*Warning: Spoilers Ahead*

Do you like sword fights? Pirates? Original musicals? Scathingly intelligent wit? A kidnapped damsel and an evil monarch? A kidnapped damsel discovering that she really likes being evil monarch? Do you like dragons!? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then GALAVANT just might be the show for you.

You may have seen GALAVANT floating around on your Netflix feed. It’s a musical about a knight, quite literally named Galavant, going on a quest for his one true love. It couldn’t possibly be any cheesier, right? But be warned: If you click play expecting a cheesy, warm-hearted adventure tale then you are in for a shock.

GALAVANT starts exactly how you might expect it to: with a song and dance number about the chivalrous knight who rides off to rescue his one true love who was kidnapped by an evil king. The hero storms his way into the king’s castle and proclaims his undying love for Madalena, and tells the king that she will choose his love over his fame and fortune! To which she responds, “Actually… I don’t know. I’ve been thinking a lot about it ever since he kidnapped me, and I’m gonna go with the fame and fortune. Seems like an easier life, you know?”

Cut to a year later. The gallant knight has put on 30 pounds, hired a squire/manservant, and lost his moral compass. He has, on the other hand, found himself a bad attitude and criminally neglected the art of bathing.

Behind all the wackiness and blistering irony, there are three things that really make GALAVANT stand out among today’s TV shows: the music, the characters, the sledgehammer it takes to the fourth wall. Thus begins the magical, musical tale of GALAVANT.

The perfect role model for not giving a hoot

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The Music

GALAVANT is filled with original musical numbers. Some are phenomenal, some are terrible. Most are terribly hilarious. The show’s musical numbers include hit singles like “Jackass in a Can,” which, despite its rather crass title, does have subtle notes of character development for our leading man.

Galavant: Some over-muscled, chauvinistic,
Self-indulgent, egotistic,
Stingy, prissy
Narcisissy…
All squires: Jackass in a can!
Galavant: (quietly) Oh my God. That’s me.”

“Jackass in a Can” finds Galavant posing as a squire among his squire’s parents’ disgruntled squires. They all launch into a singing tirade about how awful it is to be lorded over by a pompous knight and Galavant finds himself realizing that he is exactly the pompous, arrogant jerk that they’re all complaining about.

There’s also the morbidly humorous “Dance Until You Die,” played by the castle executioners to King Richard’s prisoners of war at a fancy ball thrown for his wife. Shortly after the song comes to an abrupt end, one of the prisoners points out that the queen has been flagrantly banging out jokes with the jester. The Richard promptly has Gareth and the band/executioners execute the poor soul.

GALAVANT’s music isn’t solely for the sake of laughs and slapstick humor. The songs have a purpose to the show. Some numbers express character development, some poke fun at society and the broadcasting network, and others promote feminist values while moving the plot along. It incorporates mature themes, gallows humor, and modern societal values. Even so, the music rarely takes itself seriously, which creates a lighthearted tone throughout the show at odds with the intense topics that it tackles. Most of all, the music brings out the personalities of the show’s motley crew of characters.

The Characters

GALAVANT is populated by a cast of quirky characters played by delightfully nimble actors. The show defies the typical character tropes with a crew of unorthodox antagonists and brings the viewer a circus of heroes who just barely manage to be heroic when it counts. Through its characters, GALAVANT parodies the tired cliches of adventure stories. The only time you’ll find character cliches is when they’re being made fun of.

The Heroes

From the Left: Galavant, Sid, and Isabella

The Princess Who Doesn’t Need Saving

“If memory serves, you said something about a wedding. I mean, not that I need a wedding. I’m all about the deconstruction of the princess myth but, uh… well, it’s been a long year. “

Princess Isabella gets off to a wild start, besting our Hero with a sword in the first episode and taking down a whole crew of land pirates with the help of the squire off screen. She’s an independent woman with her own hidden (well, not really) agenda of returning to her kingdom to conquer the Evil King. Isabella will stop at nothing to save her parents and what remains of her people.

Isabella is an entertaining mix of tragic princess and independent woman. More often than not, she gets herself out of trouble before Galavant stumbles his way into saving her. In fact, she saves him on more occasions than the great hero would dare to admit.

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The Rather Unheroic Hero

“Sorry, I can’t talk. I’m in hero mode.”

