“Our Bodies, Our Elves” features everything a great episode of Disenchantment should have: a simple, absurd premise that utilizes the series’ vast world; an adventure that introduces new, well-drawn characters and settings; and lots of jokes. While I broadly appreciate the serialized story in Disenchantment, “Our Bodies, Our Elves,” a stand-alone episode in the vein of mid-to-late period Futurama, is basically what I want from this show. It’s funny, it’s weird, and it gets out of its own way.
It begins with “Wash Day,” the one day a year when everyone in Dreamland washes the one outfit they own. (Bodies are washed on alternate years.) After everyone in the kingdom has thoroughly scrubbed their garments, they send the muck water down the cobble streets where it passes through Elf Alley. The elves are initially delighted, believing the humans have sent them the gift of water. It only takes a minute of jolly frolicking in the grey, diseased water for all the elves to fall gravely ill. The shot right before the credits of the elves lifelessly floating back up the stream is one of the funniest, darkest images Disenchantment has ever produced.
Disenchantment has previously kept its various realms and populations separate, missing opportunities to integrate different sub-worlds into an interconnected space. The idea to fold the elves into Dreamland pays off dividends here with the muck water showcasing the geographical landscape of the kingdom. The humans, despite living in abject poverty, are still at the top, and will inflict their refuse, intentionally or not, on the elves at the bottom. Most don’t even give it a moment’s notice, but Bean, Elfo, and Luci go down to see the situation for themselves, and it’s not pretty.
Naturally, there’s an Elf Council meeting about the epidemic, and it features some classic, reliable archetypes, including the rambling Pops, Elfo’s father, who tells the story of encountering a magic Legendberry tree in the Valley of the Ogres with a Grandpa Simpson-like cadence. (“Back when I was on the road, selling candy door to door. The work wasn’t easy, but lemme tell ya, there were fringe benefits…”) A mysterious figure named “Handsome” Wade Brody Jr., in the mold of Quint from Jaws, volunteers to travel to the Valley of the Ogres in exchange for 10,000 gold coins. Bean and Elfo agree to join him while Luci stays behind planning to rob the elves after realizing they have no use for money. There’s no chocolate in it, see.
Of course, Wade Brody Jr. turns out to be a fraud. He’s really a used boat salesman who steals all of his heroic tales from the Fantastic Tales For Timid Boys book. Brody abandons ship after evil vines take over, leaving Bean and Elfo to travel down river to the Valley themselves. It doesn’t take long for both of them to get captured by the Ogre community, who appear a lot more organized and pleasant than the frightening tales characterized. At the same time, they plan to stuff a chicken into Elfo’s mouth and then stuff him into Bean’s mouth for a post-church brunch. Oh, and they ate Wade Brody Jr.’s body without a second’s thought. But still.
In the end, Elfo saves the day by freeing himself and Bean, not by attacking the Ogres, but by allowing them to attack themselves. It’s a well-choreographed scene of destruction involving bashed heads, stab wounds, and rolling fires. (“Wow, Elfo. You’re kind of scary when you’re in a blood rage,” Bean notes with awe.) They retrieve the berries with the help of the Queen, and though the episode doesn’t explain why she helps the human and elf invaders, it doesn’t really matter. They return home in the nick of time to save the elves, but not before Elfo accidentally insults his father, whom he assumes has already died.
“Our Bodies, Our Elves” stands above the rest of Disenchantment because it appreciates its own setting and history. There are cameos from tertiary characters that provide the world with a well-needed sense of scope, references to past adventures, and a new world for the series to explore later. It feels like the first episode that finally fuses together all of the series’ best ideas. Let’s hope there’s more like it down the line.
- On Disenchantment Signage: “Wash Day: The Closest Thing We Have To A Holiday In These Grim Times”; “Fantastic Tales For Timid Boys, Illustrated”; “Wade’s Used Boats: Specializing In Dented Dinghies”
- Character Cameos: Stan the Executioner, Old Man Touchy, the ogre that Elfo blinds in the pilot. There’s even a reference to the Party Barge Captain from “For Whom The Pig Oinks.” (He’s “Handsome” Wade Brody Jr.’s father.)
- Nice reference to Jaws with “Handsome” Wade Brody Jr. using a cat scratching the wall to get the elves’ attention.
- “Does the word ‘quarantine’ mean people can’t go in or people can’t come out?” “Words have meaning?”
- “All of our cures have failed. I’m looking at you, Placebo.”
- “Ogres are our sworn enemies. They’re everyone’s sworn enemies! Yes, yes, except their own. Sit down, Annoyo.”
- “Danger is my business. Heroism is merely a hobby. But my real passion is relentless self-promotion.”
- “Get your leaves off her, you damn dirty vines!”
- “I heard every word you said, and you know what, Elfo? I’m glad I stole your college fund!”