It’s Long Past Time for Galavant To Ride Again

Galavant and King Richard on the pirate ship

Oh, Galavant. Poor, poor, poor, poor Galavant. You indeed had your glorious, all-too-brief moment in the sun, but as is so often the case with that which shines brightly, you burned out all too soon. If only you had come out a few years later, you probably would have lived a long and healthy life on one of any number of streaming services (rather than, as you so eloquently put it, some cheap-a** cable network) instead of simply finding a second one there, fueled by the ever-popular formula of “hey this reminds me of the things I loved as a kid in the ’90s and/or early 2000s!”

Galavant is an interesting show to put under the Cancelled Too Soon category, if I may be completely honest. Yes, it only lasted for two seasons, but even that was much longer than most people expected it would, least of all the show’s own cast and crew (it happened to be a favorite of Paul Lee, then President of ABC). Starting life as a mid-season replacement for Once Upon A Time, with a first season of eight episodes compressed into just four weeks, the show was doomed to never find the ratings or the audience it deserved. But the audience that did find the show—that niche of twenty-to-thirty-somethings who still unabashedly love Disney films and musicals alike—has never quite let it go.

As one of the show’s many, many, many absurdly catchy musical numbers goes (see if you can find all the lines I’ve, ahem, appropriated!), there was no hero quite like Galavant, and indeed there was no show quite like Galavant. Way back in days of old—well, way back in the days of 2015 which…good lord is very close to being ten years ago—our screens were graced by two seasons of a goofy yet glorious musical fantasy, an upside-down fairy tale that answers the question of what it might look like if The Princess Bride, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, and any number of Renaissance-era Disney films were to engage in a wild night of passion.

Galavant, Sidney, and Isabella attending the Joust

Galavant is one of those shows that manages to be both an excellent addition to a genre and a brilliant satire of that same genre—think Scream or Black Dynamite or, yes, The Princess Bride. Galavant certainly takes us off on a hero’s journey, out where adventure lies, but the places that journey takes us and the people we meet there are never quite where or who we’d expect. A band of fearsome pirates who’ve become landlocked and taken to guarding a nearby river? Check. Crashing the wedding of the king who has kidnapped Galavant’s “one true love,” only for said “true love” to declare that, actually, she’d rather prefer the luxurious life of a queen? Check. The ever-typical “Enchanted Forest” turning out to be a gay pub run by the ever fabulous Kylie Minogue in one of Galavant’s many exquisite cameos? Check. (Side note: Rutger Hauer? Good god, you could cast Rutger Hauer as a cheese sandwich and he would probably turn in an Oscar-worthy performance.)

Even our cast of characters all start out as ones that feel familiar to anyone who has watched or read any fantasy…anything, only to quickly reveal that nobody is quite who you’d expect them to be. Galavant certainly looks and (mostly) acts the part of heroic knight-in-shining-armor: handsome, chivalrous, tough—plus every other manly value, but he’s got more than his fair share of ego and moments of being…well, a jackass in a can. Madalena, Galavant’s one-time true love, might have long legs and perfect skin but she is no fair maiden. Princess Isabella is an entirely different kind of princess, more than willing to take things into her own hands when needs be and having her own agenda beyond just looking pretty and aiding our hero.

But no one winds up defying our expectations more than Timothy Omundson’s King Richard. When we first meet him he seems like a fairy tale cliche, your typical malevolent ruler with hobbies like raising taxes and tormenting the poor. We get glimpses into his inner thoughts and insecurities throughout Season 1, but he still remains in a mostly villainous (or at least villainous adjacent) role until he is unceremoniously overthrown by Madalena and his long-suffering bodyguard Gareth and exiled out to sea along with Galavant.

The King of the Pirates (Hugh Bonneville) standing with the pirate crew in the background
Yes, that IS Hugh Bonneville near the peak of Downton Abbey’s popularity (ABC/Screenshot)

It’s in that surprise second season that Richard truly comes into his own, as the show sends him off with Galavant on a combination odd couple/buddy comedy/road trip style adventure. Galavant is seeking an army to help him reunite with Isabella, while Richard is seeking a new direction in life as he comes to terms with the fact that he doesn’t know how to do anything except be a king, something that nobody really wants him to do anymore. Not only do the pair of them get one of the most well-executed enemies-to-friends arcs I’ve ever seen on a television show, but Richard makes an almost complete 180, going from wanting to shoot Galavant with a crossbow and stab him in the eye to fighting by his side, and from the mean-spirited king that no one really wants to the truly heroic One True King To Unite Them All.

And we haven’t even gotten to the best part: Galavant’s brilliant, ever-catchy musical numbers. That classic Disney feel I’ve mentioned? It’s no coincidence: all the music was composed by the legendary Alan Menken, with lyrics by Glenn Slater. You might know Alan Menken as the guy who composed the music for more than half of the films we consider to be the Disney Renaissance, while Glenn Slater was his collaborator on Tangled, among other films. The result is a collection of songs that musically nail the classic Disney feel paired with clever, sometimes raunchy, often satirical lyrics.

Unlike most shows we might consider to be Cancelled Too Soon, the ending of Galavant’s second season wraps things up just about as neatly as one could ask for: the zombie army controlled by Madalena and the evil sorcerer/wedding planner who trained her has been defeated (Season 2 is when things got wild), Galavant and Isabella are now retired and married in a lovely home by the sea, the rulers of Valencia have reclaimed their country, and Richard has settled down with the love he found in Season 2, along with his pet lizard Tad Cooper, now fully grown into an honest-to-god fire breathing dragon.

Galavant and Madalena dancing in the dining room

But, there are two big loose ends that certainly lead to some potential for Galavant’s story to continue: Gareth and Galavent’s former squire Sidney are off on a quest to save Madalena from herself, while Madalena has made her own journey to gain further knowledge of the Dark Dark Evil Way. If only one day of training was enough to allow her to gain control of an army of zombies, anything beyond that would almost certainly be enough to get Galavant and Isabella back in the business of heroics.

Galavant’s continued niche popularity is proof that there is an extremely passionate audience looking for adult fantasy that isn’t just violent or grimdark, for people who still want to believe in happily-ever-afters while fully understanding how silly some of those happily-ever-after stories were. Alan Menken even said that he’d be interested in continuing the story in stage form—mind you, that was years ago, but it’s a small nugget of hope to hold onto even after all this time.

Will we ever see a revival of Galavant? It’s…not likely, especially as we are seemingly entering a strange new world of television where excellent films and shows are just not being released even after they’re finished or just outright vanishing from streaming services even when it’s a show that the streaming service in question did two seasons for because…reasons? But, stranger things have certainly happened—Galavant’s second season among them—so there’s always that small glimmer of hope that we might be reunited with our heroes once again. In the meanwhile, we still have two glorious seasons just waiting for another weekend binge over on Netflix—at least, until they disappear as well.

Written by Timothy Glaraton

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