In Season 2 Galavant Comes Into Its Own

  It’s funny how much a series can change in a season. When Galavant first came out, it was a filler show placed in the gap Once Upon A Time […]

 

It’s funny how much a series can change in a season. When Galavant first came out, it was a filler show placed in the gap Once Upon A Time left that month and outside of some golden musical numbers, the show seemed to have been given about that amount of thought. It seemed to be directly paralleling itself to The Princess Bride and Monty Python and The Holy Grail by parodying a story so rote I’m not sure it ever actually existed. Even so, I found myself drawn to it. It was amusing enough and Alan Menken’s score was darn good, especially the opening number (which season 2’s opening song bitter points out did not win an Emmy) and there seemed to be some real gold there. The ending for the first season struck me as particularly bold, daring ABC to give it a second season while also acknowledging the unlikelihood of that.

It’s so unlikely that the first song of the second season seems to be simply bragging about the fact that the show was renewed at all. One of the fascinating things about this second season was how deliberately it broke up the structure of the first season. The hero Galavant (Joshua Sasse) was separated from his squire Sid (Luke Youngblood) and love interest Isabella(Karen David) to be trapped with the former evil king Richard(Timothy Odmundson) on a pirate ship, Sid is stuck attending to evil queen Madalena(Mallory Jansen) and her bodyguard/fellow king Gareth (Vinnie Jones) Isabella is trapped in her home kingdom to be betrothed to a ten-year-old. It’s such a defiance of the previous season that this season almost feels like a reinvention of the show. The new Galavant feels less like a parody of some adventure story that doesn’t exist and more like a low-budget adventure show that happens to be really funny.

Admittedly, the show gets off to a weak start with Galavant and Richard coming across a gay bar called the Enchanted Forest. The entire thing feels tired, though not necessarily actively offensive, and if not for a pretty engaging number by Kylie Minogue would be a pretty dull half-hour of television. However as time went on things got more interesting. Especially when the show started to treat their characters as evolving people.

King Richard is the big winner here. That isn’t to say there isn’t evolution on the part of others, but his character having been self-aware about being viewed as a tyrant and trying to change in the first season was probably the best springboard. His travel from a pathetic child to a genuine friend of Galavant while Galavant goes from tolerating him to valuing him is as engaging as it is funny. “If I Were a Jolly Blacksmith” is a song that shows Menken’s ability to combine comedy, catchy tunes, and a surprising amount of character growth as Richard realizes how lost he is without his kingship. This isn’t the only character that benefits from the season though Gareth and Madalena’s growing romantic relationship and their inability to communicate due to being irredeemably evil is a unique take on the evil married couple. There’s a scene that is both amusing and bizarrely heartwarming as they communicate their feelings to each other by delivering a pre-battle speech to their army. Gags formed out of character relationships like this were absent from the show’s previous season since the characters were little more than subversions of archetypes that had already been subverted so many times that they still felt too familiar. Giving these characters unique relationships gives the show its own form of identity as both a comedy and a magic adventure show.

The second thing that really makes this show pop in its second season is how much darker it gets. It doesn’t really get grim or unpleasant since this is still a swashbuckling adventure story. Even so, the direct result of focusing more on their characters is understanding how dire the situation has gotten. As a result, the comedy tends to skew towards subjects that happen when your heroes are on the run and trying to survive. My personal favorite song is a send-off to Les Miserables where Sid rallies an army to revolt, only to sing about how horrifically they’ll die in the revolution. Another throwaway gag about our heroes being so hungry they had to eat a family of hobbits had me howling. Everyone might not share my propensity for jokes about cannibalizing beloved fictional races, but the fact that it all stems from the circumstances makes for a brand of comedy that feels both natural and like its own thing.

Alan Menken’s music is still excellent. Nothing quite reaches the untouchability of the first season’s intro but on the other hand none of it has the perfunctory low points some songs the first season did. There are no lazy power anthems that feel out of place. The songs still have a wide variety of sources though, taking from Gilbert & Sullivan, Grease, West Side Story, and even Rocky Horror Picture Show. Menken’s strength seems to be in his love of musicals because when he strays away from them the songs seem to suffer. Later in the season is a rap battle between Madalena and Isabella that shows that hip-hop is the strength of neither Menken nor actresses Janken or David. Another rock number about Isabella meeting ‘A Different Kind of Princess’ falls flat. A shame really, because the idea of a riot girl princess is something that deserves it own spinoff.

Ultimately, the thing that signifies Galavant’s coming-of-age is the fact that it has a happy ending. (Stop whining, this doesn’t count as a spoiler because Sid ruins in the season’s first song) The show has stopped being concerned with having attempts at clever subversions and more on being an actual fantasy-adventure show that just happens to be funny. Considering its slapdash origins, the choice to have a happy ending shows more boldness and experimentation than any of the narrative gags or shout-outs the first season had. It even seems to do a victory dance by bringing Weird Al Yankovic back from the first season to sing us out, once again noting that it’s unlikely to get yet another season renewal. And honestly, I’m not sure if I want it to. It certainly leads enough open for another season and if it continues the level of quality it has here then I’d gladly keep tuning in. On the other hand, it’s just as likely to fumble as it is to continue ascending.

Galavant isn’t the new Princess Bride, but for fans of the fantasy-adventure genre that are tired of the constant gloominess of Game of Thrones and don’t mind having characters occasionally burst into song then both seasons are available on Hulu and you’ll find yourself being surprised at how much you find yourself caring about these characters.