When we last saw the cast of Galavant, they couldn’t stop singing about how their show would probably get canceled after just one season. Such cheeky metafictional humor can quickly get annoying, but the joke worked because, well, it was probably true. Even with heavy-hitters like Dan Fogelman at the typewriter and Alan Menken, Glenn Slater, and Christopher Lennertz at the piano, the series was always a risk; it’s not like musical sitcoms have a high success rate on network television, never mind a musical sitcom that also sends up fairytales and fantasy epics.
Miraculously, Galavant got renewed (then again, so did everything on ABC), despite its own oddball nature and a steadily declining viewership. So it’s understandable that the show’s creators would want to rub it in our faces a little bit. Understandable, but also slightly irritating. As if its awkward (though admittedly funny) title wasn’t enough, the premiere all but tosses out the unfuckwithably catchy theme song (“It’s a real ear-worm” remarks one pirate) in favor of a big-band showtune that’s as much about Galavant’s triumphant new season as it is about bringing us up to speed on the characters. While the musical number itself is amusing—packed with winking lines about the show’s astronomical guest-star budget and how most viewers DVR Galavant as opposed to watching it live—the second-season gloating becomes a running gag (and a musical reprise) that grows stale over 22 minutes. Remember what I said about metafictional humor getting annoying?
Luckily, there’s also a great deal of Galavant and King Richard wandering through the woods on their quest to reclaim Richard’s kingdom. Although that’s not quite the two-guys-stuck-on-a-boat episode I had hoped for (Richard inadvertently wrecks the pirate ship after months of sailing), it still gives the two former enemies plenty of time to strengthen their bond; it seems that the lamer Richard is, the kinder–and more sympathetic—he becomes.
He even gets them out of a rut when they stumble into an Enchanted Forest that’s not an Enchanted Forest at all, but a medieval gay bar. As soon as they walk through the door, Galavant becomes a man-sized piece of eye candy for the clientele, as well as the imposing bear of a bartender and the tavern’s owner, known simply as The Queen. As played by Kylie Minogue, she makes for a welcome change of pace from what’s otherwise a scene of fairly stereotypical gay humor (not offensive, just passé), mixing things up musically with a disco number that I can only guess is called “Off With His Shirt.”
By the end of it, The Queen’s forced Gal to become an indentured bartender, leaving Richard—who no one in The Enchanted Forest seems to have eyes for—to find them a way out. Fortunately, he has an uncle (more of a friend to his father, really) played by Simon Williams who’s happy to help them escape. Soon enough, Galavant and Richard are more or less back where they started: on the road to the castle, where Gareth has officially taken the throne next to Madalena and Isabella remains captive, albeit a bit closer to freedom, thanks to a key smuggled to her by Chef.
With the premiere’s song and dance of recapping (and bragging) out of the way, “World’s Best Kiss” is free to explore more adventurous territory. By last season’s finale, Galavant proved that it could deliver emotional complexity when it wanted to—just look at King Richard’s metamorphosis—and tonight’s second episode kicks off with Gal and Isabella dealing with the same complicated feelings in two very different parts of the world. What if their first (and only) kiss wasn’t that good? Musty, even? What if they they rushed into their romance too hastily? Their inner conflict quickly turns the episode into the other thing that Galavant does best: a subversion of fairytale tropes. When a hero and damsel fall into a storybook romance, we’re used to taking their emotions at face value, never stopping to question if their desire springs from lust rather than love; never stopping to wonder if their magical kiss was all that great to begin with.
Galavant certainly isn’t the first musical to address this, but Kat Likkel and John Hoberg’s script handles the de-tinting of rose-colored glasses with just the right amount of weight to undercut the sitcom’s silliness while never outright ignoring it. The writers add another charming layer via a fortune teller named Edwin The Magnificent (Simon Callow) whose wonky crystal ball—the Middle-Age equivalent to a bad cell-phone connection—only further complicates things when Galavant and Isabella try to get in touch with one another.
As with last season’s finale, I’m genuinely curious where their romance will go, if anywhere. Galavant wasn’t afraid to discard the more conventional relationship between its protagonist and Madalena, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the same rule applies to Isabella. And that’s to say nothing of the mysterious sword Richard draws from a stone (hint, hint) while trying to stave off a virgin-loving unicorn and the even more mysterious disappearance of his kingdom once he and Galavant reach its gates. Then again, maybe they’re just lost. Whatever the case, “World’s Best Kiss” proves that Galavant doesn’t always play by the rules, even if the premiere takes us down a more predictable and redundant road.
- Credit where credit’s due: I wasn’t aware of Cop Rock until one of you astute readers brought it up in the comments section of a previous review. Many thanks, good sir or madam! Feel free to remind me who you are below.
- There was a lot of ground to cover here, so I didn’t get to touch on Madalena and Gareth’s take on “Let’s Call The Thing Off.” It turns out the only thing they can agree upon is their mutual annoyance with Sid.
- Of course the always-game John Stamos returns for a cameo as Sir Jean Hamm, who’s a frequent customer at The Enchanted Forest. Just don’t tell his wife.
- I know the kitchen servant’s real name is Vincenzo, but I shall only refer to him as “Chef.”
- Between Galavant and The Muppets, ABC is cornering the market on bear jokes.
- Incidentally, I have a (straight) Uncle Keith who’s not a real uncle, but a close friend of my dad’s. He also has a tattoo of a bear claw.
- “Is there a name for when you throw up through your nose?”
- “He’s a tall drink of water, and I will forever keep him in my spank bank.” And I will forever be in favor of more older women using the term “spank bank” on ABC.
- “Beer, beer-beer, beer, beer.” I’m not sure if that’s rhythmically correct, but you get the idea.
- “Now back off, or I swear I will make you into a none-icorn.”