This Disenchantment review contains spoilers.
Disenchantment Episode 8
Most of the first season of Disenchantment has taken place in or around the castle of Dreamland, which makes sense for a sitcom but is somewhat of an odd choice for a fantasy adventure series. Usually the latter are about questing across magical lands, avoiding traps, dispatching foes, and meeting magical creatures. In “The Limits of Immortality,” we learn that the series has secretly all this time been leading up to that stuff.
So here we’ve got a fantastical journey, but, more than that, it’s a journey based heavily around the return of previously-introduced side characters. It’s a simple enough writing trick to pull, but it still always feels like a treat when a series nods to the fact that it takes place in a persistent universe and “The Limits of Immortality” is a bit of a callback smorgasbord.
The witch whose life Bean saved returns to provide quest guidance, as does the plot detail that her candy house exploded (her sister survived somehow or other); she’s now moved into a candy condo. Big Joe (who also survived somehow) is back as the antagonist and with a new, synthetic hand. There’s also a callback to the rager Bean threw when her dad was away and the drugged-out kiss she and Elfo shared last episode (apparently it was real!).
In truth, the plot is quite simplistic. It’s focused on the journey, which makes the story come down to a basic progression: characters get info that directs them to a location, they go to the location, learn new info that directs them to another location, and so on. It’s just about moving forward and Elfo isn’t even in the majority of it, so there’s little in the way of development for the characters. (However, I will note that, unlike in the second episode, this time Bean cares the moment Elfo is kidnapped, which makes her character feel more consistent.)
On the bright side, the adventure is engaging and full of cool fantasy tropes pulled off fairly well. The immortal wise man sequestered in a booby-trapped cave and the destroyed sunken city of people turned to stone are both neat. The End of the World is less cool, but then it’s played entirely as a joke, as it’s a tourist attraction (kind of a tired joke; The Secret of Monkey Island was doing this sort of thing in 1990). It’s certainly the prettiest Disenchantment thus far. As it’s a big journey, the artists went wild with drawing lots of beautiful backgrounds. The shot of the one-trap cave, with its many waterfalls is especially lovely.
This is technically one of the funniest episodes too. I can’t say I outright laughed at all, but I snickered or snorted multiple times. Malfus’ book that’s “more a letter to my father” is funny. I very much enjoyed Big Joe saying “in my mind, I’m not a villain. I think what I’m doing is good.” Elfo is barely in the episode, but gets two good moments when he accidentally foils Bean’s initial rescue (“I escaped!”) and when he thinks Bean’s a bear sitting on him while he’s stuffed in a sack (“Help! It’s ripping it open!”). And, though I didn’t laugh at these jokes, I have to acknowledge the cleverness of the mention of Collecticus who has a copy of The Omnicon still sealed in its original packaging as well as the snake and mouse-based economies of Cremorrah and Maru respectively.
Disenchantment still isn’t that funny, but at least it pulled off a solid fantasy adventure with “The Limits of Immortality.” It is kind of a hollow episode. There’s no reason there couldn’t have been meaningful character development along with all the adventuring, but there just kind of isn’t. It’s really all just about getting Elfo and the eternity pendant and overcoming the obstacles in the way of those goals. Big Joe is now the main antagonist, but we don’t even know why yet, so there’s really just not much new character info here.
However, with this episode, Disenchantment has made it clear it’s playing the serialization long game, so I assume we’ll learn more soon enough (one assumes Big Joe didn’t die, again). And, whatever, at least it was an engaging fantastical quest across beautiful magical lands. We’ve been due one of those since the beginning of the series.
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!