WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Disenchantment Season 2, streaming now on Netflix.
Disenchantment improves off of the uneven first season, but still stumbles throughout its sophomore instalment of the animated series. The adventures of Bean fuel the better aspects of the show, with her genuine curiosity and stubborn drive propelling her quickly and humorously through the mystical world around her. But the show is still just as willing to slow itself down to a crawl to focus on a mediocre fantasy sitcom parody.
The penultimate episode of the season, "The Electric Princess" manages to be both the best and worst episode of the entire series, conveying the strengths it can achieve while still wasting time on pointless fluff.
The episode opens on what appears to be a dragon attacking Dreamland. While the soldiers are unable to bring it down, Bean is able to pierce it with an arrow. However, it's revealed to actually be a man-made flying machine, operated by a human pilot. The man is then taken into custody.
While the royal court assumes he's a man who can transform himself into a dragon, he reveals his name is Skybert Gunderson and he's from a neighboring kingdom called Steamland. In his home, there's no magical influence or power, and everything is technologically driven. Bean helps him escape certain execution and accompanies him back to the city.
What follows is perhaps the single best story the series has attempted. Bean's curiosity doesn't outweigh her cynicism, giving her an edge when Sky Gunderson proves to not be as trustful as he initially made himself appear. Bean explores the massive new location on her own, interacting with the world around her. When the narrative returns and she learns Sky Gunderson actually came to Dreamland to try and deploy a weapon to target her father, it shifts into a fun action-sequence aboard a zeppelin that even teases a future arc of the series.
It's the show at its creative peak, and hints at the kind of story Disenchantment can be.
The problem is what the rest of the episode decides to waste time on it. Bean nominally has two sidekicks for her adventures, Elfo and Luci. But neither character does much alongside Bean in the middle of the second season, instead of finding themselves more occupied with sitcom-esque plots about being in a play or scamming the sick. It's the kind of material that would have made it into a subpar Futurama episode and doesn't work any better with a fantasy coat of paint instead of sci-fi.
"The Electric Princess" sees Elfo and Luci becoming roommates. The pair are barely able to stand each other already, but upon living together their bickering becomes nonstop. There's also no resolution to the arc. The more exciting plot with Bean is just shunted off to the side so Luci can annoy Elfo with a surprise party or Elfo's paltry attempts at revenge.
It's a distracting and pointless digression away from the genuinely enjoyable and engaging material the show had with Bean.
WHAT WENT WRONG
When the series focuses on Bean's adventures, it becomes genuinely entertaining. It hints at an overarching story without overwhelming the characters and finds a mix of silly comedy and some real dramatic stakes for a solid arc. But the cutaways back to Dreamland are the worst elements of the show. They're just lackluster gags for the sake of killing time. With the episodes already overly long, the show could benefit from a fixed focus on the aspects that actually work to draw in the audience. If Elfo and Luci are going to be in the show, then they should be with Bean on her adventures, not distracting us away from them.
Disenchantment sets up a number of stories for the future of the series. If Bean continues to explore them with the same sense of adventure that she had in the better aspects of the series, the show could continue to improve. But that means the series is going to need to stop wasting its time on these digressions if it really wants to become stronger.
The second season of Disenchantment is currently streaming on Netflix.