Galavant: ‘Aw, Hell, The King’ and ‘Bewitched, Belittled, and Bothered’


The greatest of Galavant’s first season successes was the development of King Richard from a self-centered, petulant egomaniac to, well, slightly less of that. His emotional journey had to stall somewhere around “realizes he’s a huge disaster” in order to give the finale back to Galavant’s realization about his own priorities, but the show definitely realized that its most impressive asset is Tim Omundson.

The second season is picking up where the last left off, by pushing Richard even further along the path to redemption and potential heroism: first by turning his kingdom into a representative democracy (as long as those who aren’t white, able-bodied, male, and straight don’t want to be represented). What is his place in the world if not at the apex of the social and power structure? He is, after all, descended from a god and a mermaid. While he knows as much about planting a good cake crop as the next guy, Richard will never make it as a farmer, and he’s gained enough awareness of his own flaws to recognize that. Unfortunately, he remains as clueless to most everything outside of his immediate self, so he fails to notice that he’s still carrying the magical royalty-conferring sword he pulled from its resting place last week. Which, in the long run, might be the best outcome for him.

Richard’s dethroning has some consequences that are more pressing for Galavant, though. With no more absolute authority over an army, Richard can’t loan the soldiers Galavant needs to rescue Isabella. When Galavant tries to make his case to the new democratic voters, they bring up some salient points about the viability of his new quest. Didn’t you just do this, they ask, in a nice metatextual nod to concerns about where the show itself is headed this season. We did just do all of this: the evil royal kidnapping the gal Gal loves, his racing through the countryside to find and reclaim her, and possibly even the twist that his quest was in service of some better goal instead. What’s in it for all of us if Galavant’s back where he and we started?

There is one potential benefit for Richard in all this: the only one of his former subjects who agrees to join Galavant’s quest is a lovely woman named Roberta. She and Richard grew up together and, miracle of miracles, she seems to genuinely like him. Enough that when Richard finally gets on Galavant’s last nerve, the knight sets up a romantic subplot in which he tries to get those two crazy kids together. Unfortunately, Richard is as adrift in a romantic situation with his old friend “Bobby” as he was with his former wife. For all his growth, he still can’t quite manage that person-to-person connection.

Back in Valencia, Madalena looks like she’s in for her own version of the Richard treatment. Where the first season established her monstrous appetite for power and prestige, the second finally gives some context for why it’s so important to her. In flashbacks, we learn that Madalena grew up poor and bullied by the two rich Basikobitcz sisters, who have returned to her social sphere. Now that she’s queen, Madalena is finally important enough to be invited to their parties. The only problem is that they’re inviting her in for the same reason they used to fling open their carriage door for her: so they can make fun. Instead of a fancy dinner table over which she can preside, Madalena sits down to a good old-fashioned roast, courtesy of the friendly friars who opened their club. The Basikobitczes pull no punches and manage to puncture the one thing Madalena treasures most in the world: her villainy.

Madalena’s newly revealed vulnerability gives her a reason to sing a disarmingly sweet ballad about the strange and unfamiliar sensation she’s experiencing which some might call a “feeling.” It’s not only a great insight into the character for us in the audience; it also gives Madalena the chance to face a few home truths about herself and recognize how much of her power-grabbing is so she can stuff the satisfaction down far enough for the little girl she was to feel it, too. This melancholic moment leads to a reconciliation of sorts with Gareth, even, as he sees her hurt and gives her a thoughtful gift to make her feel better. That the gift is the bloody, severed ears of the Basikobitczes is just the right note of sadistic altruism that makes these two a perfect fit. If we aren’t in for a true romantic relationship between Galavant and Isabella, I would be beyond happy to see one develop between Madalena and Gareth instead.

Speaking of Isabella, the misunderstanding with Galavant is compounded by her isolation within her cousin’s castle. She has only the jester, Chef, and Gwynne as allies — none of whom can ever be seen as equals enough to penetrate her shell of privilege and duty. The only other people she interacts with are her parents and Prince Harry, none of whom see anything odd about a woman in love with another man going ahead with her marriage to her eleven-year-old cousin.

To make matters worse, the wedding planner, Chester Wormwood, plans to use Isabella to take over Harry’s kingdom. With a mind control tiara no less! Once Isabella is under his oddly cheerful and patently obvious control, she manages to shed her breakup blues — to her parents’ delight — and all hope of rescue or escape, which doesn’t sit right with Gwynne. Though Chef also sees that something is amiss with their mistress, he doesn’t have a problem with it. For two peasants like them, their new life is the best it’s ever going to get. If no one cared about them, why should they care about anyone else?

Chef and Gwynne’s big ecstatic dance number echoes the quieter celebration of Richard’s former subjects. It even underscores the jester’s happiness at finally finding the role he’s best suited for (I’m sure the lack of daily threats to his continued existence are a big boon). For his part, Gareth is confronting the same realizations about the situation he’s risen to as the king to Madalena’s queen — and his not-guilt-surely over his role in Richard’s downfall. Sure, none of it’s ideal, but nothing in life ever is. The characters who were and are in service understand this better than any of their so-called betters.

As we near the midpoint of the season, it’s getting easier to appreciate that truth about the show as well. It’s never going to be a big ratings draw, but it clearly isn’t meant to be. The songs aren’t going to be iTunes chartbusters and I doubt anyone’s banging down ABC’s door to get a tour going. But it is a nice pick-me-up to combat the winter (and football) blues, and a cheerful, weird little hour of television I’m glad to check in with every week.

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 and on Twitter @ohseafarer.