Synopsis: Galavant is a knight happily in a relationship with the love of his life, Madalena–until King Richard abducts her to become his queen. Naturally, he embarks on a rescue. But by the time he gets to the castle, Madalena has decided to accept Richard’s offer of her own free will, leaving Galavant heartbroken. So Galavant gives up on his knighting, while Madalena quickly becomes a force to be reckoned with…
Until one day, the princess Isabella shows up demanding Galavant’s help, and refuses to take no for an answer. (With no ulterior motives whatsoever. Nope, none.)
Series: Two seasons. (8 and 10 episodes respectively, each episode a half-hour long.)
I’ve Watched: All of it.
Verdict: Entertaining, if you’re in the mood for it.
The first time I tried to watch this show was a year back, and back then, I just couldn’t get into it. I have no idea what was so different about the next time I tried it, but this time around, I really enjoyed it.
Galavant removes a lot of the fantasy of fairy tale stories, but keeps the optimism. This makes for a light and fun story that doesn’t hide from the dark aspects of life–especially pre-modern health care–but is also too ridiculous to be anything but uplifting. The setting is a pseudo-medieval European fantasy, but unlike most pseudo-medieval settings, it doesn’t pretend to be accurate. If anything, the anachronisms are fun and a great addition to the comedy. The show even manages to make cynicism both hilarious and sweet:
The humor depends on ridiculousness, irony, and surprising amounts of honesty. There are little, fourth-wall-breaking comments, like when a background character will say ‘that’s progressive for the 13th century.’ And several references to Game of Thrones.
Weirdly enough, and I wasn’t expecting this, but my favorite character is Madalena. The shallow, cruel woman who’s willing to destroy a kingdom over a pretty jewel, who cares about no one as much as herself.
So why her? I’m pretty sure the answer is agency. Most of this show’s protagonists and antagonists watch their plans fall apart, barely scraping by to achieve their goal. It’s comedic, and it is funny–how you expect them to succeed, and they do it in the most pathetic way possible (if at all). Due to this, most of the characters are just plain inept. I’ve wondered whether it’s even fair to call Galavant a hero, since he never actually saves anything. And this is not a complaint–I love how the show uses subverted expectations to drive the comedy–but it does leave Madalena as pretty much the only character with the slightest shred of competency. (Well, excepting Gareth, my next-favorite character.)
While everyone else is concocting ridiculous schemes that completely fall apart, whenever she stirs herself to take matters in her own hands, she makes things happen. With the exception of the first episode, she’s hardly ever under anyone else’s power for longer than five seconds at a time. And yeah, she’s a terrible person. But watching a former peasant woman rearrange her life to her satisfaction, despite not technically having any power in her own right–it’s a strangely liberating feeling.
Aside from her, one of the joys of the first season is watching Galavant, Isabella, and Galavant’s squire Sid traveling together as a team. There’s a certain charm, to how they combined a genuine camaraderie with the frustrations of being forced into each others’ companies for so long–and all of that led to this acceptance of one another, even of all those habits they don’t like. In the second season, when they’re all apart, I really miss that aspect to the show. (The next traveling party we see doesn’t have the same chemistry, and their third member exists only to be a love interest anyway–while Sid is woefully underutilized as a character, at least he’s nowhere near as underdeveloped as Roberta.)
But to make up for it, in the second season, we get Madalena and Gareth (Richard’s old bodyguard) as a duo. My two favorite characters, finally on the same side. And discovering that they’re soulmates. I mean, they’re awful, brutal, selfish people. But their relationship is sweet and hilarious. I usually oppose relationships with that large of an age gap on principle–consistently pairing women with much older men is a pattern that needs to stop–but these two fit together so well, that I can honestly believe it’s their personalities bringing them together. And leave it to Galavant, to make the single most romantic moment in the show involve actual maiming. How is that even possible?
The show has its ups and downs, of course. Isabella’s agency zigzags between awesome moments (like rigging a jousting tournament behind the scenes) and inexplicable helplessness (she escapes an arranged marriage where her fiance is literally keeping her locked up–only to walk right back into her prison cell as soon as she thinks her boyfriend doesn’t love her anymore). It was never easy for me to appreciate Richard’s second season arc, especially after he was handed a love interest on a silver platter–one with no defining characteristics other than an unexplained devotion to him. I’ve also seen mixed reactions to the episode featuring Sid’s home community, coded as Jewish.
Still, the songs are fun, and I generally appreciate the show’s humor–which thankfully doesn’t rely on embarrassing its characters. It’s rare to find comedy that doesn’t completely put me off, for that reason. So this show, while not without its frustrations, is overall uplifting and ironic in a way that appeals to me. I’d totally watch more of it, if it hadn’t been canceled after the second season.