This Disenchantment review contains spoilers.
Disenchantment Episode 10
I don’t watch many Netflix Originals, but as I understand it quite a lot of them end with cliffhangers. I’m not sure why this would be, if it’s a mandate handed down from Netflix HQ or something, that creators should raise the stakes high to close out every season and keep viewers chomping at the bit for more. Or maybe it’s down to the freedom of a TV production model where self-contained episodes have greatly diminished in necessity, so this attitude has extended to the seasons as well. It certainly must help that the Disenchantment crew is already assured they’ll be getting a second one.
Whatever the reason for it, “Dreamland Falls” (the title of which kind of gives everything away), ends with not only a cliffhanger, but multiple cliffhangers. It leaves you with more questions than answers and, well, I think they did it wrong.
A decent cliffhanger gives you at least enough information to have some kind of expectation. You shouldn’t be able to guess exactly what’s going to happen, but, ideally, the questions should be simple ones like: did Audrey die in the explosion? Is Cooper evil now? How’s Annie? I’m somewhat facetiously citing the original second season Twin Peaks finale; it’s an infamously frustrating episode, but that’s mostly because the series got canceled and nothing was resolved. The cliffhangers were clearly defined, however.
I use the Twin Peaks comparison because, oddly, Disenchantment went with the soap operatic approach of ending on a million different cliffhangers. One expects sitcom cliffhangers to be less all over the place than this. For example, the season two finale of Community ended on just one question: will Pierce really leave the study group?
Disenchantment not only piles on a crapload of cliffhangers. Further, the writers seem to have confused leaving viewers in suspense with leaving them befuddled as a lot of these unanswered questions are extremely open-ended. Oona is angry and is… somewhere. Luci has been attacked(?) by… someone. Elfo is obviously going to come back to life somehow, but there’s not even a hint as to how that might happen; he just gets dragged off by mysterious hands in the post-credits sequence (I almost missed this scene, by the way, because Netflix shrunk the window down and started trying to sell me on another of their shows).
Whatever’s going on with Queen Dagmar and Bean is a massive, throbbing question mark. Dagmar is maybe evil, but maybe not because she might be turning everyone to stone as part of some grander plan to do with some dark battle that’s been raging for ages that she fails to elaborate on. She has creatures and stuff at her command? And Bean’s destiny is wrapped up in all this?? Somehow???
When a series leaves so many unanswered questions, it feels less like a cliffhanger and more like they ran out of time to explain things so they left it all for another season. It feels lazy, especially because we do get some backstory to flesh things out, but it’s just a longer version of the story we learned last episode about how Dagmar got turned into stone. So, though we’re left in the dark on loads of stuff, but they repeat something we basically already know.
With all this plot being wheeled out, “Dreamland Falls” doesn’t have much of a chance to try and be funny. There are some decent jokes before everything goes bananas, like Sorcerio mentioning the elf blood plot took all season “and by season, I mean fall or summer or whatever this is.” I also enjoyed when Bean mentions, in Elfo’s eulogy, all the barbaric medical experiments done to him and Sorcerio says “She’s talking about me!” Elfo’s slowly rolling dead body and King Zog mumbling “What is this, some kinda slam against me?” were good moments too.
After a point, however, the humor drops off to make way for the plot. Luci, instead of being comic relief, is reduced to uncovering story threads and everything gets all serious as the finale sets up its many cliffhangers. The only dramatic bit I really felt much of anything for was the scene with Zog and Dagmar on the stairs. Other than that, eh, whatever. Also, special mention must be given to Bean’s half-brother still being obsessed with the giant skillet from four episodes back because the concept is still not funny and I want to know who on the Disenchantment team thought it was, so that I can yell at them.
The first season of Disenchantment wasn’t all that great. The comedy was not up to par and the characterization was lacking, but the plotting was mostly pretty solid. Some of the twists and callbacks were well-executed, too. But this finale stuffed in a lot of new information in an effort to set up cliffhangers that came out less exciting and more just annoying. Hopefully, in the second season, Disenchantment will find its footing, flesh out its characters, and get a better grip on what it wants to be.
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!