Off the Cuff Disenchantment Thoughts

PC Bushi’s recent post on Disenchantment provoked a brief discussion between us, wherein I agree almost entirely with his takes on its failings, but I still enjoyed it in spite of them.

Disenchantment had a good story that was marred by bad writers. Ironically, the most interesting and sympathetic characters were the ones we got to see the least of [the second wife, Oona, and her half-amphibian son]. They couldn’t figure out what to do with the mains, so we end up with Elf Fry and demon-cat Bender hanging out around a character who is intentionally unlikable. Those characters can work really well, but they have to be juxtaposed against solid, good, likable characters or at least surrounded by a tone that makes them sympathetic. Disenchantment doesn’t really acquire this tone until the final episodes, at which point many viewers have already given up on the show.

For me, the best part was the relationship between the king and his second wife and political entanglement it was borne out of and led to questions about what really happened to the first wife. (spoilers) I was happy that Oona WASN’T the secret villain in the season-one twist and the imprisonment of the innocent if slightly degenerate half-amphibian son of Oona and the king when succession became called into question with the return of Queen Dagmar was a genuinely moving moment.

A big problem that it had was that it had a good story but was not good at developing characters. So, even though it was a really short series, the early/middle episodes that tried to develop the characters but didn’t advance the story were the worst.

They waited too long, I think, to make clear that the king was a more nuanced and complex character than he presents himself as throughout much of the show. People are right that it gets good at the end, but you need to, uh… make the rest of the show good, too.

The second half is better than the first half, picking up with episode 6. Episode 7 lampshades how awful all of the characters are when the one-eyed giantess literally comes out and says that every one of the mains are horrible people.

It was better than whenever Futurama tried to tackle D&D, but it struck me as going for [from what little I know about it and what little I’ve read] a Cerebus vibe–snarky, mean fantasy comedy that leaves a door open to go “dark” and “serious” when it wants to. It didn’t do a great job, but it was just good enough that I wish it was better.


5 responses to “Off the Cuff Disenchantment Thoughts

  1. It’s unfortunate, but I fear the majority of Netflix’s content is destined to fall within this territory – either “overall not good, but with certain redeeming features,” or “good enough.” I think there are enough viewers who will stifle disappointment and boredom if a show has enough going for it to somewhat compensate for bad writing.

    • I think it may have been Daddy Warpig who pointed out that Netflix fundamentally misunderstands the nature of binge-watching and has been crafting content to be viewed as 4-6 hour movies rather than enjoyable episodic content.

  2. I agree that it wasn’t the best thing ever, could have certainly been better done, but as a fun foray into fantasy it did the trick for me. In fact it made me notice that despite fantasy as a fiction genre being so big, there is so very little in the TV medium along those lines. It was all I could get for a fantasy fix, so I took it happily.

  3. Man, in retrospect, Futurama was so good. It managed genuine and organic character development, it poked fun at religion but also managed intelligent commentary (“Godfellas”), when it wanted to be moving those moments REALLY hit, and it actually understood the importance of genuine family relationships distinct from relationships with friends.

    Plus it was hilarious.

    Truly a great show.

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