Galavant, Season 1, Episode 3, “Two Balls” Written by Dan Fogelman Directed by Chris Koch
Galavant, Season 1, Episode 4, “Comedy Gold” Written by Kat Likkel & John Hoberg Directed by John Fortenberry Airs Sundays at 8pm EST on ABC
The third and fourth episodes of Galavant wisely focus on strengthening the bonds between the main trio on their journey to do… something. On a quest. There’s singing?
Probably the biggest fault with Galavant right now is its marriage between humor and plot. This isn’t a show where one tunes in to watch what happens next and the show’s go-with-it tone makes for quite a forgetful voyage. Why are our “heroes”—Galavant, Isabella and Sid—traveling to King Richard’s kingdom? The episodes remind viewers that Isabella is definitely double crossing Galavant, our egotistical hero, and that there is a very important Macguffin crystal, but besides that, is anyone really watching for the plot?
No, as it turns out. Galavant’s main draw lies in its parody and commitment to being a medieval musical comedy that is willing to bring in real-world humor. Take the entire plot with Sid in “Two Balls”. Sid the Squire returns home to the village that raised him and built a statue in his name (as well as renaming the town “Sidneyland”). And inside that joke, where our sidekick is the hero in someone else’s story, are Sid’s very Jewish (to the point of stereotype) adoptive parents. They smother him with affection and put him on a pedestal, which delights thespian Isabella to the point that she calls herself his fiancee to go along with the ruse, while Galavant reluctantly becomes Sid’s squire. It’s a familiar comedic setup squished into a musical medieval comedy. It also largely works, thanks to numerous other musical comedies having done this trick.
The weirdest part of the episode, though, is that the Sid storyline isn’t really framed as Sid’s story—it’s Galavant’s. It’s Galavant and the other squires who get a musical number and develop, not Sid, and by giving the episode’s story not to his squire, but to the titular lead, Galavant almost retroactively undoes all of its parody humor. The show can toot its own horn about having a “diverse” lead trio, but it’s not breaking any ground. This is clearly the story of a heteronormative white guy who thinks too highly of himself and the series struggles to remember why exactly everyone else is doing what they are doing. Isabella is a spy forced to take Galavant back to King Richard to save her family, but the show has yet to play up the drama that was so surprising in the pilot. The show doesn’t know how to write for anyone besides Galavant, because he’s an archetype.
Well, anyone besides Galavant and King Richard that is, who is a familiar antagonist past the point of redemption, but still almost lovable? Which is ironic, because King Richard proves that more than anything—despite his forgetful cruelty—he wants to be loved, and no one really does love him, besides the audience. This is the driving force for the character trying to make his marriage with his bored, borderline trophy wife Madalena work and it’s the focus of his subplots. His attempts in “Comedy Gold” to become beloved in the eyes of the Valencians whose lives he spared and to win them over by becoming funny feels superfluous, yet real. Between a man who can’t do anything right (Richard) and one who can do everything right (Galavant), the former is, oddly enough, more relatable.