When I finished watching Disenchantment Part 1 last August, I was on pins and needles to see where the remainder of the season would take Bean and her friends. What was Dagmar up to, and when would Bean find out? Was Elfo really dead? Who were the two creepy people watching Bean? Suffice it to say, I was eager for any news on the show’s return. Did this September’s installment measure up to Disenchantment’s first 10 episodes? Let’s take a look.
Bean and Dagmar are on a boat to Maru, the Queen’s home country, when Oona attempts to board and tell Bean the truth. Unfortunately, Dagmar catches her and sends her to the bottom of the ocean, but not before Oona grabs Dagmar’s pendant. Dagmar tells Bean that Zog didn’t want her to come to Maru because her side of the family has a tendency for madness. It’s not long before we learn that the two spies are Becky and Cloyd, Dagmar’s siblings; their servant is Jerry, another brother. Bean is uneasy around Cloyd and Becky, and Dagmar unwittingly reveals that it was she who turned Dreamland to stone, not Oona. Bean uncovers a plot by her family to use her to fulfill a Satanic prophecy and finds Luci in the basement in a jar. Before fleeing, they use Becky and Cloyd’s spying flame to locate Elfo, who proves to be in Heaven. They tell Elfo to meet them in Hell. Luci creates a portal to Hell, but before they can enter, Dagmar tries to stop Bean. Jerry intervenes, allowing them to escape but dying in the process. Meanwhile, in Dreamland, Zog finds Merkimer, who is still a pig. The Bozaks arrive and kidnap Merkimer, enraging Zog. In Heaven, Elfo is trying to offend God so he can be sent to Hell and his friends. However, God finds Elfo’s attempts less harmful than cute; he finally succeeds by insulting Jerry.
Once Bean, Elfo, and Luci are reunited, Luci tells Asmodium, a more powerful demon, that he tricked his friends into coming to Hell. This earns him an upgrade and sends the other two to relive their worst moment: Bean choosing to save Dagmar instead of Elfo. Of course, Elfo had no prior knowledge of this, having been dead at the time, and is quite upset to learn of it. Luci busts his friends out, but when he is again confronted by Asmodium, he once more surrenders them to him. This time, he gains wings, which he uses to take Bean and Elfo out of Hell, losing his immortality and extra powers in the process. Meanwhile, Oona is rescued by pirates and inspires them to attack a passing merchant ship, and they make her their new captain. Bean and her friends get into plenty of shenanigans, including visiting an island of mermaids, aiding and eventually trying to stop thieves, and saving sick elves. The newly divorced Zog falls in love with a selkie named Ursula and must learn to let her go. Derek is lonely with his mother off pirating and Zog ignoring him, and he befriends a squid that grows to be a giant. This leads to disaster, but Bean manages to save him, to his surprise. Bean visits a cafe serving a new drink and accidentally becomes a poet. Bean saves a man from a futuristic city called Steamland and stows away in his ship; this leads to her accidentally shooting Zog with a gun from there. After some deliberation, Derek and Odval are ready to prosecute Bean, but she and her friends are saved at the last minute by Dagmar.
It feels like the situation with Bean, Dagmar, and Oona was too easily resolved all around at the beginning of Disenchantment Part 2. Why end Part 1 on this massive cliffhanger with Bean in the arms of her secretly evil mother if she’s going to learn the truth and run away within one episode? Why show how everyone mistreated Queen Oona, including her own family, if she’ll be completely out of the picture in a couple of episodes? Her willingness to forgive Zog and Bean is admirable, but the resolution we get feels too easy and too quickly achieved. It feels at the end of Part 1 that Disenchantment has all these elephantine political and interpersonal problems to work out, but they’re solved almost as soon as Part 2 begins. Part 2 even leaves Bean right where she was at the beginning, alone with Dagmar. There’s a little bit of exploration of how the Dreamland citizens view Oona near the end of Part 2, but it’s too little, too late. Part of this comes down to personal preference; Oona was hilarious in Part 1 and quickly became one of my favorite characters. Naturally, I’d like her character and subplot to have gotten more attention and a satisfying continuation rather than simply being written out. However, I think there’s a more objective problem here, too. Part 1’s last few episodes set up expectations that the struggle between the two Queens, and that Bean learning the truth would be a large part of Part 2. In retrospect, it feels dissatisfying because those set-ups are written around or quickly resolved rather than being properly paid off.
These problems aren’t limited to that subplot, either. A lot of the middle episodes are really just filler and, as such, are both less interesting to watch and easier to forget. Bean and her friends go on adventures that are less humorous than those in Part 1, and they also don’t tie in well with the overall story. Ditto Zog’s desire to contract gout. I can see this being a funny idea, but it’s dragged out too long and doesn’t tie into the story or any kind of arc for Zog. At one point during Disenchantment Part 2, they re-introduce Kissy, Elfo’s ex-girlfriend from early in Part 1, to be the subject of a love triangle with her, Luci, and Elfo. This feels out of character for Luci, and I can’t speak for anyone else, but I didn’t like or care about Kissy and had no desire to see her again. It really seems like this subplot is just an opportunity for Elfo to be a selfish, controlling jerk. In fact, he is just that for much of Part 2. The decision to have Elfo spend much of Part 2 angry with Bean for choosing to revive Dagmar just feels disingenuous. Most people in this situation would likely choose to save their parent over a friend they just met recently, and it seems unreasonable for Elfo to be so upset about this for so long. At one point, Elfo is even trying to save his own dying father. You would think they would incorporate this into his character growth or draw a connection to what Bean did for Dagmar, but it’s just played for laughs. I understand that Disenchantment is a comedy first and foremost, and I don’t have a problem with that in and of itself. But Part 1 did a better job of balancing comedy with pathos and even heartwarming moments, and the comedy was funnier overall. Part 2 is rife with unfunny jokes, over-played gags, and easy, unearned plot resolutions. There are good things in Part 2, but they’re mostly near the beginning and end. This begs the question as to why they even split the season up and made the audience wait an entire year.
All that being said, I don’t want to discount the work done on this Part by the voice actors, animators and composer Mark Mothersbaugh. Abbi Jacobsen, Nat Faxon and Eric Andre still do fine work as Bean, Elfo, and Luci, respectively, and John DiMaggio is funny as Zog. Disenchantment doesn’t have the most gorgeous animation out there, or even of the Netflix original shows, but it’s pleasant and has grown on me. Mothersbaugh’s score for the series is subtle and atmospheric at times, and fittingly comic at others. The problems with Disenchantment Part 2 stem from the writing, and that’s sad, because that was largely what made Part 1 stand out.
Overall, Part 2 of Disenchantment’s Season One lacks a lot of Part 1’s bite. The visuals and music are still good, and there are some satisfying subplots like Bean becoming a writer and Zog finding love with Ursula. However, too much of this 10-episode block feels like unfunny, unsubstantial filler that could have been distributed differently, if not trimmed from the season entirely.