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Galavant - Pilot + Joust Friends - Review

Galavant started its four night run very strong, giving us two episodes back-to-back, an interesting format that I think works in this case. Normally I wouldn’t be for compartmentalizing a plot, but somehow each half hour was a wonderful dollop of mirth and music that left me wanting more. And I am very surprised that a musical has been so well received. Like I said in my advanced preview, Galavant is a Disney movie for adults. If you are familiar with my reviews, you’d know that fairy tales are very much my thing, but Galavant is no ordinary fairy tale. Where someone like me would be content to hand-wave away any silly plot holes or moments that would strain my suspension of disbelief, Galavant manages to exceed expectations because it knows what it is and that’s pure fun, which is where the show excels. It knows that it is silly and revels in that, embracing the idea that yes the characters are aware that they are singing and yes they don’t mind. Galavant is a show that, well, gallivants through the plot.

The story begins with a musical exposition, explaining who the titular Galavant is. A brave and handsome knight of legendary proportions who seems to have found his one true love in the fair Madalena. Only the moustache-twistingly temperamental King Richard seeks to have Madalena all to himself and kidnaps her, spurring Galavant to the rescue. The musical number quickly takes us to Galavant storming the castle, his reputation proceeding him enough that he can command the palace guards to just fall so he doesn’t have to deal with them. Galavant crashes Madalena and King Richard’s wedding and proclaims his love for the maiden, only she’s been doing some thinking and much prefers the fame and fortune of queenhood over True Love, much to King Richard’s delight. So within the first few minutes the villain has won. This is the first among many interesting twists Galavant throws at the audience.

Jump to sometime later where brave Galavant has given up on chivalry and bodily hygiene, much to his squire Sid’s dismay. But Sid has an idea as to how to get his knight back on his feet and presents Galavant with Princess Isabella Luica Maria Elizabetta of Valencia. Yeah, I’m only writing her full name once. Isabella has heard the tales of Galavant and wishes for him to help her reclaim her kingdom, offering the priceless jewel of her people as incentive. She reprises the opening number, trying to coax Galavant into action, but the knight musical beats her at every turn, commenting on how out of shape he is among other things, and shows the princess the door.

Flashback to two months prior with Princess Isabella hiding out under the throne room of King Richard. We see that all is not well with the king, as Madalena is proving to be quite a handful, constantly comparing her new husband to the gallant Galavant. She also seems to be a woman of insatiable appetites, not too subtly inviting the court jester to her chambers. In this scene we are also introduced to Gareth, King Richard’s right hand muscle and the poor cook, last surviving member of his family thanks to the king’s picky palate. King Richard is displeased with Madalena expressing her preference to Galavant and details what he would like to do to the hero in the form of a song. This is one of the campier musical numbers, but it fits King Richard’s personality as he is undoubtedly the hammiest character on the show. We also begin to see how aware the characters are of their musical nature as the extras react to some of King Richard’s more unsavory lyrics detailing the taxes he would levy if he had more free time, among other things. A favorite moment of mine is Gareth, quite the intimidating fellow, bellowing for everyone to join in the song. This is what I mean when I say Galavant is utterly aware that it is a musical. The characters take the musical numbers in stride, accepting them as a fact of everyday life.

Cut back to Galavant at the pub, engaging in his new favorite past time of draining a tankard. Only the hero’s credit has run out at this establishment, leaving Galavant high and unfortunately dry. That is, until he spots Isabella nearby. He bids Isabella to continue with her tale and we learn a few interesting developments. The King and Queen of Valencia were about to be murdered by King Richard because they would not present the prized jewel of their land, a trinket Madalena desires and the very dame one Isabella carries. Here is one moment where I think Galavant suffers a bit. We are outright told with a number of adjectives that Madalena is a cold and rather evil woman. Granted that could be deduced from her actions, but by spelling it out for the audience we are meant to see Galavant’s former love in the worst light. Time crunch or not, I was a bit surprised that we were flat out told how terrible Madalena was. Anyway, Isabella pops out of her hidey hole in order to save her family by producing the Jewel of Valencia.

