Disenchantment is a different type of Matt Groening show. Unlike The Simpsons and Futurama, Disenchantment is playing a very long and purposeful game. Most of the second season was about teasing bigger stories and plot lines — sometimes to the detriment of the series itself. But there’s a lot of stuff to pick apart in Part 2 of the Netflix fantasy series... as well as some solid jokes and Futurama references.
I found myself pouring through the second season of Disenchantment, hoping to catch some of the things they’re clearly trying to tease for the audience — whether it’s some hieroglyphics spotted on the table, next to the map spelling out Maru’s plans for Dreamland, or that creepy music box melody that plays throughout the second season.
Some of them are most likely me reading way too much into things (because that’s what I do) but others are definitely there for a purpose or raise more questions. Here are some of the cooler things I found.
Who are these guys, what the heck are they doing underneath the castle of Dreamland, and have they been there all along? This is one of the show’s biggest mysteries and one that left us on a cliffhanger.
The creepy elves were first spotted in season one lurking in the shadows and I also caught one hiding among Prince Derek’s toys in season two’s “Love’s Slimy Embrace.” Clearly they’re important, as not only has Queen Dagmar allied with them as of the end of season two, but it’s clear the regular elves (with pirate captain Leaveo) are looking for the creepy elves — or, at the very least, something they have.
When Bean’s steampunk buddy Sky Gunderson gets ready to take her back to Steamland, he cycles through a couple of automated destinations on his dirigible’s “GPS” before settling on the right one. There was Rat Island (presumably named after the only privately owned island in New York City), as well as Beaverton. But the one that caught my eye was Atoll K.
Atoll K was a disastrous 1951 French film, which starred comedic duo Laurel & Hardy as part of a crew who find themselves in possession of an island that they name Crusoeland. Things quickly go south as members of the crew establish a government that quickly turns corrupt, leaving Laurel out of the loop.
It was designed to be a political satire, but quickly got lost in slapstick shenanigans and behind-the-scenes problems that are so infamous they’re more interesting than the movie itself.
Symbols are a major part of the second season of Disenchantment. In addition to some of the ones we saw last season, like the blue spiral spotted in the church and outside the Enchanted Forest, we’ve also got some new ones that are playing a big part in the series.
There’s the eye symbol that’s just about everywhere in Maru, including in Bean’s prophecy painting. She spots the eye symbol in the catacombs of Dreamland too, which lures her to one of the castle’s many tiny doors that feature the weird symbol (second from right) that looks like one of those dark-eyed elves wearing a pointy hat.
Then finally, there’s the triangle symbol (on the right), which I eyed during King Zøg’s trip to the Enchantment Forest in “The Heart Is The Loneliest Hunter.” Haven’t seen it anywhere else, but it’s raising my eyebrows.
Who is Odval?
Zøg’s prime minister Odval has a lot more going on than we originally thought. He was introduced as a three-eyed mystic who was part of a secret society that mainly existed for wild orgies. But in the final episodes of the second season, we learned a hell of a lot.
Not only did he and his secret sex society succeed in getting his “puppet” Prince Derek on the throne (at least temporarily), but he also showed that he’s totally aware of Steamland... including that he knows how to operate a gun. There’s a big open-ended question about where he’s really from, how much he knows about the larger world, and what his secret society is planning. I mean, other than orgies.
The bear and the maiden fair
Disenchantment has been pretty low-key on its Game of Thrones references; Groening even promised there wouldn’t be a “parade” of nods to the series. But they do throw them in occasionally.
One of the sweetest (and saddest) stories of season two was about Zøg’s relationship with a selkie, which in this case was a twist on the original mythology: Instead of a seal, this selkie was a bear. It not only gave Zøg a formidable and sexy companion, but it also felt like an intentional play on “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” a song from George R.R. Martin’s saga that also served as the name of an episode.
Lots of Futurama
It wouldn’t be a Matt Groening production without a few nods to his previous work. Much like how the first season teased an image of Fry, Bender and the Professor in the time machine from “The Late Philip J. Fry,” this season is chock full of cute in-jokes and references.
As seen in the image above, there’s a holophoner in one of the castle’s storage rooms. Bean also finds a drawer of assorted lengths of wire in Sky’s dragon ship (a nod to Futurama’s pilot episode). Zøg makes not one but two Bender jokes, with “bite my shiny metal axe” and “let’s go already!” A street in Steamland is even named after Professor Farnsworth, something which I’m sure some fans of the Groening shared universe theory will go bananas over.
Gertude’s Steins (and more)
One of my favourite things in Disenchantment is all the pun-tastic signs. A couple of my favourites this year were Gertrude’s Steins, Bitsy’s Bitterbeer, Poem Depot, and the one for Gutenberg’s adult bookstore. There was also an episode in season two that made a big deal out of Dreamland (and Steamland) discovering coffee for the first time... which is funny because there was a shop in the first season named Peat Coffee. Guess it was a different, more mossy recipe?
During her visit to Steamland, Bean comes across a steampunk-style robot shop called Otto’s Automatons. This could be a reference to Otto from The Simpsons, but I am curious/hoping if it’s a nod to Otto the Automaton from the Trinyvale Campaign of Not Another D&D Podcast. It’d be a deep cut, like really really deep, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some artists on the team who were fans of Dungeons & Dragons podcasting. Also, special shout-out to Fry’s hairdo.
One of the bigger underlying mysteries in Disenchantment is: Who is Elfo’s real mum? We previously learned he wasn’t a true 100 per cent elf and speculation has risen to include humans, dwarves, maybe even some kind of unknown monster. But the biggest hint we got so far points in one direction: the ogres.
In “Our Bodies, Our Elves,” Bean and Elfo travel to ogre territory in search of a magical fruit that can cure any illness — based on a recommendation from Elfo’s dad, who not-so-subtly hinted that he had some “good times” during one of his ventures there. They come across the ogre queen, who helps them gather the berries and escape before they’re killed. And just as Elfo is leaving, the ogre queen hears his name... and recognises it.
Does this mean Elfo’s mum is queen of the ogres or perhaps she knows who Elfo’s mum actually is? It’s one of many mysteries left for another day.
Disenchantment Parts 1 and 2 are currently available on Netflix. It’s already been renewed for another two-part season.