Galavant meets Downton Abbey thanks to guest star Hugh Bonneville, as King Richard learns the finer points of comedy.
Credit: Todd Antony/ABC
S1 E4
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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.

DANIELLE: Hillary! I was wishing and hoping and thinking and praying that Team Galavant would give at least a subtle wink to the brilliance of Joss Whedon’s Buffy musical episode “Once More With Feeling,” and lo and behold, here it is. Back on the road for their quest, Galavant, Isabella, and Sid open tonight’s episode with a nod to Xander and Anya’s “I’ll Never Tell,” which gave us the brilliance that is:

He snores

She wheezes

Say “housework,” and he freezes

She eats these skeezy cheeses

That I can’t describe

I talk,

He breezes

She doesn’t know

What please is

His penis got diseases

From a chumash tribe

The vibe gets kind of scary

Like she thinks I’m ordinary

Like it’s all just temporary

Like her toes are kind of hairy

But it’s all very well

‘Cause, God knows,

I’ll never tell

Of course, Galavant isn’t that boundary-pushing, but the song hits Gypsy’s “Together Wherever We Go” high notes and finally showcases Sasse, Youngblood, and David’s voices with some lovely harmonies. It also gets wonderfully dark:

Everyone: Togetherness will see us through.

Isabella: Unless I kill the other two.

Gal and Sid: Or we kill her together.

Who knew you could get so much humor out of one little deviated septum?

HILLARY: And here I thought the deviated septum was just the excuse actresses used to justify their nose jobs!

But yes, I agree that “Together” was a bouncy, catchy little tune that almost lived up to the highs of the theme song, which is still stuck in my head—and it led the Trio to what might be the comic high of the series so far: a crew of landlocked pirates, led by Captain Lord Grantham. Though honestly, I don’t think I would have recognized Hugh Bonneville as Peter Pillager the Pirate King if I hadn’t known to look for him.

DANIELLE: Obviously, the whole landlocked pirate ship is just a metaphor for feminism in Downton Abbey, no?

HILLARY: And Carl, the buccaneer who keeps interrupting the King with overly literal asides, is clearly Edith.

DANIELLE: Poor Edith. She’s the Smee.

Is it me, or was the dialogue in this ep sharper than it’s been in a while? Maybe it’s just that both setups were so gleefully absurd that the show’s wit was finally allowed to shine through. I legit laughed at a bunch of the zippy one liners—even when King Richard was poking the Jester with a “bendy sword” (hello, painfully overt metaphor), begging him to teach him how to be funny.

HILLARY: I’m with you—and same goes for the lyrics. I laughed early and often during the pirate shanty, in which Peter’s crew explained how they’re the lords of the sea… just not of the actual sea. Appropriate for an episode titled “Comedy Gold,” right?

In fact, this half-hour was a real step forward, comedy-wise; I was happy to see fewer tired sex puns (“bendy sword” aside) and more gleeful silliness (i.e. what, exactly, is Isabella packing as her “girl supplies?”). Even though most of the pirate stuff revolved around the oldest joke in the book—manly men acting like girls!!—it was executed well enough that I didn’t mind.

DANIELLE: That pirate shanty was also so damn clever—and topical!

So now we hold the river here by brutal violent force,

We’ve also taken up gardening, sustainably of course.

We make ya pay to cross this way and squeeze ya til it hurts,

And on side we sell a line of homemade organic desserts.

The biggest compliment I can give this episode is that the pirate shanty was wholly original: no Mel Brooks, no Monty Python, just straight-up new Broadway.

HILLARY: Well, unless you compare it to “The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything”:

So let’s move to the B plot: Once again, King Richard worries that his personal deficiencies are keeping him from winning Madalena’s heart, so once again, he drafts to an employee to give him lessons in Manliness. Today’s topic: Humor, divided into its essential elements… which, according to Galavant, are the concept of surprise, the rule of three, and the principles of observational comedy. (Which leads to a great Medieval Seinfeld bit: “Have you ever noticed how lepers have pieces falling off of them? I mean, what is that about?”)

“Comedy Gold” itself is another catchy song that doubles as a quick comedy syllabus; the nerd in me kind of wants to go back and note how many of Galavant‘s own jokes fall neatly into these same categories.

DANIELLE: I look forward to your Binge piece in a year where you sort every Galavant joke into these categories. So deliciously meta!

HILLARY: The storyline ends in a fairly un-funny place, though: the missing Madalena finally reappears, reveals that she didn’t even know the Jester’s name, and, after he admits that he’s grown a conscience about duping Richard, she has him thrown into the dungeon. The really scary one. She sure went from zero to Ultra Bitch in the blink of an eye, didn’t she? At this point, you’ve got to wonder why Galavant ever fell for her in the first place; Madalena’s so blatantly cruel and awful that it seems unlikely she’d have been able to hide her true self even before Richard showed up and spirited her away.

DANIELLE: There’s a sense that her true self only appeared once fame and fortune were in her reach. Perhaps she can spring back to true love just as quickly? In any case, although she doesn’t know the Jester’s name, we should give props to Ben Presley, the young Scottish actor—and fantastic singer—who plays him. The pairing of the “unfunny” funny King Richard (Timothy Omundson, who is by far, the most ribald and talented actor on the series) with the Jester was inspired. Such a shame they had to go and lock him up.

But maybe this is Madalena’s chance to finally get a storyline? Will we get the bitchward-facing direction we were promised in the pilot?

HILLARY: Well, the first episode airing next week is titled “Completely Mad…Alena,” which certainly seems promising.

DANIELLE: Oh good! A backstory? I love a backstory.

HILLARY: Fingers crossed! I also hope in it, we won’t have to say goodbye to the pirates forever—maybe now that they’ve re-learned the value of togetherness, they can set up a new branch of their organic dessert business in Valencia?

DANIELLE: Valencia orange chiffon cake!

HILLARY: Either way, even though I know how unlikely it is that Galavant itself will get a second season, I can’t help wishing for a purely pirate-based spin-off.

DANIELLE: Don’t be so quick to rule out a second season. Event Television begets Event Television. We’re not going to get the next Cop Rock or anything (thank God), but depending on how these next two episodes play, we may get more musical comedy on television. And isn’t that the point?

HILLARY: True, true. And if ABC ever decides to get into the live musical game, at least it’ll have a stable of proven players to incorporate into its cast.

Episode Recaps

This medieval musical “extravaganza” features screenwriting by Dan Fogelman, music by Alan Menken and Glenn Slater, and guest starring from John Stamos, Weird Al, and Ricky Gervais.
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