The Mel Brooks influence is strong in this one, as Gal, Isabella, and Sid head to the squire's squarely Semitic home town.
EW loves Galavant—so much so that multiple writers wanted to take a stab at recapping it. Here, Hillary Busis and Danielle Nussbaum have a tag-team discussion of the comedy’s second episode.
HILLARY: Shalom, Danielle! I’ve got a feeling the writers of Galavant had one song on loop as they penned tonight’s first episode: Spamalot‘s “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway.” For the uninitiated, these are the lyrics:
In any great adventure,
If you don’t want to lose,
Victory depends upon the people that you choose.
So, listen, Arthur darling, closely to this news:
We won’t succeed on Broadway,
If we don’t have any Jews.
Sure, this is a TV musical rather than one on Broadway—but evidently, Galavant‘s team thought the same rule applied here. Were you tickled to discover that Sid’s parents are, essentially, The Princess Bride‘s Miracle Max and Valerie?
DANIELLE: Tickled, but not entirely surprised; I have to admit I was just waiting for a “have fun storming the castle!” moment and a healthy dose of mazel for everyone. Of course, I loved it when the whole village came out for the big old “Tradition”-esque hora, “Oy, What a Knight.” But where did Sid (of Sidneyland, a distant cousin of Shrek‘s Duloc, I think) get that wonderful British accent when the majority of his village is apparently from Brooklyn?
HILLARY: Well, I’d blame magic… except that we’ve yet to see any evidence of sorcery in Galavant‘s universe. (Presumably, that’ll change once guest star Ricky Gervais shows up next week as a wizard named—groan—Xanax.) So I guess we’ll just assume that Sid’s yenta of a mother instructed him in proper elocution?
Speaking of guest stars: Sid’s Mom is played by none other than Tony-winning Broadway mainstay Faith Prince, best known for appearing as Adelaide opposite Nathan Lane’s Nathan Detroit in the 1992 revival of Guys and Dolls. Seeing actual musical theater actors on this show gives me a little thrill, though mostly, it just makes me miss Smash more than I already do.
That said: There’s a weird thread running through Galavant, or at least this episode, that’s oddly hostile toward musical theater. See, for example, the weary sigh with which Galavant greets “Oy, What a Knight:” “Oh great, another musical number.” Or the way every non-Valencian sighs and rolls their eyes when live theater is so much as mentioned. What’s the deal with that?
DANIELLE: I noticed that, too! Self-referential self-loathing is a-okay when you’re packing thousands into a theater night after night, but you can’t be a hater when you’re trying to get people to watch a musical on TV, right? (So sayeth Allison Williams.)
It’s almost a way of being Rated R snarky while having to stay PG. What’s missing in Galavant is the ability to push the cleverness into offensiveness territory. The rabbi has one of the best lines in the episode, calling Sid “the knight who puts the ‘sir’ in circumcised” (I giggled). After that, though, the show dials down the raunch considerably. Which brings us to the B plot: The ep is called “Two Balls” because not only are Sid’s parents throwing a ball to celebrate his “engagement” to Princess Isabella, but King Richard is also throwing a ball to try to cheer up the Valencians! (After he pillaged and destroyed their village, of course.) Why aren’t we talking about that?
HILLARY: Probably because it’s a less successful storyline, one that relies on making one joke (King Richard is an evil monstrous dictator… who just wants to be loved!)—then making it over and over and over again. There’s only so many times the show can play this particular card before it becomes monotonous, regardless of how well Timothy Omundson is selling it. (Which, granted, is very well.)
I did, however, appreciate the ending of the ball, when Richard has succeeded in putting the Valencians at ease enough that they’re starting to gently roast him—until one shouts out that the King would have to be blind not to know that Madalena’s been schtupping the jester. In a flash, Richard changes from bumblingly genial to homicidal—and suddenly, it’s clear how this medieval Michael Scott is also capable of causing terrible destruction and pain.
It’s a trick of characterization that fleshes out Richard to a degree that Galavant‘s other characters still can’t match. Take Isabella, for example: Last week, she was a tough love Cool Girl. This week, she’s a geeky theater kid eager to play along with Sid’s big lie—that he’s a valiant knight, and Gal is his lowly squire. There’s some inconsistency there, right?
DANIELLE: You say inconsistency; I say growth. It seems that Isabella is starting to feel a little guilty for duping her questmates. And she’s finally showing off her acting chops. Even though she can’t find a word to rhyme with sarcasm (and, truly, unless you’re Mrs. Lovett and Mr. Todd, why try to compete), her asides and delivery are the best in the episode.
HILLARY: She gets a few good lines, sure—but I guess mostly I don’t really see why Galavant is falling for her, besides the fact that he has to (according to the Rule of Love Triangles).
DANIELLE: The Rule of Love Triangles is hard and fast, Hillary.
HILLARY: Even in Medieval Times!
DANIELLE: Which is why I refuse to go to dinner there.
HILLARY: But don’t you want to gnaw on a turkey leg while laughing at a dillweed in a fancy metal can?
DANIELLE: If I say that I can do that in my living room, will that give me more or less recapping cred?
Speaking of love, is this a good time to say that I miss Madalena? What are they doing hiding her away? Her “bitchwardness” is true genius, and yet no one has thought to trot it out in forever. A waste?
HILLARY: I agree completely! I really wish Madalena had more to do in this episode (and the next one, for that matter). It’d be especially nice to hear her sing a big solo, maybe a “Poor Unfortunate Souls”-esque villain torch song—which reminds me: Overall, how’d you like the music in this episode? Weirdly enough, I think my favorite tune was the executioners’ jazzy swing number: “You might as well just dance, dance, dance, dance until you die!”
DANIELLE: That was my favorite, too—mostly because it reminded me of “The Inquisition” from Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part 1, the crème de la crème of gallows humor. I know this is going to sound strange—given the fact that all of last week’s commercials were Galavant-tuned—but I also miss the Galavant theme song. It’s so damn catchy. The music was not this episode’s strong suit, although the lyrics were great.
HILLARY: Agreed. Also, I think it’s worth pointing out that even the half-hour ostensibly dedicated to Sid was really all about Galavant—and, ironically, him eventually learning to be a little less self-absorbed.
DANIELLE: Well, we have to have a reason for Isabella to fall in love with him, now don’t we?
HILLARY: And not just because he’s got biceps to spare.