So, it’s been a few weeks since ABC’s Galavant first marched across our screens, singing. Now that the first, short season is over, how did it do?
Well, the middle was muddled. The singing remained questionable. Many of the jokes were complete misses. But in the end, I gotta say, this show started singing its way into my heart—and not just because it finally gave me something I’ve longed to see in Downton Abbey from the very first season.
But we’ll get there.
So, a brief recap: Galavant, Isabella and Sid travelled over to Valencia, stopping by Sid’s parents, some land locked pirates, and some singing monks on the way, with Galavant and Sid completely unaware that Isabella was planning on betraying them, and Galavant and Isabella slowly falling for each other. Meanwhile, over in Valencia, evil King Richard continued to try to get his even more evil wife—and Galavant’s ex, Madelena, to fall in love with him, turning to Gareth the Guard, a Chef, and the Jester (who also happened to be sleeping with Madelena) for help.
Eventually, Galavant and co. showed up to rescue Madelena, only to find out that she wasn’t exactly interested in getting rescued. She, in turn, summoned Still More Evil King Kingsley (I didn’t name him), Evil King Richard’s seriously evil brother. The previous monarchs of Valencia summoned young Prince Harry, whose fighters wear pointy hats. People popped in and out of jail. In a touching moment, we found out that evil King Richard calls Gareth “Gar Bear.” This cannot be said too often.
Also, Daisy from Downton Abbey—or at least the actress portraying her—sang happily about upper class oppression and happily plotted to poison all of the upper classes. And she found true love at last! It was like ALL MY DOWNTON HOPES FULFILLED.
Alas, other episodes did not fulfill those hopes. The episodes before Galavant and co. arrived at the castle were, to put it kindly, mixed. Episode three in particular was rough, depending upon castration, Jewish, and crotch jokes to tell the story of how Galavant—minus several points that this, the episode that introduced Sid’s family and told us about his background—turned out to be a Moral Lesson for Galavant. Weird Al Yankovic, leading some singing monks, was unexpectedly underused, and a general failure: I have no idea how, exactly, a musical comedy can make better use of Ricky Gervais than Weird Al, but Galavant managed it that night: Gervais’ world weary Wizard Xanax, with the appropriate medication jokes, was hilarious. Weird Al, astonishingly enough, not.
Part of this was because half the show—everyone over in Valencia, the castle of evil—was in a holding pattern, waiting for Team Galavant to show up—which kept the plot, such as it wasn’t, from moving forward, and also kept those cast members mostly twiddling their thumbs, with the occasional dance or jester moment to break the mood. But it was mostly, well, tedious waiting. Meanwhile, everyone Team Galavant met before arriving at the castle were one off characters with little to no depth, or, for that matter, funny lines—with the exception of the pirates led by Hugh Bonneville, also of Downton Abbey, but playing someone totally different here. And the lack of funny lines is a major problem if you are a musical comedy, even if you are a musical comedy with occasional Game of Thrones jokes.
But once the groups united, the show soared, mixing humor, farce, extended comedy bits, and even some, gasp, plot. It included thoroughly silly bits:
Galavant, holding the keys to the prison, and musing: “If only we could get rid of the guards—”
Guards: Off to lunch then.
It’s all in the timing.
And Galavant grabbing the sword spinning through the air towards him, thrown by his squire, using this to dash through various guards and crowds, to make one, final, plunge of his sword—
Right into a crab appetizer. Because—prepare to be swoon—Isabella was about to eat it, and she’s allergic.
And a bit where Galavant and King Richard prance about the castle, almost tap dancing in part, singing about how they are going to kill the king, complete with cartoon style tiptoeing past the guards. It’s remarkably cheerful.
And, not surprisingly for an ABC show involving Alan Menken, a nice nod to The Little Mermaid.
It helped, too, that by the time the group united at the castle, the cast was mostly relaxed into their parts, and the completely over the top nature of the castle crew allowed Galavant to return to more of a straight man’s role-something that worked far better for his actor.
Either this is your thing, or it isn’t. If it isn’t—well, the final two episodes also happened to feature a surprisingly lovely song, “Goodnight, My Friend,” (it even melted some hardened hearts on the show) and some plot twists. If it is, be warned that it took the show some time to find its rhythm. And be prepared for what is decidedly an untraditional ending that many viewers will find unsatisfying, complete with the show cheerfully wondering, in its final song, what effect all that singing would have on its Nielsen ratings.
Speaking of those Nielsen ratings, they plunged after the first two episodes/first evening, making renewal chances uncertain. But if it isn’t renewed, I’d say there’s a good chance we’ll be getting some fansongfic.
Mari Ness lives in central Florida.