This Disenchantment review contains spoilers.
Disenchantment Episode 5
The premise of “Faster, Princess! Kill! Kill!” hits the sweet spot of being a self-contained conflict and a continuation of the previous episode at the same time, playing to the strengths of both conventional sitcom plotting and Netflix’s serialized show format. It’s different from how the opening of the series felt like one long pilot, stretching one conflict out to fill two episodes. Here, King Zog banishing Bean until she proves she can be more than a layabout is a standalone concern, but it’s a nice touch that it’s the consequence of what we saw one episode ago.
It makes for a good plot that develops Bean’s character as well as her relationship with her dad. It’s got an engaging, breezy progression to it as Bean is banished, fails at several avenues of employment, but then ultimately improves herself by, uh, murdering two people. If you think on it too hard, the moral of this episode is a bit muddled. The final line of work Bean attempts is executioner; she fails to carry out her duty of beheading a witch, but instead ends up axe-murdering the two people who framed said witch.
It makes sense in terms of goofy, circular sitcom logic: she did her job in a roundabout way. On the other hand, there’s still little proof she’s any good at carrying out assigned tasks; she only killed those people because Elfo was in danger. But, whatever, the goofy sitcom logic holds up such that you’re unlikely to notice or much care that Bean never really proved anything except that she’s capable of murder in a pinch. That’s a sign of well-structured goofy sitcom logic.
How Elfo ends up almost being eaten by (a subverted version of) Hansel and Gretel is less good. His plot progression goes something like this: he enjoys being pampered like a baby but only likes it going so far, so then he runs into the woods, where Hansel and Gretel capture him. It’s just a little weak that the impetus for Elfo’s escape to the woods is “he liked a thing, but then he stopped liking it.” Also weak is how he and Bean both end up in the woods by coincidence.
Much stronger is the sequence of Bean hunting Hansel and Gretel through their candy home. There are a lot of clever ideas with candy being used as deathtraps (giant falling gobstoppers, caramel strips that slow Bean down, and—most inspired—Blow Pops that explode when the stick is lit). It’s also just a genuinely disturbing sequence with the severed heads and the shriveled dead guy caught in cotton candy. It’s not a funny sequence, but it’s not really played like one; it goes for messed-up and achieves it.
The funniest sequence is the montage of Bean failing at various jobs. I also liked the nun’s line “How dare you bring logic into God’s house” and Bean and Co. doing an action movie slow-walk away from Hansel and Gretel’s house as it explodes for no apparent reason. Unfortunately, beyond that, I found this one of the less funny episodes. In fact, two bits stood out to me as notably lame. “I ain’t no rock and I’ve heard better crying,” a line delivered by a disgruntled turtle, falls completely flat. And the joke of Bean slurping soup as she eats with the other nuns makes no sense. Is she trying to piss them off? Is she just a huge idiot? The whole scene is confused.
As usual, the series is still very pretty, both visually and aurally. The sad, gentle theme tune variant that plays after Bean fails as an executioner stood out to me as especially pleasant. The art continues to have that rough, storybook feel, which works especially well for the Hansel and Gretel plot. There is one moment that the computer-created nature of the art shows its limits, though. When the camera pans up over the execution crowd, they look especially 2D flat in an otherwise 3D world. I’m, uh, pretty sure they aren’t supposed to.
This is an episode with a solid (if, on deeper analysis, silly) storyline. Disenchantment can often be needlessly gratuitous in its use of violence, but here it made sense for the plot. And it was pretty inventive violence to boot! Elfo’s subplot is weak and exists almost entirely to conveniently dovetail with Bean’s, but the rest of the story works well, even when the jokes don’t.
Joe Matar watches a lot of cartoons and a lot of sitcoms. He’s obsessed with story structure so that’s what all his reviews are about. Joe also writes about video games on occasion. He has an MA in English if you can believe it. Read more of his work here. Follow Joe on Twitter for more fun @joespirational!