After a year on hiatus, Disenchantment returns with the second part of its 20-episode first season, and everyone’s fates are still in flux. Queen Dagmar has turned the citizens of Dreamland to stone, save for King Zøg and his son Derek, and pinned the crime on Zøg’s amphibian second wife, Oona. Dagmar escapes with Bean, her daughter, by ship for a new land. Meanwhile, Elfo is still dead and Luci has been captured. This entire calamity has been orchestrated because Bean has a mysterious destiny that needs to be fulfilled, of which neither she nor the audience knows anything about.
“Disenchantress,” credited to writer Shion Takeuchi, predictably plays coy with the nature of such a destiny, as it’s likely to be slowly revealed over the course of this season or the next. Instead, the episode follows Bean as she explores Maru, a mysterious kingdom ruled by dark magic which once had a mice-based economy. Bean notes, in awe, that it’s “a whole different type of bleak and desperate than Dreamland,” which about sums it up, despite Dagmar’s claims that it contains real beauty and magic. (That is, if you look past the rabid goats and unsalted pretzels.) It’s a kingdom like any other, which means dark secrets lie right below the surface.
Emperor Cloyd and the Enchantress, two previously mysterious figures who sent Luci to corrupt the mind of the young princess, are the primary keepers of those secrets, what with the oracle fire and their communication with Hell. Dagmar introduces Bean to them as her aunt and uncle, but she mostly picks up on their suspicious behavior instead of the family resemblance. Soon, Bean discovers a secret shrine to her in the “Prophecy Fulfillment Center” and it doesn’t take long for Dagmar and co. to gaslight her into believing she’s paranoid.
There’s some reason for concern, considering that the Mariabeanie family has been cursed with murderous insanity for generations. Paranoia, hallucinations, and murder are the main symptoms, and given that Bean might have imagined a shrine and has racked up a decent body count over her lifetime (“It’s always been an accident, self-defense, or justifiable homicide. Oh my God. I’ve killed a lot of people!” she suddenly realizes), it’s not out of the question that she could be losing her mind. It would just make her a member of the family.
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Of course, Bean quickly learns she’s on solid mental footing after she finds evidence of the shrine behind another secret door. When she confronts Dagmar about it, she finally discovers her mother’s true evil intentions. “There are things beyond your understanding you are destined for,” she sneers as she locks her away before the ceremony, which involves a spiked crown stained with the dried blood of previous sacrifices. If she can bear it, their destiny is secure.
But Dagmar, Cloyd, and the Enchantress couldn’t account for the sheer bravery and obedience of Jerry, their littlest lunkhead brother who was rendered a permanent 10-year-old when they once tried to fit the crown on him. Voiced by David Herman in a cockney accent with an adolescent lisp, Jerry receives the brunt of abuse from his family. He’s forced to work 24-hour guard shifts, has to beat himself up when he steps out of line, and he only has a pet hammer to keep him company. However, Bean recognizes his utility immediately. He’s been in the kingdom for so long that he knows much more than his simple demeanor lets on. It’s Jerry the one who confirms that the Queen Mariabeanie portrait was moved to the shrine to throw Bean off the scent. He’s the one who tells Bean where Luci has been stashed away. He agrees to step in to take her place at the ceremony when she sneaks away. For all his trouble, he receives a fatal blow to the head from Dagmar.
As one can easily surmise, “Disenchantress” covers a lot of ground while also filling in the audience about the fate of the rest of the ensemble. Zøg still putters around Dreamland, staving off boredom and depression. Dagmar has banished Oona to the bottom of the ocean, even though Oona can breathe underwater. (“Is death, or is?” she sarcastically asks herself.) Luci has been banished to a bottle by Cloyd and Enchantress, who believe that he has completed their task. Bean’s reunion with Luci pulls the briefest of heartstrings (“I missed you, you son of a bitch!” they yell in unison), especially since Bean previously tried to “recast” Elfo and Luci with a gnome and a cat.
Though “Disenchantress” drags in the middle because it becomes a waiting game as to when Bean will learn the truth, it picks up at the end with a cat-and-mouse chase sequence involving collapsing bookshelves, a mother-daughter brawl, and a new mission: revive Elfo. The oracle fire tells them he’s in Heaven, and though the connection is spotty, they tell him to make his way to Hell where they can meet up. Dagmar tries one last time to make her daughter fulfill her prophecy, but at the last possible moment, Jerry regains consciousness just long enough to knock Dagmar out. He dies knowing that he helped out a friend.
“Hell is dangerous, Bean,” Luci warns. “If they find you down there, you’ll be stuck for eternity.” Given that her choices are going to Hell or being sacrificed by her evil mother to fulfill some vague prophecy, maybe Hell isn’t so bad. In any case, what better way to return to the world of Disenchantment than Bean and Luci rescuing a friend in the most horrible place imaginable?
- Hello and welcome back to The A.V. Club’s coverage of Disenchantment! Reviews will be going up steadily over the weekend. Just a quick bookkeeping note: I was under the mistaken impression that this new set of episodes constituted a second season instead of a continuation of the first season, which explains why I described “Dreamland Falls” as the first season finale in its respective headline. These new episodes will fall under the Season 1 banner.
- On Disenchantment Signage: Stonification Poison (Unsweetened)
- Both Dagmar and a random goon adopt the same tactic to soothe someone to sleep, which is quietly whispering, “Shh. Shut up!”
- An episode highlight: Zøg’s pleading for Vip and Vap not to abandon him. “I’ll get you whatever you want! You want tiny little horses to ride? It won’t be just rats with saddles this time. I’ll finally start paying you money instead of cheese slices! Anything if you’ll just come back!”
- Emperor Cloyd has an interesting double life involving cocaine and provocative outfits, like a demon suit and some kind of dog costume. “I can explain! Well, goodnight.”
- “What the devil’s happened here this past 20 years? This hallway was once lined with servants waving fans. Now there’s just a man smashing bugs with a hammer!”
- “Maybe you were overcome by chimney fumes. It happens quite frequently in a place like this, with no chimneys.”
- “This loony thought the world was round. This nut married a duck. This vision of beauty tried to drown her grandchildren. Luckily, they were all ducks.”