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The guest stars finally drive the plot forward on this week’s Galavant

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Even though it’s a parody of the genre, Galavant still follows the structure of a traditional fantasy quest, meaning the hero meets many new characters throughout his travels. The problem is, very few of them have had a significant effect on the story: The Enchanted Forest allowed Kylie Minogue to sing a fun disco song, but the gay bar proved to be just another stop along the road. Likewise, the democratized village introduced Roberta to the story, but the villagers themselves were forgettable and a little too normal and functional for such an adventurous sitcom.

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Fortunately, “Giants Vs. Dwarves” and “About Last Knight” are this season’s first batch of episodes where the detours have long-lasting impacts on the core cast. In the former, Galavant and King Richard each side with one of the feuding groups of the title. Apparently, Richard accepting a lizard (ahem, baby dragon) from the giants instead of asking them to join his army is an act of ineptitude Galavant just can’t accept. Upon losing his cool with his friend, Gal ventures to the giant camp himself, hoping to do what Richard could not. The giants agree to join him as long as he first helps out in defeating their enemies, the dwarves, who—naturally— are now being aided by Richard.

With the show’s buddy-comedy duo split into the ranks of two opposing mobs, the giants/dwarves battle takes on a dramatic weight not seen in Galavant’s previous guest-star-of-the-week storylines. It’s not just about two groups of people squaring off against each other—it’s about the show’s two main characters squaring off against each other. The rumble (preceded by a whistled showdown a la West Side Story) ends up being a boil-over of the tension that’s been simmering between Galavant and Richard since they started traveling together. And when Roberta resolves it by calling them both out on their bullshit, their bond has become all the stronger, thanks to their brief conflict.

Heady character stuff aside, Galavant is still a comedy, and the giants/dwarves fight also works because of a killer visual gag: all of the men—giants and dwarves alike—are approximately the same height. No one’s especially tall or short; more like an average 5’10” or, if you’re Nick Frost (who plays the leader of the giants), a slightly below average 5’7”. Director Declan Lowney gets further mileage out of the joke by placing the giants on an embankment when Galavant first encounters them, making them appear much more imposing than they actually are. Only when Frost’s Andre (wink, wink) hoists him up does he realize they can’t actually back up their claims of blocking out the sun—unless they’re standing in just the right spot.

Off in Hortensia, Isabella also has a brush with a British cameo in Sheridan Smith’s Princess Jubilee—a rough-and-tumble ruler who hasn’t yet RSVP’d to her wedding. Although Jubilee’s gimmick of being unsavory doesn’t have the same unique quality as the giants and dwarves (the show never takes her rock ‘n’ roll gross-out persona far enough), she plays a pivotal role in rerouting Isabella’s story. By knocking off Izzy’s tiara with a forceful belch, she inadvertently frees her from Wormwood’s spell. Immediately afterwards, Isabella banishes the evil wedding planner—along with his dunce of an assistant, Barry (Muzz Khan, derrr-ing to perfection)—from the kingdom.

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The two conveniently end up in a place called The Forest Of Coincidence in the next episode, meaning they run into Sid, who’s also been banished, in his case by Madalena for warning Gareth about the dangers of falling in love with her. The Forest device is cheeky, but so is Galavant as a series, and it sets up all of the disparate narrative threads to be tied up nicely and efficiently in this season’s remaining four episodes. Thanks to each character’s loose tongue—made all the looser by the nature of the surrounding woods—Wormwood’s off to Valencia to ignite a war against Hortencia, and Sid’s off to a nearby swordsmanship school for at-risk youth to reunite with Galavant.

As with the stop-offs in “Giants Vs. Dwarves,” the swordsmanship school ends up affecting the characters in huge ways. For one, it brings Galavant back together with Sid, and two, the academy is run by his father, Arnold Galavant (a kind-faced Greg Wise). Not only does his absence in Gal’s childhood explain the knight’s idealistic, sometimes desperate yearning for love—it’s also the cause of some moody resentment towards Arnold’s young students, not to mention Arnold himself.

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The father/son interactions don’t move the overall story forward in the same rapid fashion as the giants, dwarves, and Princess Jubilee, but not every musical comedy has the good sense to stop and explore the hereditary roots of its protagonist like Galavant does. If nothing else, the stint at Arnold’s school provides an opportunity for Richard to get beat up by a bunch of kids, then ends the episode with paternal resolution and a shocking accident that’s too good to spoil here. Even if the guest stars have been a weak spot in Galavant’s past, they can also be a source of perpetual motion, which will continue to be an valuable resource as the show races towards the finish line of the second season.

Stray observations

  • “Giants Vs. Dwarves” makes a case for being the best episode of Galavant thus far, if only because it begins with Richard prancing through the countryside and singing to a lizard.
  • Lots of direct spoofs of Broadway musicals tonight: there’s the aforementioned West Side Story homage, an Oliver!-esque number from Arnold’s charges, and a “Do You Hear The People Sing?” where Sid’s revolution never materializes. Describing how all of your followers are going to die gruesome—if glorious—deaths probably isn’t a good way to rally the troops, even if it works in Les Misérables.
  • After tonight, I’m hoping there’s a kid out there who names their pet iguana (or whatever kind of lizard belongs to Richard) Tad Cooper.
  • If Galavant’s father is Arnold Galavant, then what’s Galavant’s first name? I hope it’s Gal.
  • Outside of the songs, I’m not always a fan of the show’s cutesy Medievalization of modern concepts, but “red-candle district” made me chuckle.
  • “Of course we’re giants. We’re just very short giants. That’s all.”
  • “Spoken like a true giant. A giant jerk-face, that is.”
  • “We had to eat that family of Hobbits.”
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