Monday, January 19, 2015

Galavant 1x05 "Completely Mad...Alena" & 1x06 "Dungeons and Dragon Lady" (Love Is Weird, Love Is Dumb)

"Completely Mad...Alena" & "Dungeons and Dragon Lady"
Original Airdate: January 18, 2015

I mentioned last week that what I love so much about Galavant is its willingness to subvert tropes. The show may be absurdly meta in its comedy occasionally, and that's endearing. And the songs are absolutely genius. But what really makes the series stand out is the fact that each of its characters is utterly unique. The damsels in distress aren't really damsels at all. They can take care of themselves. The knight is smarmy and self-centered and eventually grows to become compassionate and selfless. The squire is intelligent and astute. The king is hilariously insecure and his bodyguard is intimidating but genuinely smart.

Galavant isn't just a show worth watching because it's hilarious (these two episodes are probably the strongest of the batch that have aired in terms of storytelling and comedy), but because its characters are genuinely engaging. I love that it managed to take a character so unsuspecting and beautiful and make her completely and totally evil but also still delightful. I love that it managed to take the anticipated trope of Galavant and Isabella falling in love and make it fresh and enjoyable to watch rather than trite. And I love that King Richard was allowed to have some character growth and development and that Gareth was given a story. (I also love that there was a surprise twist to the end of "Dungeons and Dragon Lady" propelling us into the final two episodes.)

So let's talk more about why this week's installments of Galavant were fabulous, shall we?

"Completely Mad...Alena"

Quick summary: While Galavant, Sid, and Isabella detour their journey to the kingdom at a monastery with singing monks (guest star Weird Al Yankovic) where Isabella makes the decision not to hand Galavant over to King Richard. Unfortunately for her, their deal is still very much on as the king promises to kill her parents if she fails to bring him the jewel and Galavant. Meanwhile, Madalena decides to enact her own plot and become the only ruler of the kingdom.

My thoughts: So there's a general consensus from what I've read regarding the character of Madalena that everyone thinks she's horrible and manipulative and evil... and we absolutely love her. I thought about this during my watch of "Completely Mad...Alena" last night: I wondered exactly how Galavant managed to take a character who should have been pure of heart and soul and turn her into a horrible person and still let her be lovable by the audience. And I think that the answer is actually in the question above. The series took a trope and turned it into something unexpected. Quite frankly, that is where the beauty of the show lies and what makes it so special. Galavant manages to take our expectations of what a musical-comedy should be -- of what characters we should see -- and flips those expectations over, allowing them the freedom to provide more interesting, engaging characters in the process.

This episode reminded me that I love Madalena because she's so self-serving, even though by all accounts she should be the "fair maiden" we hope ends up with Galavant at the end. She's far more interesting than any maiden in any story this way. She's more engaging because she's beautiful and shrewd and manipulative and cold -- because she surpasses our expectations and the expectations set forth by other fairytales and comedies. I think that the reason I love Madalena, truly, is because she may be manipulative and evil but she's completely unexpected. She's unprecedented. And she's really, really smart. I like that she's a woman who goes after what she wants, rather than passively let life happen to her (even if her motivations are self-serving). I like that she's a horrible person because that means she's layered and about a thousand times more interesting than a pining captive prisoner of King Richard's.

"Completely Mad...Alena" spent a lot of time dwelling on Madalena's characterization and the execution of her plot to overthrow the king, but it also spent a lot of time with Isabella, the other lead woman in this series. In this episode, we see clearly how guilty Isabella feels for agreeing to sacrifice Galavant in order to get her kingdom and parents back. She approaches the king with demands, not timidity. Galavant has done a great job at portraying these two women not as rivals for Galavant's affections but as strong women who are rather fearless in their crusades, whether good or evil. But Isabella realizes she cannot rescind her offer to trade Galavant's life for her parents' lives and the kingdom and the guilt of that decision continues to plague her... especially when she and Galavant have an especially tender moment before they invade the castle.

What's so sweet about that moment, of course, is that both characters are being completely genuine with each other. Galavant's honesty with Isabella is so touching because it is so rare. And it's beautiful, really, to find these moments in a comedy/musical like Galavant that is more prone to shenanigans, hijinks, and meta humor. So when Galavant tells her how thankful he is for her, you can see the guilt begin to bubble up even further in Isabella even when she, in turn, tells Galavant how thankful she is for him. (The tension is so palpable! Sid enters for that comedic relief, or else they might have kissed. Probably. Who knows.) That whole moment between Galavant and Isabella makes the inevitable reveal of Isabella's betrayal by King Richard even more painful, of course, for our knight.

