Galavant: “I don’t like it when men touch my face.”

I’ll start with the obvious: Galavant is done. Maybe it will get a second series, but that seems unlikely. It’s not had great ratings–something the showrunners anticipated, if the jester’s final song is to be believed. And there hasn’t been much critical or cultural buzz about it either. To be honest, I’m not sure whether I’d watch if it came back.

When we rejoin the action in the first of these last two episodes, Galavant and Isabella, along with her parents and Sid, are still imprisoned in the dungeon. Kingsley, Richard’s older and more brutal brother, joins forces with Madalena, who has finally leveled up her bloodthirsty game. She’s ready to jump ship for a new consort, just as soon as she clears the old one out of the way. Luckily, Richard decides to toughen up and challenges Kingsley to a duel (by proxy). But the plan immediately backfires when Kingsley taps Gareth, Richard’s best friend and man at arms, as his proxy. Which means Richard’s stuck with Galavant.

The real problem with the show is that there are never any believable stakes to anything that happens. At various points in the eight episodes, it looks like Galavant’s going to die at Richard’s hand, at Madalena’s, at Gareth’s, at Kingsley’s–not to mention some of the guest stars of the week. (Remember John Stamos’ knight, named Jean Hamm for no apparent reason? No? Same.) Richard’s also in danger–just in the last two episodes–from Gareth, Madalena, Chef, and Kingsley. And nothing happens there either.

If you’re making a show that keeps saying it’s trading on derring-do and danger, you should probably put some of that in your show. Right? It seemed like Rutger Hauer might finally provide that, but he wound up stretching his comedic muscles instead. Sometimes successfully, even. Prior to his arrival, Gareth is our only truly dangerous character–Madalena spits venom but deals out no harm to anything except Richard’s feelings; Richard deals nothing but empty threats, and puts force behind his words only once, when he executes two prisoners. In the end, Madalena is the only one who exhibits any kind of true cunning or cruelty, and she’s rewarded for it. But it’s too little and way too late.

Galavant’s main action in the penultimate episode, My Cousin Izzy, lampshades this problem, though I’m not confident the show meant it that way. Galavant formulates a plan to escape and rescue the Valencians and wrestles with his feelings for Isabella, over her parents’ repeated objections. He also keeps trying to sing his triumphant hero-moment anthem. But he’s interrupted repeatedly before he reaches the climax of the song. When he finally does manage to deliver it, it’s so anticlimactic that Isabella pretty much asks, “Is that all?”

If it is, I think we’ve seen the last of our 13th century friends.

Some final notes:

  • I didn’t talk at all about the exteriors but they were pretty fantastic throughout. The show was filmed in and around Bristol and makes good use of landscapes and buildings that aren’t overly familiar to American audiences. But the authenticity of those settings made the artificiality of the interior sets and the wavering quality of the non-British actors’ accents much more obvious.
  • Tony Head as Galavant’s dad! I kept hoping for another flashback, because what little we did see of him was a waste. We binged on Dominion on Syfy this weekend, where he plays a particularly nasty asshole. It’s remarkable how much he can change the way you consider him with just an expression, or lack thereof.
  • With the first tiny scene between Chef and Gwynne, this show got realer than seventeen-hundred seasons of Game of Thrones, 24, and Downton Abbey combined. SMASH THE POWERFUL.
  • The reveal of Harry, Isabella’s cousin and fiance, as a teeny tiny baby prince was funny, unexpected, and cute. But the ~stylish orientalism~ of his soldiers and home felt off. After six full episodes of largely un-Othered people of color, it was very strange to suddenly be dropped into the low-budget ABC version of an Arabian Nights knockoff.
  • I’m going to preserve my actual note here because I was so thrilled I lost all ability to navigate my keybord:
  • Mary Crawley better get a food tester next season on Downton.
  • I’m interested in a story about an adult, (relatively) successful man who is still a virgin. King Richard is not the way I expected to get one. As a culmination of this storyline where Richard is revealed to be sensitive and not traditionally masculine, it’s really interesting! But like everything else in this show, it’s played for an initial laugh and then totally dropped.
  • I did not expect the true couple I’d root for through this show to be Richard and Gareth. They’re the real star-crossed pair. I want them to live happily ever after!!
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