Luci, Bean, and Elfo
Image: Disenchantment (Netflix)

A marked improvement on the pilot, “Chapter II: For Whom The Pig Oinks” features Disenchantment’s first great joke premise: Mermaid Island and Walrus Island are right next to each other, and since walrus calls sound eerily like a siren song, wayward sailors flock to their deaths at the hands of tusked mammals instead of beautiful women. It’s a funny concept, courtesy of credited writer and Simpsons/Futurama alum David X. Cohen, that’s executed beautifully. If Disenchantment features more bits like these, it’ll be in good shape going forward.

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The majority of “Chapter II” focuses on Bean trying to squeal her way out of marrying Merkimer after he forcibly returns to her Dreamland. King Zøg wants to secure an alliance with Bentwood so he can share in their riches, but as the first scene of the episode emphasizes, Bean would rather jump off a cliff than marry for the sake of politics. She values her freedom, even if that freedom mostly amounts to drinking and shirking her princess duties. She eventually gets the idea to throw Merkimer a bachelor party on a “party barge,” which sails past Mermaid Island, named after Gerald K. Mermaid, and also contains a lot of mermaid. On the barge, men press their luck by tying themselves to the ship to resist the mermaid’s call, but Bean plans to loosen Merkimer’s ropes so his rampant horniness and poor impulse control will take over. He flocks to the mermaids, they kill him, and everyone goes home happy.

Matt Berry, a man who’s no stranger to playing caddish, obnoxious characters, receives a wonderful showcase as Merkimer in this episode. His pompous delivery not only livens up the episode’s dialogue but also goes a long way to crafting an obliviously villainous caricature. The scene when he dives into the water to swim in the direction of mermaids only to discover that they’re walruses and nevertheless accept their undying affection would be the episode’s funniest moment if it wasn’t bested by him commanding his new army of walrus sexual partners while screaming, “Mermaids attack!” just a few minutes later.

Unfortunately, the rest of the episode features some of the same slack pacing as the pilot. It gets bogged down in wrapping up Bean’s wedding arc, which is too truncated and not particularly funny enough to span two episodes and open the series, as well as Zøg’s plan to drain Elfo’s blood for its magical powers. The latter is a funny idea, especially when Sorcerio employs Middle Ages technology for blood letting, but it eventually begins to drag, and the sight gag of Zøg wading ankle-deep in pig’s blood isn’t enough of a payoff.

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However, “Chapter II” does feature some interesting character work, especially for Elfo, who fully assumes the mantle of the angel on Bean’s shoulder, albeit one that’s disappointed he can’t see her naked. While Elfo’s needy Nice Guy lecherousness feels especially tired, it falls in line with his flexible moral code. He might try to persuade Bean that she’s not a murderer (well, except for that one guy, who’s still not dead, by the way, but he’s suffering greatly) and he might refuse to loosen Merkimer’s ropes on the party barge so he doesn’t leap to his death, but when push comes to shove, he’ll still persuade Merkimer to drink pig’s blood on his wedding day to save Bean. Unlike most of the other elves in Elfwood, carefree and happy, Elfo feels jealousy, lust, and even rage. Sometimes that pushes him in nasty directions that go against his fundamentally optimistic nature.

In the end, Merkimer switches bodies with the pig as he walks to the altar, and Bean finally puts her foot down. Zøg relents, refusing to marry her daughter off to a literal pig, and proceeds to fight the king of Bentwood in front of the entire wedding party. Bean, Elfo, and Luci get drunk and watch two kings fight. “Chapter II” isn’t a great episode, but it does end on a nice note.

Stray observations

  • On Disenchantment Signage: The Welcome to Dreamland sign has replaced “Now With 5 Village Idiots” with “Now With Magical Elf.”
  • Favorite stray joke of the episode: Bean complains that she won’t be as happy as her mother in her wedding portrait. Cut to the painter who says he can change it if she likes. Bean responds, “No, that’s okay, Giuseppe. We hired you for your emotional realism.”
  • The party barge captain vacillating between expressing merriment and trepidation is an especially nice touch: “We be sailing now into treacherous waters. To starboard, man-eating sharks. To port, a sunset so beautiful the rest of your life will seem anticlimactic.”
  • “Didn’t you always want a husband who has screwed 30 walruses?”
  • “No, I told you. My name is Elfo. My home is called Elmo. I lived in an Elm.”
  • “Speaking of things getting poked, we’ve got a wedding to plan!” “Ew, Dad. Think out the words before they come out.” “I know. It felt weird when I said it.”
  • “I can get married or I can die. This should be a harder decision.”

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