"Dungeons and Dragon Lady"

Quick summary: Galavant, Sid, and Isabella are captured and Galavant learns of Isabella's betrayal while also learning of Madalena's true feelings for him. King Richard and his chef seek out answers to why he is so insecure by confronting a magician (guest star Ricky Gervais) named Xanax for help. Gareth makes a decision on whether or not to betray King Richard for Madalena. And finally, a surprising character resurfaces in King Richard's life.

My thoughts: Galavant comes to the realization in "Dungeons and Dragon Lady" that Madalena never really loved him. And it's a necessary revelation, of course, because... well, she didn't. And he needs to realize that in order to move forward. Still, in most series or comedies, this would take Galavant weeks to determine -- he would sulk and mope and be angry at Isabella for her betrayal. In Galavant, however, our hero comes to the realization rather quickly that Madalena isn't good for him because she never loved him. And that revelation comes, refreshingly, not because the knight is aloof or stupid or angry but because he's hurt and in denial that his relationship with her meant so little. (Plus, the entire time Galavant is "mad" at Isabella for her betrayal, he and Sid choose to make fun of her rather than express actual anger. It's kind of because he loves her. Obviously.)

So "Dungeons and Dragon Lady" portrays Madalena not as manipulative in trying to convince Galavant that she loves him, like so many tropes would do, but portrays her as openly manipulative. She wants him to be her boy toy -- she wants him because it benefits her, not because she loves him. And Galavant might have accepted that deal before his quest but this isn't the same disheveled, drunken, hopeless and hapless man we met in the pilot -- he's grown and he's changed. But more importantly, I think for the first time in his life, Galavant hasn't felt like he's entitled to anything. I think he's realized through his relationship with Isabella and from his evolving friendship with Sid that he doesn't deserve everything in life -- he has to earn it. He has to earn good graces and favors. He has to earn respect from others by treating them with respect. And he has to earn love by loving. 

There's this moment in the episode where Isabella tells Galavant that what he deserves isn't someone who treats him poorly but someone who genuinely loves him. It's harder and weirder and messier to be in love with someone when there are actual risks (mainly because being in love takes actual faith and risks), and Galavant realizes that what he would be doing with Madalena wouldn't be real love; he's been in love with the idea of her for so long and THAT is what propelled him. But now? Now he sees her for who she truly is. And the funny thing is that Galavant doesn't have to contemplate his options for very long. At all. He realizes quite quickly that Madalena is wrong for him and that Isabella is right. 

Oh, but Madalena is going to have Isabella executed soon so that might derail the love story a bit, right? (Never fear -- Galavant promises her that she isn't going to die. Also, they sing the best ballad ever about love.)

Elsewhere in the episode, we get some genuine backstory to King Richard as he and the chef discover a magician named Xanax who helps the king decipher his issues. As it turns out, King Richard had a brother named Kingsley who didn't want to take the throne when they were children and then -- at the very last minute and right when Richard is about to become king -- decided that he DID want the crown. And in that moment, Richard was humiliated. As he sees this memory (thanks to Xanax... the drug, not the person. Well, kind of the person, too.), he realizes that this was the defining moment in his life: this was when he became a coward; when he became the butt of everyone's jokes.

It's a sad moment to watch because you DO wonder how someone so sad and easily manipulated could have become king. But it's even sadder to realize that King Richard has always just wanted people to adore him and love him. And at every single turn... people betray him. His wife did. His kingdom did. His own brother did. (Which is what makes the fact that Gareth does not abandon his best friend/king at the end. YAY CHARACTERIZATION!) It's no wonder that Richard tries to take things by force: that's the only way he can seem to get what he wants.

But at the episode's end -- just as Richard realizes what he wants and what he doesn't want and just as he begins to finally stand up for himself -- Kingsley reappears, courtesy of Madalena. Oh, did I forget to mention? The only way this can end right for Madalena and Kingsley is if Richard dies.


