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The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Unclear Omens – A Disenchantment Review

Huh… I guess that’s what I expected. When I first heard that Netflix was producing an animated series by Simpsons creator Matt Groening, I was leaping with excitement. The Simpsons was the first sitcom I got really into, way back in my younger and more vulnerable years, and Futurama is one of the most creative sci-fi parodies I’ve ever seen. But Futurama has ended, and in recent years The Simpsons has begun to feel stale, so the idea of Groening doing something new, something out of his wheel house, sounded great to me. And with Disenchantment, Groening’s medieval fantasy comedy series, having been out for a bit now, the question is: did it work?
Honestly, I don’t know. There was a lot that I really liked about Disenchantment, and little that I found to be particularly bad. But while I enjoyed the majority of the cartoon’s first ten episodes, I’m not sure that I’d watch ten more seasons. The whole thing, though pleasant, left me with a rather odd taste in my mouth, one which I don’t really know how to talk about. But let’s still try.
The thing that I found to be the show’s strongest point would have to be its characters. Front and center is Princess Tiabeanie (Abbi Jacobson), or Bean as she is oft to be called, a rebellious teenager in a social position which demands little rebellion. Joining in Bean’s misadventures is the wicked demon Luci (Eric André), and the kind-hearted elf Elfo (Nat Faxon). The moral dichotomy between the two magical creatures naturally creates a dynamic akin to an angel and a demon resting on Bean’s shoulders, and this tug of war leads to some of the shows funniest points. This is all brought to life by good performances across the board, though I wouldn’t say that anyone stood out as specifically spectacular.
On top of that, the production is fantastic. Though not revolutionary, the artistic direction presents some beautiful scenery. The animation is all very fluid, and the 3D models Groening used to construct the larger structures result in some of the best merger of traditional and CGI animation I’ve seen to date. All these nice pictures are further enhanced by a great score which takes heavy inspiration from traditional European folk-music, with an unexpectedly healthy mix of 20th century jazz thrown in. This was one of those shows wherein I found myself sitting through the credits of each episode just to hear the music.
The one bit which I expressly did not like about the show was a little plotline tagged onto the character relationships. For some baffling reason, Groening saw fit to push for a “will they? won’t they?” type romantic relationship between Elfo and Bean. Though common in many similar sitcoms centered around such friend groups, the inclusion of such a relationship in Disenchanted feels entirely superfluous, seeing as the characters are so fun as just friends. The angel/demon/shoulders dynamic that’s working so well kind of falls apart if the angel and the shoulders end up sleeping together. Fortunately, this plotline was not terribly pronounced, and I sincerely hope that Groening drops this thread in the seasons to come.
So what’s so mediocre about Disenchantment? The lamest thing about the show for me isn’t anything that Groening has done, but rather what he hasn’t done. Throughout The Simpsons and Futurama, Groening proved himself to be fantastic at world-building. How real the town of Springfield and the city of New York was. In Disenchantment, Groening has chosen a genre which naturally favors this particular skill yet neglected to flex the muscles which makes him the perfect author for such a series. Though fun at points, the secondary characters in Disenchantment feel kind of bland compared to those of Groening’s past works. Moreover, just about all of the regular characters are confined to Tiabeanie’s castle. Groening’s show rests above a potentially great city, but it’s a city he doesn’t bother to develop.
Now I understand that TV shows often evolve greatly beyond their first seasons, and herein lies the confusion surrounding my opinion of Disenchantment. I think it’s a show with a lot of potential, and I’m excited to see where it goes next, but if it stays as is in season two, I’m likely to lose interest. If you’re patient enough to watch something that’s just okay, in the hopes that in a year or so it will become great, then Disenchantment is definitely worth a go. But if you just want to wait on this one, I totally understand.