Disenchantment finally finds its footing in its laugh-out-loud second installment.
Matt Groening’s latest Netflix animation project has finally returned for Part 2, and with it major improvements on what previously lacked the same value as his previous great series, The Simpsons and Futurama. All episodes aired on the streaming service on September 20th.
To begin; I think Part 2 is significantly better and funnier than the first set of episodes (although they were definitely enjoyable) – and this is something that went unnoticed by Netflix itself. When the show was just about to air for the first time, it was advertised everywhere; it was one of those shows with ads on buses all over the world and yet with this second installment, it seemed like Netflix put much less emphasis on marketing. It didn’t even come up on my home screen when Part 2 came out. This feels like a missed opportunity; Part 2 was brilliant, and they should really be putting it out there.
While Part 1 had the heavy job of creating characters that viewers would care about, as well as building an entire fantasy medieval world, Part 2 allowed Disenchantment to let the jokes take centre stage. The result: a genuinely laugh-out-loud funny cartoon almost on par with (early) Simpsons, with the strong and likable characters of (all of) Futurama. The presence of pop culture, subtle references (“Bite my shiny metal axe” gets me every time) and wit makes Disenchantment a great example of adult animation’s current popularity.
But the true genius of Disenchantment lies in the casting. First of all we have John DiMaggio, previously known as Bender B. Rodriguez, as King Zog. However, Disenchantment starts to mix it up after that. Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson takes the lead as Princess Bean, with Eric Andre as her unfaithful sidekick. These are two of the biggest names in American Comedy right now, and this casting decision is one that really paid off. Then, they throw a curveball. Among the main and recurring cast we also come across Noel Fielding, Matt Berry and Rich Fulcher, some of the greats of British alternative comedy (animated Mighty Boosh reunion, anyone?). It’s a strange mixture of voices that somehow manage to complement each other perfectly.
Disenchantment’s main failing in its early days was the overly complicated plot. Although there is still an overarching story in Part 2, we also get single episode plots which feel refreshingly simple. Some highlights are ‘The Electric Princess’ which turns the shows aesthetic from medieval to steampunk for a brief moment, and ‘The Very Thing’ where we gain a new appreciation of Queen Oona.
Of course there is always going to be one question on everybody’s mind: is this as good as The Simpsons? And the answer isn’t straightforward. Early seasons of The Simpsons are unparalleled in cartoon history, but as the show enters its 30th season it has long since lost its charm and humor, so if you’re ready for something new, this is the one for you. It will be interesting to see if it has the same unfortunate luck as Futurama and its many cancellations (hot take here – short-lived Futurama is better than The Simpsons as a whole). Hopefully, Netflix gives Disenchantment the time to find its feet without running out of ideas.
If you weren’t impressed by the early episodes of Disenchantment, I would encourage you to give the show a second chance. Part 2 allows the characters and comedy to find their feet, and allows the writers to create something really unique in a time when animation is taking over our streaming services. Roll on the next installment.