From the first episode of season 1, it has felt like Disenchantment has cracked the perfect formula to being an animated adult show. A medieval-fantasy which also seems to double as a bildungsroman for the anti-princess Bean, the show has been amazing from the get-go because of its hilarious dialogues and well-written narrative arcs. What season 3 changes, however, is the amount of reflection and depth that Bean is allowed. While the adventures that she has with her sidekicks – Luci, the demon and Elfo, the elf – have been the backbone of the story from the start, she has been so focused on being in the centre of things that she hasn’t had time to connect with herself, and therefore with the audience. While Bean has been one of the most kick-ass princesses on streaming platforms for a while now, it is with this season that you start feeling emotionally invested in her because conversations about who she is, not just what she does, are finally happening. And one of those conversations takes place aboard a ship with a queer mermaid, Mora.
The writers of Disenchantment have been hinting at Bean being queer since the second season, but it is in the episode titled ‘The Last Splash’ that we get to see her experience a genuine connection with another character. So far, Bean’s life has been about casual encounters and last-minute hook-ups, but this episode gives her an actual romantic arc without making it sappy or pretending that ‘this was what was missing all along’. The show is very much still a fantasy adventure story, but now romance becomes part of the journey – quite literally, since it happens on the way to her destination. After opening up to Mora, Bean finds herself on Mermaid island where she hangs out with Mora’s family before they sneak away to have a private and magical night. There is a beautiful song, some star-gazing, and lots of sparks. I am usually not one to quickly scream ‘OTP’, but they felt so warm, adorable, and happy with each other that I found myself instantly cheering for them to end up together. However, when Bean wakes up in the morning, she seems to believe that the previous night had been a dream. A necklace that washes ashore for a few seconds tells the audience otherwise, but Bean is not in on the reality of her romance.
While having a canonically queer character at the centre of an adventure narrative is phenomenal, the idea of the one genuine romantic connection that she has being nothing more than a ‘Was this even real?’ moment in her life, is definitely going to feel disappointing if the creators of the show do not give us more of Mora – or someone else – in the seasons that follow. Restricting Bean’s queerness to one connection in one episode would not be a fair route to take at all because all other romantic arcs in the show have gotten full-fledged storylines – especially those in the life of Bean’s father and the King of Dreamland, Yog. Elfo, on the other hand, gets multiple romantic partners this season, including a steamboat. However, to claim that this season is restricted to romantic explorations only would be doing a disservice to the full, fast-paced narrative that the show runs by.
By this season, the world of Dreamland and its neighbouring countries has been established, as have the general natures of most important characters, so there is little exposition and a lot of action. The season begins at the exact moment season 2 ended, with Bean’s evil mother having captured our three heroes. Luci has a lot less to do this season. But the characters of Yog, Derek and Merkimer develop in a lot of unexpected directions. I also absolutely loved seeing more scenes of Oona as the pirate queen, as it establishes that Bean getting into adventures is not a one-off situation; most women in Dreamland are absolutely phenomenal. There is also a nod to ‘The Greatest Showman’, and questions of personal bonds versus the greater good. Abbi Jacobson as Bean and Nat Faxon as Elfo have done a terrific job this season as well. There are multiple escape sequences, references to capitalism, and a more detailed exploration of darker themes like trauma, parental bonds, and mental wellness. Still, there is no moment when the show feels ‘heavy’, because it remains a beautiful escape into a well-crafted universe. You can watch all three seasons of the show on Netflix.