Two new episodes of Galavant this week, and a funny thing happened. It got better! A little. Enough that I stopped taking notes and watched instead. Twice each!
God, I want to see Tim Omundson in a bunch of period pieces. As King Richard, I don’t know what it is: the beard, the rings, the impish and self-satisfied grin. He looks like he’s having a blast, and he’s oddly suited to this quasi-English setting–he’s actually pretty well-suited to a lot of eras. If he’d come along forty years earlier, his filmography would probably have been packed with dizzy romcoms and pseudo-noir. He’s got the look of a straight-laced leading man and the comedic timing of the fey sidekick.
I wish there were more of a development of how Madalena ended up this dickish. She was all sweetness and oh-Galavant in the pilot, until the sudden and inexplicable turn. Since then she’s been bored and/or spiteful, and not much else. It’s a good move, though, making her so ruthless. Power corrupts, threat of lack of power corrupts absolutely?
But why am I so dissatisfied by her dickery? We’ve had a bit of depth revealed for most of the main cast now, but Madalena is still one-note. She’s grasping. Great! Now what? I hope we’re not heading for a lessening of her power-grab because Madalena discovers that she has some more tender emotions. Boring.
In a separate note, I don’t see much chemistry between Galavant and Madalena. It’s hard to buy that he’s blind to what she’s doing when I also don’t believe he believes he’s that into her. It also weakens the big emotional reunion between them, as well as the revelation that Galavant and Isabella have a thing for each other. (Obviously.)
As a close personal friend of Al, I was excited to see him. Such a ridiculous premise is a great fit and totally in his wheelhouse. But other than the initial chuckle of “oh hey, it’s Weird Al” there isn’t much to the monks, though. Vow of singing is fun, but it doesn’t really go anywhere. It does, however, set up a great gag when Isabella seeks the monk’s advice and he can’t tear himself away from rehearsal enough to pay attention.
Ricky Gervais was the guest in the second episode, as a terrible wizard/drug dealer named Xanax, who doses Richard and Chef so they can go on a spiritual journey. Eh.
Another minor character gets more development this week–this time it’s Chef. We get to see that he has a life and desires separate from his duties/trying to survive, punctured by Madalena’s distaste for dealing with the peasants. He’s in love with her handmaiden, in fact: Gwynne, played by Sophie McShera, who plays a similar role on Downton Abbey. They sing a painfully sweet duet about what their shared life could be: love, pestilence, and grotesque death.
I was still having the same trouble where I don’t believe that Richard is capable of real evil. He skirts right up to the edge but always backs away. Getting his backstory helps explain some of it–he’s the younger son, more emotionally delicate and not raised to be a decisive or bloodthirsty king. But. But.Then he actually follows through! It’s a great scene, where he casually and almost thoughtlessly executes two men. Okay, that’s not what makes it great; that’s awful. What makes it great is the total unconcern he shows for the men he executed (also not great, but go with it). Finally, he embodies the cruelty we keep being told he has! There are real stakes to Galavant’s headlong journey to Madalena!
So, the episodes were better, but the show is still largely a turd. With more development time, and less insistence on ineffective guest stars and weirdly outdated cultural references (I’m still shaking my head over last week’s Lilith Fair namedrop), Galavant might have become the kind of outlandish yet compulsive viewing as Once Upon a Time. Instead, we have what feels like a musical that was workshopped a few dozen years ago and then mothballed until someone at ABC was desperate for a month of programming.