Matt Groening is one of the greatest exponents of contemporary American television, tasked with bringing some of the most hilarious and twisted animation of recent years, such as “The Simpsons” and “Futurama.” We know that these works flee narrative conventionalism and seek a critical and acid perspective of society, translating human exaggerations into absurd intrigues. Even though this one has worked in a more compromising way, it still remains in popular taste – it is not for nothing that it is reaching its 30th year. And it is from this premise and with the advent of many streaming platforms that Groening has found a space for his next story: ‘(Des) Encanto’.
Set in a totally unexpected version of the Middle Ages, the plot revolves around Dreamland, a kingdom ruled by the grumpy Zog (John DiMaggio), whose daughter, Tiabeanie “Bean” (Abbi Jacobson) shows herself as a potential obstacle to the ‘exercise with all your might. But different from what you might imagine, the background is on the girl, not the king: Bean is in the prime of his teens, and given the time that the series takes place, his irreverence rises in compulsory consumption gambling and romantic getaways, compromising the integrity of you and your family. However, right after the first episode, we realized that all of this was justified by the fact that their marriage is obligatory as a means of maintaining the alliance between territories that were once enemies.
Apparently, we’re dealing with more than one animated coming-of-age story with upbeat posts and incredible adventures. However, in the case of a Groening construction, nothing will be as it appears; the criticisms are there, naked and raw, as a way of shocking and drawing a parallel with the madness and stupidity of contemporary society. There is a fertile space, filled with endless possibilities that don’t even need to rely on stereotypes, but rather use them in your favor to orchestrate sarcasm in a full and satisfying way. The main problem: Creating a story with a start, middle and end, interesting twists and a decent cliffhanger for a future second season – and that’s exactly what the showrunner can’t bring to small screens.
Considering the outcome of the pilot’s events, it’s only natural that we feel in strange territory (after all, we have to get used to the new vibe). But what happens when that uniqueness, so to speak, remains during each of the ten episodes? It is very complicated for an audience accustomed to the frantic pace of the “Simpsons” to follow the contemplative constructions of this show in question, especially one who does not use many events or extravagances to achieve a solid structure. At first glance, the tale seems to want to take us one way, crossing Bean’s path with the demon Luci (Eric André) and then merging his bow with that of the elf elf (Nat Faxon) – but all potential is mercilessly wasted, forcing they stay all the time in the same territory.
It is almost frustrating to watch how such characters, whose interesting chemistry would be best used in different circumstances, are played in unbearable narrative linearity. They have no apparent evolution until the last episodes, fall into the same mistakes and dive into unbreakable vicious cycles, further removing the viewer from any possibility of connection. The idea here was, after Bean ran away from his wedding, picked up his new friends and went out to see the world, putting them on a classic but twisted hero’s journey – and everything would open the door to the most hilarious. However, the editorial staff is ignoring this and playing within a boring comfort zone.
Even the appearance of supporting actors does not add to the complexity: it must serve as a tragicomic medium, like Queen Oona (Tress MacNeille) or the three-eyed advisor Ovaldo (Maurice LaMarche), the not-so-recurring assault. as the protagonists do. reverse the work and reflect the stupidity of their constructions. The few points of non-compliance with expectations come from the obvious, suppressing the series of attempts to regain the glory of the previous works. Eventually, the events turn out to be repetitive, falling into the same arc closing alternatives as the other chapters.
Even so, we cannot deny certain strengths brought by the show. Groening finds a suitable space to work on a narrative past that maintains some dialogue with the other animated series – after all, he’s played with the present and the future before. In a medieval setting, marked by magic and fantastic creatures, the aesthetic of a considerable contingent of secondary and tertiary characters escapes standards and seeks an excessive humanization – we have, for example, the untouchable transcendence of fairies mingling to human vices (like smoking and drinking) so deconstructed that it is deliberately offensive and distorted. In addition, I must say that the irregularity of the first half finds its way and an interesting balance until the final of the season, architecting some satisfactory turns which already give the cards for the next game.
“(Des) Encanto” begins in a wasteful and irregular manner, finding your identity too late for there to be a deep connection between the messages you want to deliver and the receptivity of the audience. And there’s not much to say, just the slight sense of disappointment, justified by the fact that a big name in the industry doesn’t dare more than they think they do.
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