Mark Watches ‘Galavant’: S01E01 – Pilot

In the first episode of the first season of Galavant, I was truly not ready. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Galavant.

Hello, friends! As is customary whenever I start a new show, I want to remind folks that we do things a little different around here. So, unless you’ve participated in a Mark Does Stuff project before, I highly suggest that you take note of the following:

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I came into Galavant only knowing that it was a musical, and clearly, it’s a beautiful thing that this was all I knew. This show is… a lot. And I mean that in the best way possible because WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST WATCH. In many ways, I imagine y’all knew that certain elements of Galavant were perfect for me and well-suited to the Mark Watches style. This show is ironic, self-aware, filled to brim with fantasy tropes (which are often immediately subverted or made fun of), and it’s a musical. I LIKE MUSICALS. And it’s written in the musical style and not that thing where they have songs but they’re more like thematic features than part of the actual storytelling.

And lord, this show wastes no time dropping us into a very familiar narrative—one that’s reminiscent of Arthurian myths and Robin Hood—and then immediately throwing us off a cliff while Timothy Omundson cackles at us. Seriously, that’s the entire gag from the opening scene! Any of us who are well-versed in fantasy archetypes know exactly how this goes: handsome rogue avenges the kidnapping and forced servitude of their One True Love by destroying everyone in his way, and then they live happily every after.

Except they don’t here, because, in the first of many twists, Galvant’s One True Love decides… meh. She doesn’t want the life that Galavant is offering. She wants fame and fortune, and thus, she DELIBERATELY elopes with the very man who kidnapped her in the first place.

Yeah, I’m clearly not ready for this goddamn show.

But it’s an interesting twist in terms of storytelling because Madalena immediately sheds away the whole Damsel in Distress trope. Yes, it’s funny as hell to see the wind leave Galavant’s sails, but it immediately sets the show on a different course. Madalena is in distress for other reasons—namely, she isn’t all that into King Richard III—but she isn’t here to be rescued. No, she becomes something far closer to a villain, at least in the sense that she supports her husband’s violent conquests and desires more wealth and power herself. She is fully into the destruction of Valencia, for example, and she doesn’t seem to have any regrets about this sort of turn of loyalty. She is openly cheating on her husband with the jester (who, in another surprise twist, ends up being the show’s narrator), and she doesn’t seem like the nice person she was in the introductory scene. Of course, that scene was more or less from Galavant’s point of view. What if he had a flawed view of her and that is why he never saw this coming? 

It makes me wonder how else the show will subvert common character archetypes. King Richard III, played PERFECTLY by Omundson, is more of a buffoon than a master manipulator and conquerer. It’s like he got his power by accident and now doesn’t really know what to do with it aside from just violently lashing out at everyone around him. (Like the cook’s entire family, for example.) He’s split between being a tyrant and being desperate for everyone’s love, adoration, and respect, which is not as easy to get as he thinks it is. Also, you don’t often get genuine adoration when you’re a tyrant, but clearly, King Richard has never gotten that memo. Or the memo on what flirting looks like. Or… any memo on anything ever.

He’s real fun. 

There’s Gareth, Richard’s right-hand man and the person who actually knows what is going on but is reluctant to be honest with his boss. And who can blame him? He gets to be violent and is as close as one can be to the highest seat of power without having to do much work. He’s also part of the ridiculous sense of humor of this show, which can’t seem to go five seconds without dropping another joke. (I APPROVE.) Even Sid, Galavant’s squire, seems like more than his surface self reveals. He’s the exuberant assistant who dutifully tended to all the duties that Galavant needed… right until Galavant because a HOT-ASS MESS. What does his life become once the SOLE PURPOSE OF HIS JOB is rendered obsolete? How can he progress beyond a squire if Galavant literally has nothing for him to do? We only get a glimpse of his frustration, but I would love if the show explored that, too. (Also, I swear the actor playing Sid looks super familiar. Is that the dude who played Lee Jordan???)

And then there’s Isabella, my ACTUAL queen, and probably my favorite character so far. Y’all, I am not ashamed to say that I fell for her trick completely. Without a single hesitation, I believed that she had escaped Richard, that she had sought out Galavant for help, and that she would be the force to inspire him to finally drop the woe-is-me act and do something. What I like about the twist she provides is that it builds off of this sense of denied expectations. We expect Madalena to want to be rescued, but she basically flipped Galavant the bird and became a villain. We expect Madalena and Richard to be happy and all-powerful, but Richard is inadequate, moody, and a total fool, unaware that he’s being played. (And the only person unaware that he’s being played.) 

In Isabella, the show pushes forth her selfishness and her sense of agency. She chose to lie to Galavant in order to free her parents. She doesn’t really care about him or his journey; she’s trying to protect Valencia. And she does so by playing directly into Galavant’s greatest weakness: his mistaken belief that Madalena is so happy where she is that she will leave as soon as he shows up to rescue her. WHICH, MAY I REMIND Y’ALL, IS EXACTLY THE SAME MISTAKE HE MADE THE FIRST TIME AROUND. He already tried this, and look how it turned out! 

This is going to be a disaster, and I cannot wait for more of it. The show is strange, funny, and on top of it all, I’ve been given the beginning of a damn good story. Bravo.

The video for “Pilot” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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