[This is a review of the Galavant season 2 premiere. There will be SPOILERS.]
It's quite mystifying that ABC renewed Galavant -- the short-series musical comedy set in a medieval fantasyland. By no means was the series a big ratings pull in season 1, playing mostly to a niche crowd who enjoy the comedy of Monty Python and Mel Brooks and have an unadulterated love of musical theater. Still, given its hefty time slot competition, Galavant performed well enough to earn a second season -- something the show itself can't quite believe either.
In its opening number (which you can watch below), the cast sing of their total shock at another season, their meager ratings numbers, and the likelihood the show won't perform any better this year. Galavant kicks off its sophomore season with gusto, embracing its self-referential comedic style more fully and along with some truly catchy numbers from composer and lyricist duo, Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, turns in a strong first-hour of its six-night comedy stint.
While there's no reason Galavant's second season couldn't have just redone what worked well enough last year, the series instead purposely shakes things up. Characters that previously only interacted occasionally are now smartly paired off, allowing for comedic exchanges that feel fresh and hint of more development than is usually available for such a short series. Madalena (Mallory Janson) and Gareth (Vinnie Jones) are adjusting to life as the new rulers of Valencia, only to end up arguing like a couple moving in together for the first time. Sid (Luke Youngblood), too, remained behind in Valencia and seems destined to be stuck in the middle of the squabbling monarchs.
Off in Hortensia, Isabella (Karen David) remains
a prisoner a guest of her betrothed, her much younger cousin, Prince Harry. There she's accompanied by Chef Vincenzo (Darren Evans) and Gwynne (Sophia McShera) -- two minor but standout characters that happily return this season. It's another opportunity for new interactions among the cast, while Isabella and Chef's ongoing dispute over an amulet and whether or not it's appeared before is a riot.
Yet, there's no mistaking the real draw is the budding friendship of Galavant (Joshua Sasse) and King Richard (Timothy Omundson). Originally pitted against each other as enemies, Galavant hit comedy gold once it paired the two together in last season's cliffhanger. Now they're off on a quest to restore Richard to his throne and rescue Isabella -- only first they'll sing with Hugh Bonneville and his pirates, stop off at a gay bar run by Kylie Minogue, and visit a psychic (Simon Callow) who uses one of those folded paper fortune tellers to predict their future.
Omundson's Richard was undoubtedly the breakout character of season 1 and Galavant has smartly taken the deposed monarch and set him on his own hero's journey. Keeping with the show's on-the-nose nature, Richard even pulls a sword from a stump that makes him the land's one true king -- only he has absolutely no idea. In fact, the funniest moments from Galavant's back-to-back premiere feature Richard, whether it's his utter obliviousness inside the Enchanted Forest gay bar, his glee when Galavant and he are called friends, or his embarrassment over a unicorn who fancies him for his purity.
For the most part, Galavant keeps what works: modern gags with medieval items, like a bad connection between magic amulets, and a love of the absurd, like an unfinished ladies room or being disturbed by a random, gassy cow. The songs are hilarious and heartfelt, especially 'World's Best Kiss,' which equally celebrates and laments Galavant and Isabella's first kiss, but also allows for doubt over their fairytale romance to creep in.
It's a pleasant surprise that Galavant scored another season, but it'd be an outright miracle for the show to get a third. Enjoy the kitschy fun of Galavant while it lasts, and who knows, perhaps the series can grow an audience and out perform even its own low expectations of itself.
Galavant continues Sunday nights at 8pm on ABC for the next four weeks.