The man himself, Galavant is a pompous ass. He’s entitled and arrogant, embodying the hubris of a hero. However, Galavant shines when it counts, managing to save the day through swordplay, and less-than-clever wit in times of great peril. Vain to a fault, Galavant never misses an opportunity to preen for the camera. Despite his vanity, he is doggedly loyal to the woman he loves, traveling thousands of miles to “rescue” her even after she spurned him. (And doing it all again after he finds his second “one true love.”)

Galavant is a parody of the typical adventure hero. His soapbox monologues are comical, as are his petulant demands to be the center of attention and the star of heroic deeds. He strikes a perfect balance between making fun of the hero and being a true hero. Galavant may not be the hero that GALAVANT deserves, but he’s the one it needs.

The very idea of what we consider to be a hero has changed significantly in recent years. Modern heroes aren’t dashing princes who rescue the damsel and beat the bad guy. The modern hero is someone represents the voice of the masses in an age when that voice so often is drowned out or left unheard. GALAVANT presents us with a hero who parodies the old, stale idea of what a hero is, while presenting us with a real hero…

The Loyal Squire

“Hi. So. If you keep ignoring the Russian bath house-like steam surrounding you and Isabella, you could find yourself in the permanent friendzone.”

Sid is predictably the comic relief of the group. He’s a spunky kid who dreamed of serving and learning from the greatest knight in the land. Unfortunately, he caught that knight at a rather bad time in his life. Still, Sid remains cheerful and makes the best of his situation. He works hard, and always keeps an admirable work ethic…. when he’s not being ignored.

Outside his role of loyal squire, Sid has a habit of commenting on metafiction and wiggling his finger through cracks in the fourth wall. During a particular dungeon scene, the heroes are valiantly planning their escape while Sid sits in the corner with the Jester dryly bemoaning the fact that they’re only around for the jokes. Sid is a voice for the audience, saying what so many of us have found ourselves thinking while watching a cliche scene in a TV show or movie. He is a medium for the audience to participate in the show in a much more meaningful way than chuckling along with a laugh track.

The writers of GALAVANT also deserve serious commendation for Sid’s role. He is a representation of the show’s creators being able to criticize their own work, then incorporate that criticism into the show in a meaningful way. Moreover, Sid represents an understanding of the audience that’s watching the show. When Sid tells Galavant to make a move on Isabella, he’s saying what every watcher is screaming at their TV in frustration. Sid is the hero that we deserve, but he’s not the hero that we end up with.

The Villains

From the left: Gareth, Madalena, and Richard

King Richard

“I mean sure, I’ll kidnap a woman, and force her to marry me. But after that, I’m all about a woman’s rights! I’m a modern 13th century man!”

Childishly innocent, this salt-and-pepper king is amazed by all of the tiniest delights on screen. Off screen, he’s horrifically cruel. Tales of his pillaging and razing circulate through the castle, while the man himself is busy exploring the mysteries of comedy gold. Richard does his best to win his queen’s love, though he’s not very good at it. King Richard lives with his head in the clouds. He seems entirely incapable of taking anything seriously, even matters of life and death.

King Richard is a unique character through and through. His innocence is charming and his wrath is fickle. While his humor does occasionally fall flat, he is an endearing character who often steals the spotlight from the series namesake. One scene will find him giggling about kicking a eunuch in the crotch, then in the next, he’s having the eunuch executed for pointing out that his wife is sleeping with the jester. He’s entirely out of touch with reality, a trait that places him and his court into a carnival of ridiculous situations colored with shockingly dark tragedies.

Gareth

“Reading’s for morons who can’t understand pictures.”

The King’s right-hand man, Gareth is a viciously cruel and mean-spirited rogue. He is the embodiment of all that is manly and only hugs a man to kill him in a bear grip. Gareth provides counsel to the innocent king, who graciously ignores all of Gareth’s well-meaning advice. His hobbies include killing, torturing, and fighting. Gareth is refreshingly straightforward with his intentions and completely okay with violently enforcing his will.

Gareth is initially the voice of reality in King Richard’s life. While the king is up in the clouds, Gareth handles the gritty affairs of the real world. He carries out all of the king’s executions and protects him from would-be assassins. Gareth is King Richard’s one and only true friend throughout the first season, making his eventual betrayal that much more jarring to the king. The second season finds Gareth upon the throne, barely keeping up with the increasingly evil queen.

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Madalena

“If you eat that last danish, I will reach down your throat pull it out and beat you to death with it!”

