Galavant: ‘A New Season’ & ‘World’s Best Kiss’

Galavant

Among all the organized chaos of Galavant’s first season finale, we saw the brave and valiant Galavant escaping the new and more murderous royal regime with his former nemesis, King Richard. The new season picks up with the new BFFs a few weeks later on a pirate ship that (finally) found water. In the meantime, Galavant’s formulated a plan for restoring Richard to his former kingdom and rescuing his new lady love, Isabella, from her incestuous cousin/husband-to-be. The only problem is, well, everything in between.

If there’s anything this show can pull off, it’s the unlikely miracle. After all, it managed a season renewal — with two episodes more in the order than last year — on the back of terribly and steadily dropping ratings. A musical is a hard sell in the best circumstances (pop cultural juggernauts like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton notwithstanding), and musical sitcoms are so rare they’ve been relegated to one-off events for shows like How I Met Your Mother. But ABC must like what it sees in the audience that Galavant brings in while Once Upon a Time is off the air.

One of the biggest assets of the first season was that unbearably catchy theme song, which is quickly scuttled here, as the pirates carrying Galavant and Richard protest at yet another rendition of it. Instead, the second season kicks off with a new and much less charming version. It’s a big bombastic song and dance routine that doubles as exposition to catch the audience up on all the major players and their current circumstances, but the constant mugging through the nonexistent fourth wall starts to grate well before the punchline (spoilers!).

Once the theme’s out of the way, the show doubles down on resetting the board. Madalena and Gareth squabble over his new role in her court: is he the king? A consort? Just some guy who kills chickens? Isabella schemes to get away from her surprisingly creepy family — slightly worse than her parents being fine with her marrying a prepubescent relative is that her mother refers to Galavant’s place in her “spank bank.” But the main action follows Richard and Galavant from the ship they accidentally wrecked and into the Enchanted Forest — a gay bar in the middle of a probably not-enchanted forest, complete with disco Queen Kylie Minogue, who presses Galavant into mandatory and permanent shirtless bartending duties.

The first season’s greatest strength was the development of Richard as a clueless and surprisingly vulnerable man who grasped at power to bolster his nontraditionally masculine behaviors. The second season can’t seem to decide whether to work that as an emotional or jokey beat. The issue of his virginity comes up again — there’s a certain unicorn that’s sweet on him, which is for once not a euphemism — but he spends most of these first two episodes acting like the petulant man-baby he had mostly abandoned by the end of last season. Timothy Omundson is a treasure and more than capable of plumbing the depths of whatever direction the show wants Richard to take, but I selfishly want to see him up the emotional maturity a bit.

Elsewhere, Gareth teams up with Sid to regain whatever power he can from Madalena — leading to an awkward duet battle that establishes them as equal partners in cruelty if nothing else, and Isabella attempts to escape her plush prison with the help of the jester, who is perfectly content to coast on fart noises for as long as possible. It’s all a bit ho-hum. Gareth wins a bit, but only as much as Madalena lets him: just like last season. Isabella doesn’t manage to escape, but it was pretty obvious she couldn’t because otherwise Galavant would have no reason to ride to her rescue.

Galavant, at least, is the same strong and mostly-heroic knight. Maybe a bit beardier and more patient with Richard’s whining, but he at least isn’t backsliding into his self-serving worst behaviors. There’s a new note of vulnerability to his character that’s mirrored in Isabella as both dwell on the true love’s kiss they shared last season and how it didn’t quite measure up to expectation. It’s a refreshing direction for a show as silly as this to take. Allowing doubt and disappointment to seep into the romantic pairing ostensibly driving the season’s main plot pushes the entire show off its expected trajectory. That it does this so effectively makes me wonder if the Galavant/Isabella juggernaut is headed for the same trope-upending as the initial Galavant/Madalena relationship. I can’t say I’d be surprised — or disappointed — to find that’s the case.

For a musical, though, the low point for each of these first two episodes — “A New Season aka Suck It Cancellation Bear” and “World’s Best Kiss” — was actually the music. Never mind about the theme song; I can’t imagine that we’ve heard the last of the original motif, and years of steadily disappearing theme songs has prepared me for the loss. Maybe it was a case of the hiatus being so long, but the cast didn’t seem to mesh as well in the big chorus numbers. Some of the duets felt off as well. By the end of “World’s Best Kiss” I couldn’t have repeated a single lyric sung since Kylie Minogue swanned back to wherever she found that fabulous gown. With Alan Menken at the helm last season, the songs were infectious enough that I was humming them days later. Hopefully this is just a minor stumble out of the gate and they’ll be back in top form next week. (Gareth’s inspired “beer beer-beer beer-beer beer” to Madalena’s complicated rhyme scheme is a step in the right direction.)

There’s also the promise from the top of the first episode that we’ll be seeing even bigger and more expensive guest stars this season. We’ve already had Hugh Bonneville reprising the hapless pirate captain and Kylie flying high above her adoring pub-goers, as well as Simon Callow as a fortune-teller/crappy crystal ball purveyor who facilitates the disconnect between Galavant and Isabella. Add to that the familiar sword and, er, stump that Richard cluelessly purloins in his attempt to lose his new unicorn pal, and I’m excited to see what Galavant has in store for us this year.

Photo Courtesy of ABC

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About Lisa Shininger

Lisa Shininger spends way too much time thinking about fictional characters but, somehow, it's never enough. She co-hosts Bossy Britches, and yells about pop culture at lisashininger.com and on Twitter @ohseafarer.