sexism. We’ve seen Bean get shut out of certain spaces and dismissed by various elders because she’s a woman, despite the fact that the men in the kingdom are far less rational, or even sane, than her. She’s shut out of Gunderson’s initial interrogation, and when she finally arrives back to Dreamland, Odval, The Jester, and Pendergast dismiss her news that there’s an assassin hiding in Dreamland. When they see she has the “dragon whistle,” they assume she’s in league with Gunderson, having been bewitched by his dragonmancer powers. Zøg preaches caution, but Odval wants the whistle out of Bean’s hands.

But during the scuffle, a shot rings out in the throne room. Odval, Sorcerio, and Pendergast step back. Everyone turns to see a tiny hole in Zøg’s garment. Blood quickly pours out of it. He collapses. “Daddy!” Bean shouts as she rushes to comfort her father, but there might be no helping him now.

A murderer in the kingdom, a king on his last breath, a host of potential suitors itching to succeed the throne, and a princess accidentally responsible for her father’s grave injury. All of the ingredients are in place for a bloody finale.


Stray observations

  • On Disenchantment Signage: “Verne’s Jewels”; “El Pollo Mechanico”; “Otto’s Automatons”; “Bitsy’s Bitterbeer”; “Hot Steam: Ask For It By Name!”; “The Weekender: When You Want To Get Away…Very Slowly”; “Gunderson Airships: Visit Our Showroom 22483 Farnsworth Boulevard”; “All-City Annunciator.” Phew.
  • By the way, Farnsworth Boulevard is a clear Futurama reference. Maybe Hubert’s ancestors are lurking around somewhere.
  • Loved the news ticker in the steampunk city. “Inventions Up 30% Due To Discovery of Caffeine.” “Steam-Powered Dog Scalds Man.”
  • Oh, Luci and Elfo become roommates. They fight on a table filled with pancakes and ducks start attacking them, so it goes about as well as you’d expect.
  • “Give them time, they’ll come to understand.” “Kill him before we understand!”
  • “Throw him in the dungeon with that guy who mentioned human rights one time.”
  • “Who is in that potato?! What just happened?!”
  • “If you’re not an obnoxious hipster of any gender, you can become a craft brewer.”
  • “You’ve got my number.” “I don’t know what means, but thank you!”
  • “How could dragon guy just disappear? By magic? I want answers! Magical answers that solve everything once!”

Vikram Murthi is a freelance writer and critic currently based out of Brooklyn.