Madalena is Galavant’s one true love. She’s also the most cunning queen the realm has ever known. After being kidnapped by Richard, Madalena discovers an insatiable lust for power and dominance rivaled by nothing and no one. She frequently proves herself even crueler than either Gareth or Richard and can be found verbally abusing the servants and staff at all hours of the day. That is, when she isn’t learning how the good jester crafts a joke in her private bedchambers.

This is a character that takes a strong independent woman over the top and totally rocks it. The narcissistic queen marries and schemes her way to the throne, instigates a coup, and keeps a healthy supply of man-meat around for her satisfaction. She embraces her overbearing love of herself and jubilantly enjoys crushing other people emotionally and physically. In short, a complete subversion of the damsel in distress, kidnapped princess trope. She is also one of the few characters in the show that rarely steps out of character to take a swing at the fourth wall.

Breaking the Fourth Wall

The writers of GALAVANT take a sledgehammer to the fourth wall. Training montages are heralded by snarky lyrics making fun of the plot. Songs regularly and blatantly insult the network that the show airs on. GALAVANT is stuffed with tasteful breakdowns of the barriers between entertainment and reality. None are more entertaining than the Season 2 introductory song.

Season 2 of GALAVANT kicks off with a brand new theme song that insults every popular show airing on ABC Network, spoils the ending of the season, and showcases the singing talent of GALAVANT’s cast. The song spits in the face of modern television, as does the show in general. The first episode if season 2 is literally titled “A New Season aka Suck It Cancellation Bear,” and it’s all downhill from there.

The characters are constantly taking jabs at the metafiction and cliches. The story is practically a joke of itself. It constantly contradicts itself and laughs about it, like during the democratic town hall meeting when a whole village roasts Galavant for finding a new true love halfway through the show’s run.  There’s also the second episode of season 2, where a random plot device gets chucked into the story like it’s always been there. Half the characters are baffled about where it came from, and the other half pretend it was there all along.

GALAVANT is one of the most self-aware television shows that has ever aired. It does an exquisite job of knowing its audience and appealing to them through an irreverently direct dialogue. Some characters like Sid talk to the audience almost as much as they talk to other characters. It makes for a wildly entertaining ride and a fun story that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

It’s a Fun Story

Does drunken jousting sound like your mug of ale? Episode 2 features it! Maybe you’re more into evil sorcerers and dark plots? Season 2 has two evil sorcerers and twice as much evil scheming on account of them. Even without the raunchy music and snarky meta-commentary, GALAVANT still has a darn good story. There’s also plenty of eye candy if you’re into that sort of thing.

Song title: “Off With His Shirt!”

GALAVANT is a story of adventure that follows its heroes and its villains through their journeys of personal growth and mortal peril. Galavant himself spends the first season growing from a narcissistic hero into a slightly less arrogant snob who appreciates the people around him. In the second season, the former king Richard discovers who he is without his crown and comes to terms with all of his mistakes. He also acquires a pet dragon by the name of Tad Cooper.

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Modern Values in Season 2

Season 2 takes everything that makes GALAVANT fun in the first round and amps it up. There’s a bigger budget that takes a new crew on new adventures to new places. The villains are eviller, and the heroes are… Well, they manage.

The real improvement of season 2 though, is how it incorporates progressive morals into the story and characters. The season kicks off with our hero and former antagonist trapped in a gay bar called The Enchanted Forest, where Richard accepts the truth about his Uncle Keith. The second episode finds the usurper monarchs learning how to compromise in a relationship, and episode 3 introduces the viewer to a newly constructed democratic village with a song making fun of cis-white-male supremacy, with a line that sounds very familiar:

“Now I can’t imagine a free people ever voting to send an army into an open-ended foreign conflict which profits only the few. That would be madness.”

GALAVANT is a rare gem. It’s witty, genuinely funny, and wildly creative. Its only fault was failing to reach the typical audience that watches network television. The show did gather a more enthusiastic following when it was brought to Netflix, but sadly never found enough traction to be renewed for a third season. For better or worse, GALAVANT is a two-season masterpiece that slipped past the public eye. It’s reminiscent of Monty Python and Mel Brooks’s early comedies. However, don’t go into the show expecting a golden copy of either. GALAVANT is its own unique show, and hoping that it will be anything else will only take away from your enjoyment. Instead, jump into watching it with a simple love of silly, absurdist humor and satire. Love it or hate it, you will find yourself talking about GALAVANT for years to come after you’ve watched it.

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