Back to Galavant and Isabella at the pub, where we finally understand just what caused the knight to fall so far from grace. Galavant was afraid of finding his True Love, he having a predisposition to that kind of fairy tale romance. His parents were the same way, only the never found their happy ending in each other. So Galavant focused on bettering himself in every way possible. Unfortunately, he still fell for Madalena, only he cared for her in that fairy tale way and she less so, breaking Galavant’s spirit. And here’s where things get interesting.

We jump back into the past and see King Richard successfully recover the Jewel of Valencia for Madalena, only she decides at that moment to once again bring up Galavant. This causes the king to switch gears, concealing the jewel and modifying his plan. Isabella is in fact working for King Richard, using Galavant’s disgust with the monarch and his hope that Madalena still cares to motivate Galavant into coming after Richard so the king could rid himself of the knight once and for all. I have to say, I was quite surprised at this development. I was ready to accept that Isabella was simply on a rescue mission and that King Richard wasn’t slick enough to hatch that kind of a plan. I feel it will throw a few interesting twists and turns in to Galavant and Isabella’s relationship and brings another layer to the king. We see Isabella is very skilled at gently manipulating the knight, name dropping King Richard into the conversation which is the very thing Galavant needed to hear to get him to clean up his act and be heroic once more.

The second episode begins with Galavant and his gang on the road. Only things are quiet, too quiet. As Galavant defends himself from an ambush, Madalena suddenly appears, as well as King Richard. And then Galavant’s pants disappear. It turns out this was all a dream sequence, preying on the knight’s insecurities. Galavant shakes that off and he, Isabella, and Sid being their quest with an incredibly catchy song, aptly titled “Off On A Hero’s Journey”. Despite the heroic title, the song details Galavant’s shortcomings and his denial of Madalena’s betrayal while masquerading as an upbeat traveling ditty. Again, one of Galavant’s strong suits is this bait and switch. The audience is humming along with the cheerful tune only to realize that the characters are singing about how the hero is still hung-over. I also enjoy how Galavant lampshades the singing with his exhaustion after holding the final note of the song.

The gang observe that it will be dark soon and they need a place to stay for the night. Unfortunately, the trio are flat broke. However, Sid sharply spies a flyer for a jousting tournament that could fund their quest. Too bad the group, upon arriving at the jousting arena, discover they don’t have the means to pay the entry fee. Enter the first of a handful of high profile guests starts, John Stamos as the smarmy Sir Jean Hamm. Yes, that’s his name. Galavant and Jean Hamm have history and after a volley of “yo’ momma” jokes that are surprisingly well timed and rather funny, Galavant is determined to enter the joust and win. Despite Isabella’s protests, the only thing the trio can offer as collateral is the Jewel of Valencia. This episode is where Isabella shines. She is the most determined and serious of the group and is unwilling to lose the priceless heirloom of her people or fail in her own ulterior motives, so she takes matters into her own hands, talking up Galavant enough to get him automatically placed in the final round of the joust. However, there is one more bump in the road before victory. Galavant is still horribly out of shape. I like that our hero isn’t automatically ready and 100%, that his descent to rock bottom has left an impression on him physically as well as mentally.

While Jean Hamm is jousting his way to the final, Isabella takes it upon herself to whip Galavant into shape with a training montage set to some up-beat music with rather interesting lyrics. Quickly, Galavant gains his skill back and is ready to joust. Only Isabella, wishing to hedge all her bets, visits Jean Hamm and… well basically gets him loaded on absinthe. Just obliterated, so much so that the drunk knight can barely stand. I can’t decide if the electric green absinthe vomit that pours out of his helmet is crossing a line, but it did make me chuckle in horror. Too bad for Galavant that training montage took its own toll. In another sly twist of events, Galavant can barely move; he’s too sore from relearning all of his skills in a single afternoon. What comes next has to be the most amusingly anticlimactic joust ever, with both parties barely able to stay on their horses long enough to tap each other with their lances before falling down, their steeds trotting away almost in disinterest. It is declared that the first knight on his feet is the winner and after much struggling and a steely-eyed threat from Isabella, Galavant staggers to his feet and wins back the Jewel of Valencia. In their celebration, Isabella and Galavant share a gaze and a moment and perhaps there may be more brewing between the two than profit and deceit.

