Sunday, September 22, 2019

REVIEW: 'Disenchantment' - Bean Explores a Wondrous New World Designed Around Science in 'The Electric Princess'

Netflix's Disenchantment - Episode 1.19 "The Electric Princess"

When a scientific man appears in Dreamland, he's regarded with suspicion. But Bean helps him escape and travels with him to a wondrous steampunk city.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Netflix's Disenchantment.

"The Electric Princess" was written by Jamie Angell and directed by Edmund Fong

Bean is more in awe of Steamland than any other world she has explored in the series so far. In fact, the introduction of Steamland serves as a fundamental breaking of the core premise of the show. This series is set in a fantasy land defined by the existence of magical creatures. This is a world inhabited by elves, trolls, ogres, giants and many more. It's a world where its citizens fundamentally believe in the existence of magic. They see it as a powerful tool that can be wielded to terrifying effect. Of course, there hasn't been any reason to believe that Sorcerio is actually an expert in magic. He mostly just studies the world but scoffs at any mere suggestion that science could explain anything that happens within it. Magic and science have long been in opposition to one another. Some belief that magic is simply a version of science that humanity doesn't understand yet. That's how the people of Dreamland see the world when an impossible piece of technology tortures them from the sky. They don't see an aircraft manned by a pilot. Instead, they witness a terrifying dragon. It then becomes a competition to see who can slay it and earn those bragging rights throughout the kingdom. Bean succeeds in that endeavor. And yet, she isn't celebrated. Instead, she is just forever tossed aside as someone whose opinion doesn't matter solely because she's a women. The show has always had this feminist message within it. Its main protagonist pushes back against what society deems appropriate for women to do and say. However, the extent to which the show understands the complexities of modern-day feminism mostly stops with the rulers of this world continually telling Bean what she can't do. That's unfortunate because it's uninspired. It's not a fresh idea. It's something that has been done already. It's not adding anything new to the conversation. Instead, it's just the generic way to tell a feminist story in this particular setting. It should be awe-inspiring to see Bean experiencing this new world. She has never seen a place like Steamland before. She has the time for exploration here unlike several of her other destinations this season. That may be because she isn't on a dire mission where people's lives are at stake. Sure, that is still the main source of tension in the plot when it ultimately reveals itself. When Bean is experiencing the city though, she just takes in the wonder even though she believes it to be much better than it actually is. Sure, the people are more friendly than those in Dreamland. But she still has to pay for the beer she drinks. Plus, the rulers invaded Dreamland in the first place because they wanted to assassinate King Zøg. It's unclear why they embarked on such a mission. It's not like this kingdom was standing in the way of them achieving something. The average person in Dreamland can not fathom what is possible in this other corner of the world. It should be transformational for Bean. She knows exactly what a gun can do. She knows that it's possible for humans to fly in the sky and travel at the bottom of the sea. That should change her perspective on this world. It should do the exact same thing to the audience. We can no longer look at things the same way. But all of this also presents as the show needing to build to an ending for the season and doing so by creating a new conflict altogether. That's a little odd considering the mountain of mysteries the show has previously introduced and done nothing with. But now, Zøg has been shot in the chest. It was an accident when Bean stormed into the room to warn her father about the threat from Steamland. The lack of imagination can cost the people of this world severely. But it's also inevitable that Bean will be blamed for everything that has gone wrong as of late because she is forever seen as the constant screw-up in this world. Others may feel empowered and emboldened in their desire to kick her out of any official meeting amongst the royal council. That's tragic because Bean is simply trying to do the right thing while having no time for any of the silly performative aspects of what it means to rule over a kingdom. These are exciting ideas. The show just needs to do a better job at bringing them all together in a way that makes a lasting impact. The subplot with Luci and Elfo here is entirely disposable and time-consuming.