This Disenchantment review contains spoilers.
Disenchantment Episode 2
The odd thing about “For Whom the Pig Oinks” is it reveals that Disenchantment’s pilot was actually a two-parter all along. Disenchantment is the first consciously serialized Matt Groening show so there are plot threads and character developments that connect each episode to the previous, but there are still usually clear, self-contained conflicts, too. However, this episode picks up immediately where the last one left off and shares the same conflict: Bean is being forced to get married and she’s trying to escape that fate.
This episode also gives a more accurate depiction of what the series will look like going forward. The previous part ended on a cliffhanger (or, more accurately, a cliff-faller) with Bean and Co. fleeing her kingdom, implying that the show might take the form of a series of adventures across magical lands. That expectation is debunked at the start when Bean is captured and brought back to the castle. There is a sequence at sea, but the bulk of the episode takes place in and around the castle, which (tiny spoiler for future episodes) is closer to how the series usually operates.
All of this doesn’t mean much for this episode, but it retroactively affects the pilot episode. If we assume a pilot to be a setup for a series’ premise, “For Whom the Pig Oinks” makes the pilot come across a mite misleading. This isn’t a huge problem, really; streaming services are changing the rules of televisual storytelling all the time. But as someone who grew up on conventional sitcom storytelling, I do view this as a failing, though a minor one. (Also, the more self-contained episodes that come after the first two are generally stronger.)
A bigger failing of this particular episode is how relentlessly cruel King Zog is for almost its entirety. Actually, this is a failing of the pilot too, but this episode doubles down on it, with Zog cruelly dismissing his daughter’s pleas that he not force her to marry Prince Merkimer and—in the episode’s nasty and mostly unfunny subplot—bleeding Elfo in an attempt to use his blood to create an eternal life elixir.
It isn’t up until the very last moment that Zog listens to his daughter and displays some humanity, revealing that the growth of their relationship is actually going to be a major aspect of what makes Disenchantment tick. I get that the series is playing the long game and slowly revealing positive moments between Bean and Zog, and that Zog is a pretty big jerk, but he is such an unrelenting, evil prick for nearly the entirety of these first two episodes that I would almost call it a mischaracterization. Until the last scene, I believed he was being set up to be the series’ antagonist.
Characters who we’re supposed to care and who are supposed to care about each other acting like pricks who don’t give a crap is something of a problem in Disenchantment in general. The series often tries to have it both ways and heartfelt moments don’t hit as hard as they’re meant to because the characters don’t really seem to care what happens to each other. Luci is the embodiment of this in general, but in this episode specifically, it’s weird that he and Bean just let Elfo get kidnapped. They don’t even seem to notice he’s gone until they randomly walk in on him being bled to death, at which point Bean cares about him again.
This is somewhat sloppy plotting, as is how hardly anyone finds it odd that Bean joins her fiancé Merkimer’s bachelor cruise. I mention these problems because I currently find Disenchantment strongest in its storytelling (and not so strong in its joke-telling), so when it drops the plot ball, it’s disappointing. I do enjoy the bachelor cruise on the whole, however. It’s probably the most solid sequence in the episode and the backgrounds when they’re sailing at sunset are really quite beautiful and add to the series’ storybook vibe. The cruise also concludes with the best line of the episode from Merkimer: “Then let this be a warning to your other allies.”
“For Whom the Pig Oinks” is an improvement over the premiere because it’s shorter, more focused, and has a pretty-looking sea voyage in the middle of it. However, it does fudge the plot in a few spots and I find the Elfo bloodletting storyline nothing but gross and off-putting (with the exception of Zog’s line “Looks like I picked the wrong day to wear sandals”). It’s not much funnier than the premiere, though there are a few choice lines here and there, but if nothing else, it betters establishes Disenchantment’s premise and clears the way for standalone adventures going forward.
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!