Galavant | All’s Well That Renews Well

On Sunday night, Galavant reached its climax—if not an ending, happy or otherwise. How satisfied you were with the finale probably depends on how sympathetic you are to Dan Fogelman’s cojones-out-to-there gamble on a second season: he ratcheted up the anticipation for one by turning just about every relationship on its head and leaving all the characters hanging. Whether or not ABC takes his bait remains to be seen, but Galavant delivered a big finish.

Of the homages to classic Disney this season, the one I most anticipated was the first episode of Sunday’s hour, which was written by the voice of Disney’s Aladdin, Scott Weinger—how appropriate that it should feature an Arabian Prince! My suspicion is that the ethnicity was specified after the fact, but it’s a nice touch for Harry (Hari?) to have musical cues from Menken’s original Aladdin score. (The same thing happens in the second episode, when Sid urges Galavant to ‘Kiss de girl’ and the score breaks out the music from the Little Mermaid song.) It also finally gives us some validation for Isabella being ‘ethnically hard to pin down.’

More to the point, Weinger delivered a script that continued the momentum Galavant had been gaining. Circumstances conspiring to ruin Galavant’s solo, the subversion of the age difference trope, (The difference between 30 and early 40s is ‘not that ridiculous,’)… this is funny stuff. But the greatest treat the episode had for us was in the schemes of the supporting characters. Gwynne plots a revolution with Chef (sorry, Vincenzo—no, not sorry. If Gwynne is Gwyndolen, can’t they find something similarly domestic for the guy who actually has a Welsh accent?) while Sid gets to lead the Jester and deposed King and Queen in their own prison-breakout.

Aside: There was a lack of continuity here since last week’s reveal that the cell doors weren’t locked. I’m relieved that was just a plot contrivance for choreography, but it does pose a question of how much we’re meant to take in-song events as ‘canon’. (What do you mean I’m overthinking the musical fairy tale comedy extravaganza?)

While I didn’t catch any specific Game of Thrones gags this time, the show was very much playing in that sort of world: Plotting and machinations of rulers, Gareth as Richard’s loyal dog and champion, duels to settle conflicts, and of course, poisonings at banquets. All of this has much more in common with Westeros than your average fairy tale. It’s not a surprise, considering the current popularity of the series, and I like this humorous take on the genre better than an all-out parody of Game of Thrones. Certainly, Gwynne’s emergence as a murderous schemer with a softer side makes her a welcome addition to the recurring character line-up.

While the poisoning subplot paid off in bringing Gwynne and Chef together (best kiss of the night), it was a little frustrating to see
Sid’s story culminate with him throwing a sword to Galavant. Sid has been in dire need of his moment in the sun all season—though at least the show lampshades this when Madalena fails to remember his name. Speaking of Madalena, it’s a nice touch that she was the one who pointed out Galavant’s suppression of his feelings. It humanizes her in a role which verges on caricature, and it hits home (for perhaps the first time in the series) that these two have an actual history.

Ultimately, all that the shenanigans of the episode achieve is to put Gareth and King Richard into a fight to the death situation and to get Gwynne and Chef into the dungeons, so that they can be part of the ensemble for the grand finale.

All in the Executions boasts the best title of any episode in the series, and some great dialogue—mostly drunken. (“Way to keep it high and tight!”) Wisely, it does not attempt to hype up the action for every character in the show, instead focusing on some sheerly brilliant development for King Richard, Galavant, and Gareth. The show comes full circle as Galavant falls off the wagon, joining King Richard in drowning his sorrows after Madalena’s rejection—and thus ruins his own masterplan.

Gareth has much lower visibility, but we finally get to hear Vinnie Jones sing! One line and one line only, but that’s how you don’t have too much of a good thing. For all Galavant’s romantic heroism, Richard and Gareth were the first ‘couple’ who the viewers became invested in, so it was a welcome touch to see that used as the poignant finale moment, instead of Galavant’s parting from Isabella.

The downside of this focus was Isabella’s devolution into a Damsel in Distress, whose big storyline for Sunday night was waiting for Galavant to kiss her. Remember her sword-training backstory or when she vanquished an entire crew of (admittedly incompetent) pirates with only Sid’s help? Where the hell was that when Gareth was dragging Galavant out of the cell, leaving the door open for a good twenty seconds, while Isabella, Sid, and everybody else stood there wringing their hands? Isabella’s most effective moment was calling to Sid that she would come back for him—a deliberate subversion of the Galavant/Isabella farewell we expected?

