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.

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Mystery of the Sphinx

I watched a crazy documentary on Netflix last night.  I’m a huge fan of old documentaries, especially ones on Ancient Egypt, from before everything was CG montages or looked like stuff out of 300.

This particular gem was narrated by none-other than Charlton Heston, the greatest actor, if not the greatest man, that the 20th century had to offer.

The crux of the theory presented in the documentary was that the Sphinx was weathered in ways that other Egyptian ruins were not weathered, showing signs of vertical erosion caused by rainfall, which would nearly double the age of the Sphinx from the oldest estimates accepted by Egyptologists.

The first 2/3s of it were pretty great.  The geologist, Robert M. Schoch (the most credible seeming dude we got to meet) made an excellent scientific case for an antediluvian civilization in Ancient Egypt predating the old kingdom by a few thousand years.  The facial recognition specialist (second most credible dude) made an excellent case that the face of the Sphinx was definitely not the same as the king that most Egyptologists claimed it was.  The primemover of the theory (J.A. West, somewhat less credible seeming) who convinced the geologist to look into it also made a decent case for the antediluvian civilization, except he throws in stuff about Atlantis and that maybe said civilization predated the Old Kingdom by over 10,000 years.  Then the documentary goes off the deep end.  Some crazy guy who did not appear in the first hour of the documentary shows up at a crazy convention who is all “Clearly the face on Mars is a Lion-Man.  Just like the sphinx!  THERE IS A MARS EGYPT LINK!!!!”

At the end, they close with the Geologist, who is all “Look, I’m not saying anything about martians, aliens, or magic.  I’m saying that I have factual scientific evidence suggesting that the Sphinx is older than historians think.”  But it’s there, and his awesome science is tainted by the old “Well, if it’s not what they think it is, it’s as likely UFOs as anything else!” line of thinking.

It would’ve been a great documentary if they didn’t throw in Mars and UFO dudes in the middle, but since it was made by “UFOTV” or whatever, I guess they had to stick that in there somewhere.  “Here are some interesting scientific theories rooted in facts and science; now let’s crap all over them by claiming that it somehow backs up our UFO crazy, even though the guy who made the discovery disavows that.”