An Open Letter To 'Galavant' Season Two: Get It Together
It’s only been a a little less than two year since I first made your acquaintance through a trailer that made you seem too strange and too niche to be real. You looked like you’d be Princess Bride meets Book of Mormon, and I was on board!
Overall, I relished season one, which started off wondrous and ended WTF. The charisma of your cast, the wit of your songs and the zaniness in general kept me with you, even as you repeatedly ducked promised battle scenes and dove headlong into a clusterfuck finale that felt like a season sloppily condensed into a 22 minute ep. But I get it. ABC was taking enough risks without giving you the budget to do a full season or action scenes that would be unfavorably compared to the grandeur of Game of Thrones. Still, I hoped with season two, you’d have worked out your issues.
And here we are.
I pined for a second season, awaiting its return by marathoning the first, and dedicatedly tracking production through Twitter. Now four out of ten episodes in, I’m so underwhelmed by what you’re delivering that I’ve scrapped this week’s GIF Recap because most of my reactions were variants of this:
It does seem ABC upped your budget, as the costumes and the settings have gotten more elaborate. (The Enchanted Forest from ep 1 was a gem!) And you’re smartly building up to a battle that you’ve teased in song will basically be an apology for jerking us around so much on that front last season. Cool. Cool. But you know why I’m mostly meh on the continued galavanting? You’ve shred your strengths to ribbons!
Last season, the plucky threesome of Galavant, Isabella and Sid shared a vibrant chemistry forged on snark and charm.
This season, you’ve split them all up!
Not only is Isabella’s trapped in a dollhouse at the hands of her pint-sized groom-to-be/kiddie cousin. But now she’s brainwashed by a Machiavellian wedding planner, stealing her agency and robbing us of any chance of her doing anything interesting til further notice. We’re left with Galavant to save her, but he’s off trying to rouse troops, which has so far allowed for some silly misadventures and a few fun musical numbers. (All hail, Queen Kylie!) But it also mean much meandering, and you’ve got no damn time for that! (More on that later.) Meanwhile, you’ve got Sid is stuck in Valencia playing manic mediator between Gareth and Madalena, giving him little to do beyond mug for the camera. Admittedly, I did adore the “Good Dreams Only” lullaby he sang Gareth. Frightening away the nightmares was a tender touch and the kind of thoughtful character development we could sorely use more of.
With only 22-minutes an episode, Galavant, you can’t compete with the sprawling stories and ever-expanding ensemble of Game of Thrones. So let’s not try! This week, you wedged in the aforementioned wedding planner, along with a pair of cackling rival queens, and a new love interest for King Richard. On top of all that, you shoved in a new romance plot and pitched the cook and maid out of Hortensia and to the winds, as if you don’t have ENOUGH plotlines to manage in your already meager runtime.
Don’t you see how this hurts you? After having Madalena usurp Richard as the baddie in season one, you’re now bending over backwards to make us feel for her. But you’re cheating the emotional beats of your storytelling, numbing our response. In the past, you’d set up that Madalena loathed being poor because it meant having to eat your beloved pet when things got bad. So a brief flashback to mean girl princesses mocking impoverish li’l M is all you needed to set up this week’s arc. Fair enough. The Friar’s Club Roast was a fun turn, though I’d have relished in more of it. Still, it ended well with a reprisal of the carriage gag that forced Queen Madalena to shed her gold slippers and tromp home barefoot in the mud, apparently overnight! Here’s where a quick cut crushed your work.
We should have stayed with Madalena. Her self-pitying song number should have happened on the road as she walked, lamenting her having a feeling and one that makes her feel so powerless despite all she’s achieved (stolen, whatever.) Instead, we cut to the castle and her muddy feet. Her brief exchange with Gareth would have held more weight if we’d been allowed to wallow in her pain before this embarrassing moment. Instead, she retreats to sing in her room, which is less visually stirring, and then the final earring gag—while still funny—could have been positively uproarious if positioned properly. But you’re in such a damn rush!
There’s still fun to be had of course. Joshua Sasse slayed last night with “Maybe You Won’t Die Alone” (2016’s top contender for best wedding jam).
And always and forever Timothy Omundson is your greatest asset. The dude sells cluelessness like a genius, whether he’s burning the last crops of his invaded city or realizing baby fights with “the addition of a cobra” are not a great idea. And you’re messing with that trying to redeem him with nobleness and heroism! Richard is always at his best when he’s at his worst. Like that time he tried to murder his sleepy brother after a guys’ night drinking:
So, Galavant, my advice—and I say this with love—can be boiled down to:
Kristy Puchko still preferred this to the Golden Globes nonsense.