Additional fun bits and pieces:
  • Madalena's song was EVERYTHING.
  • The "so, like... nine o'clock?" gag was perfect because it wasn't over-utilized and it was mentioned by a few characters.
  • "Maddy, baby, chill."
  • "You never hear about people storming castles on a Wednesday."
  • "... Can't we just have a normal adventure?"
  • "Why do I even talk to poor people?"
  • "Thank you for bring me back to... me." AWWWWWW.
  • THERE WAS A WHOLE SONG ABOUT PEASANT LOVE. It was everything you could hope for and more.
  • "I've been thinking... I can get another kingdom."
  • "Gareth! We agreed I would get to say the cool things!" Timothy Omundson continues to be an absolute delight in this series.
  • "Oh Gal... that sounds awful."
  • "Does that clear things up for you?" "... No. And when did you learn how to dance?"
  • "I tried to warn you! So many songs. So many sides!"
  • Ricky Gervais was fabulous with his dry wit and humor as a magician named Xanax and it made me wonder why everyone in the world isn't watching this show. Or why Ricky Gervais hasn't always been on this show.
  • "You know what I think? I think you're in a dungeon, wondering if the woman that put you there loves you. And the real question is: why do you still love her? I mean, yes, she's beautiful in the 'perfect skin, perfect body, perfect hair' kind of way if you're into that sort of thing. But I KNOW you, Galavant. I know your heart and you deserve better. You deserve to be with someone who will lift you up as a man, someone who will fight with you, not against you. Maybe someone who's small and cute and... ethnically hard to pin down." Karen David in the role of Isabella is EVERYTHING.
  • "I've been so blind. Madalena never loved me. When you love someone, you shout it from the rooftop. Or sing it in a song."
  • Speaking of: that Galavant/Isabelle duet was EVERYTHING I EVER WANTED AND MORE.
  • "I ate my feelings. ... And a lot of bread."
  • "You only babble when you feel really bad."
  • "... It's been open the whole time? No one thought to check?"
  • "I know you're not a hugger, but if you were, I would wrap myself around you like a leather jacket made of love."
Well folks, we are nearing the end of Galavant's run: only two more episodes next week to go! Will you miss this series as much as I will? Are you shipping Galavant/Isabella? What will happen to King Richard? Hit up the comments below with your thoughts. Until next time! :)


  1. These episodes are really getting stronger now that we've established all their characters.

    I actually clapped my hands with joy when I saw Weird Al in the monastery. That was ridiculous and made me so happy. Something about his voice takes me right back to my childhood (and he seems to fit the general tone of the show so well)

    I really do enjoy watching all of these characters. I must say that the chef is one of my favourites. (That song with Gwen about the difficult and disgusting life they could have was so amazing.) But my absolute top relationship is King Richard and Gareth. I love watching how they interact. They make me laugh so much (Jones and Omundson are a hoot) but they are also very tender and believable. I like that Gareth had a real struggle between his desire for a strong leader and his loyalty to Richard. And loyalty won out! And Richard is becoming more nuanced and understandable as a character too. I could watch them all the days.

    I will miss them all when this is done. (And whenever I see Rutger Hauer I immediately think of Ladyhawke, the movie that imprinted all ideas of romance in me :) ... must watch that now.)

    1. BECCA! You know I always enjoy all of your comments. :) I'm seriously loving this show and am so sad that we're only two episodes away from it ending. Boo. This was the strongest set of episodes IMO.

      Okay, I'm going to totally admit that I clapped my hands too when I saw Weird Al because it just made me so giddy. And you're right -- he totally fits in with the tone of this show. It makes the fact that this show is only eight episodes so sad. I would have loved to see more from these characters than just one-off episodes.

      The chef has definitely become one of the highlights of this series, but I'm right there with you -- King Richard is hilarious. I knew I would love him because I love Timothy Omundson, but I seriously loved his development in "Dungeons and Dragon Lady." Also: HOW CUTE WERE LITTLE GARETH AND RICHARD?! It's going to be hilarious to go from watching Vinnie Jones play this well-meaning and loyal BFF to the king and then tomorrow seeing him as a villain on 'Arrow.'

      *whispers* I have no idea who Rutger Hauer is and I feel ashamed of that. It felt like an important reveal at the end of the episode as Kingsley though.

  2. Little Gareth and Richard were adorable! I loved that whole flashback because it gave so much that opened my eyes about both Richard and Gareth. (Can't wait to see Jones on Arrow, getting so excited!)

    Ah, Rutger Hauer, he probably is best known for his creepy villains. He was amazing in Blade Runner and super eery. But I love him as the romantic hero in Ladyhawke, with Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Broderick in 1985. That was a huge part of my childhood and if you can forgive the 80s soundtrack still stands up in my opinion. Also, check him out in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. Although far surpassed by the series, I thought the film was great, cheesy and great.

  3. OMG i just love this show sooo much. I really love Tim Omundson since Psych. Great review. Do you know if there will be a second season??


    1. I think Timothy Omundson is absolutely hilarious on this show. I LOVED him on Psych and it's great to see him play such an aloof, clueless character on this one.

      Unfortunately, I believe it didn't get picked up for a season at ABC, which is why there are only 8 episodes airing back-to-back and being billed as a "special" rather than a series. I would have loved another season with these characters but alas, network television. :(