While this is going on, King Richard is having his own struggles. Madalena is thoroughly unimpressed with the king’s childish ways, so Gareth takes it upon himself to teach his ruler the manly art of manliness. It’s hard to pick just one “best” line from the episode as the delivery and dialogue out of everyone’s mouth is hilarious, but I have to say my personal favorite when King Richard, after being toughened up by Gareth, proclaims to Madalena with a swagger that he will be drinking an ale at dinner “from the BOTTLE”, then belching and asking his wife if she “whiffed” it. It’s just so absurd and over the top it has to be funny. Madalena and King Richard also share a moment at dinner, leading us into a song where the pair decide that maybe the other “isn’t the worst thing ever”. Galavant and Isabella join in from afar, further hinting at a budding relationship between the two of them. I have to say, any love ballad that begins with the line “you’re frigid…” will definitely entertain me. But the goodwill between King Richard and Madalena is short lived and the king regresses into his foppish ways, seeking a bone crushing hug from Gareth.

And there you have it, the first two episodes of Galavant! How did you like it, dear readers, were you singing along?

One of the things I enjoy the most about Galavant are the characters. They constantly challenge your expectations of what is means to be a hero, or a damsel in distress, or even the villain. Galavant retaining his heroic ways and still being fallible and in need of some practice is refreshing given how often we’ve seen heroes instantly reclaim their skills when a new quest is presented before them. I like that Galavant needs some work, it keeps me rooting for him. Isabella as well. She is a lying liar who lies and yet I still like her for her determination and her skills. She is unapologetically focused and can hold her own against all those she meets. It’s clear that Isabella wears the pants on this quest and I look forward to more from her.

King Richard is the show stealer without a doubt. His character is less of a bumbling man-child and more of an eccentric child trapped in a king’s body. While we often see a character as spoiled as this come off as unintelligent, King Richard has plans and that’s what makes him dangerous. He is blunt, which often results in hilarity, but that also means he has no problem expressing what he wants and then taking it. And he has the power to do so. Madalena is interesting as well. She is clearly being painted as the least sympathetic character and yet she remains our hero’s focus. I’m very intrigued to see where her character ends up and if she softens or remains harsh.

The supporting cast of Sid, the cook, and Gareth all excel in highlighting the quick wit displayed on Galavant, as well the big name guest star John Stamos. Normally I would be turned off by such a distracting addition coming into the story so soon; the audience has only just learned about the main characters. And yet, Jean Hamm is like a feather in the cap of the second episode, a fun tidbit that’s used sparingly enough so as not to distract from the main event.

The songs are wonderful with some of the best writing on the show hidden in those lyrics. The performances are enthusiastic and witty and the cast a superb set of singers. I can say prefer the group numbers of episode two to the solo performances of episode one though, just because the cast works so well together. And speaking of witty, the volley of dialog between the characters has to be seen and heard to believe. Every line is delivered on point and this is one of the few shows that had me consistently laughing out loud.

With such a short run I’m looking forward to the plot progressing quickly and sweeping us viewers up in the adventure. Galavant is cheeky and takes itself just seriously enough for the audience to enjoy the hammy nature of the whole thing. There is a fine balance struck with this show which is the secret to its success. The show stops just short of becoming too silly and doesn’t beat its viewers over the head with the fact that it is about a bunch of medieval maniacs singing songs. Galavant says orange when you are expecting it to say banana and you are indeed glad that it does. I can’t wait for more.

Tune in next week for a new pair of adventures “Two Balls” and “Comedy Gold”!

About the Author – Ashley B
Ashley is as serious as a sleeping curse when she says television is her life. Professional event planner, avid movie viewer, convention enthusiast, and resident sass master, Ashley writes reviews for ABC's Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and Galavant, as well as Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. She looks forward each week to the weird and wonderful world her favorite television programs provide.
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