Still, after three episodes of everybody faffing about, Gareth wraps everything up in ten minutes, because Gareth is the Man. Small wonder Madalena kills Kingsley to put Gareth on the throne. (The rules of succession here are very questionable, but that’s also a fairy tale tradition so we’ll run with it.) Gareth, notably, takes the sword not the crown, but I suspect Madalena prefers him as consort to her Queen anyway.

And thus begins the set up that begs another season (or launches a thousand fanfics). Unlike King Richard or Galavant, Gareth is capable of standing up to Madalena, but what exactly are her plans? They aren’t to control Valencia, she’s been doing that all season, and coveting a jewel is a poor motivation for everything she’s done.

Richard, we presume, has gone back to his kingdom where he is still king. Will his wife and best friend go to war with him? Certainly, with Richard now sharing plot arcs with the hero, Madalena becomes the chief antagonist by default. We should expect some darker and more ambitious storylines for the villains.

King Richard himself becomes the funny guy to Galavant’s straight man, a classic odd couple. Galavant’s new motivation is to rescue Isabella, naturally, but he’s also committed to being the King’s new henchman. (Perhaps Richard will want to rescue Gareth in an inversion of Galavant’s determination to liberate Madalena from her loveless marriage?)

Goodness only knows what new role Sid will end up in, but as the lone good guy left in Valencia, he’s all but guaranteed the storyline of his own that I’ve been waiting for.

And then there’s everybody else, who sort of got shoehorned into the one minute postscript for Isabella. Taking refuge with Prince Harry makes sense enough, but the odd imprisonment at the end raises the wrong kind of questions. E.g. Where are Harry’s parents, a.k.a. the presumed reigning monarch? (I know, fairy tale rules of succession again.) Why does Isabella so passively enter her dollhouse cell with no questions asked? Why do her parents not strike up a fuss? What accommodation is everybody else getting, and how is the show going to keep up with that posse of supporting characters anyway? At least Isabella is now in the prime setting (i.e. gorgeous confinement) for her own Disney Princess ballad.

Such speculation may prove moot, come May, but I hope not. By my personal tally, Galavant had two shaky episodes and six that were ‘comedy gold.’ I’m no ABC exec, but I feel that’s worth taking the gamble for a second year.

Trivia: Galavant’s father is played by Anthony Stewart Head, who previously sang on the small screen in the Buffy episode, Once More, With Feeling. It feels like a missed opportunity not to call this episode (or his song) Once More, Without Feeling.

While the jury may still be out on a second season of the show, it sounds like there will be a second album of the soundtrack, and just as well as the finale created a few more significant omissions in our Galavant playlists… Admittedly, This is My Moment would have been difficult to put in, consisting as it does of a single verse and the eternally interrupted chorus, but it’s an heroic ballad in the vein of Out There from The Hunchback of Notre Dame so there will be a demand for it. Bets are on for how they eventually edit it for iTunes release.

Goodnight, My Friend did make the soundtrack—a lullaby that requires no context and makes a beautiful close for the album. This song does what I felt Love is Strange should have done, i.e. play it straight. Another sign perhaps that the most important relationship of the series is Gareth and King Richard’s. Certainly, it’s a treat to hear Timothy Omundson singing something that’s tonally so different from every other performance he’s done in the show. It’s just beautiful all round.

In more familiar territory, we get a couple of Galavant reprises, courtesy of Ben Presley’s jester to bookend the finale. I’m glad they don’t do these every episode, but they’re always fun when they show up. I felt totally spoiled, however, when we got another Chef/Gwynne song: A Happy Ending for Us, which contains enough graphic violent imagery to make us wonder (yet again) how it passed the censors.

Apparently, Happy Ending was a last minute addition, but it’s worth it for Sophie McShera’s chance to let go. She takes the lead in this duet (Nice touch, producers, having her sit in Richard’s throne and Chef in Madalena’s) and shows off her singing and comedy chops with a vengeance. Her performance is the latest proof that one of the best decisions that production made was to cast for ‘Broadway caliber voices.’ There’s a lot of theater background among the cast, and it really shows in the level of energy and physical movement they bring to their roles.

As Chef and Gwynne’s song got the video treatment last week, I didn’t feel like I could use them again. (Though I was sorely tempted.) Luckily, it turns out that Galavant and King Richard also make beautiful music together with the delightful, hammy drinking song, We’re Off on a Secret Mission. Altogether now: “Thirtieth verse, same as the first!”

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