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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Galavant balances laughs with heartbreak and an epic battle in its season finale

Illustration for article titled Galavant balances laughs with heartbreak and an epic battle in its season finale

At the end of season one, Dan Fogelman and his writers took a huge gamble on Galavant, steering the narrative off the edge of a cliff without knowing if there would even be another season at the bottom. It wasn’t a true wrap-up as much as it was the start of Galavant 2.0. Now that the show’s found its footing in a stellar second year, Fogelman and co. are able to give more closure to their characters, all while introducing enough surprises to keep the audience wanting more. The gold isn’t necessarily in the happy ending—we already knew that was going to take place thanks to Sid spoiling it in this year’s opening song—but the story opportunities it opens up for several members of the ensemble.

In other words, the finale closes the storybook on several characters while still threatening to flutter open once more if it’s given the chance to. For instance, two of the show’s central couples—Galavant and Isabella, alongside King Richard and Roberta—have vowed to hang up their weapons in favor of quieter lives, now that they’ve won the war and restored peace to both Valencia and Hortencia. But, as it’s revealed in the killer final shot, Richard and Roberta have an (unseen) actual dragon to deal with (does this mean Tad Cooper’s no longer bearded?), and with Gareth—aided by Sid as his squire—off to bring back the corrupted Madalena to the light, it’s doubtful that Gal and Izz will be able to live in seclusion for long.

Of course, all of these further developments hinge on whether or not Galavant gets renewed for a third season. And even if it doesn’t, the arc of every character reaches an unexpected yet satisfying conclusion, a moment of change that allows them to settle into who they really are at their core. For some of them, it’s an instance of invigorating catharsis. This is most true for Richard, who, while morally noble for quite some time now, still spends “Battle Of The Three Armies” and most of “The One True King (To Unite Them All)” as being somewhat hesitant on the battlefield, not able to dispatch his foes with the same determined ferocity as Galavant, Gareth, and Isabella. That changes during a showdown with Wormwood, who fatally (or so it seems at first) knocks Tad Cooper out of Richard’s hand. It’s this act—the seeming death of his dragon pal—that propels Richard to the kingly status he’s been reaching for all season.

“You may have killed one dragon, but you’ve awoken another,” he roars before swinging away at Wormwood with his prophetic broadsword and eventually delivering a deathblow. The fight also gives him the courage to gallop off to Roberta, pledge his commitment to her, and whisk her away from a cat-filled ship to The Island Of Spinsters. If I have one complaint about the finale, it’s that we still don’t get to know enough about Richard’s betrothed—who stays absent for the duration of the battle—but at least the two of them get a happy ending that feels well fought for, if only because Richard’s been fighting for it for so long—since he was a little boy, in fact, as is revealed in the second episode’s duet with his younger self. Because he starts off the final half hour reflecting on how he’s failed to live up to his childhood ambitions of heroism, the moment where he finally does obtain glory feels all the more triumphant.

Sid and Isabella both have similar instances of courageousness, the former able to purge his guilt over stabbing Galavant when he shows up with reinforcements from The Enchanted Forest. Izz also makes lemonade out of lemons by converting her pent-up rage (being imprisoned and engaged to your 11-year-old cousin will do that to you) into riveting badassery on the battlefield. Never seen without two swords spinning like helicopter blades in her hands, Karen David easily steps into the role of warrior when she takes down Madalena in their own duel.

Madalena also becomes her true self, but unlike the others, her metamorphosis comes with a heaping dose of regret. As much as she loves Gareth, she recognizes that she’s more attracted to ultimate power, continuing to practice the dark arts (the D’dew, as Wormwood would like us all to phrase it) in spite of her lover’s wish for her not to. It’s a genuinely heartbreaking moment when Gareth realizes that she’s betrayed him. Say what you want about his barbarism, but the big lug has become unflinchingly loyal, and Madalena’s deception is hard for him to swallow, especially when her newfound sorcery leads to the entire undead army turning on everyone, Hortencians and Valencians alike. Even though the move actually unites the two armies by giving them a common foe, it still stings for Gareth, and for us, too. When Madalena thanks him for his love before heading back to their camp alone, Mallory Jansen does so with a mixture of spite and vulnerability, her mouth sternly clenched while her eyes convey a pleading fear over losing the person who’s become most important to her.


It’s not just these emotional journeys that Galavant treats with such sincerity either—it’s the physical action. Yes, the finale’s biggest feat of all is the honest-to-God, epic battle that unfolds over two episodes. While there are comedic moments sprinkled throughout—Sid making a crack about health insurance, Wormwood critiquing Richard’s showdown dialogue, etc.—the juicy thrills lie in the fight itself, from the aforementioned duels to the elaborately staged collision between all of the armies. The ABC designation prevents the violence from reaching Braveheart levels of graphicness, but there’s plenty of hacking on both the desert field and within its fortress (one that was used in Lawrence Of Arabia no less), and each actor executes their fight choreography with a blunt focus that contrasts nicely with the show’s sillier moments.

At first, it’s tempting to say that Galavant’s earned this kind of straight-faced carnage involving the two main armies, an undead army, a gay army, and over 300 extras. But “earned” also feels like an incorrect term. “Earned” implies that the series had to build to this over a very long time, when, in reality, the second season has been a successful experiment in tone from day one, deftly blending comedy with hard-hitting romance, honor, and action. Not to be hyperbolic, but it’s hard to think of another network show that’s taken so many welcomely unexpected turns so early in the game. And with any luck, Galavant will get a third chance to unveil some new surprises hidden up its enchanted sleeve.


Stray observations

  • Shameless plug: I had a delightful chat with Timothy Omundson this week about playing King Richard and the second season’s emotional ballsiness, among other things. Check it out here.
  • Sid admits that he walked into The Enchanted Forest knowing full well what it is. Not that going to a gay bar automatically makes someone gay, but…does this mean Sid’s gay? It would be great if one of the show’s main players is openly gay without the other characters making a big deal about it.
  • In an answer to our collective prayer from two weeks ago, we find out Galavant’s first name! It’s not Gal as I hoped, but Gary is just as funny.
  • “As a former king who once led armies into battle, I must officially say we are knee-deep in poopy caca.”
  • “Look, I didn’t tell you to die in a brown fart.”
  • “These have bugs. Yay, extra protein!”
  • “I can’t believe that’s the same guy that cried when he got jelly on his fancy pants.”

“See, now that was a number”

  • A child version of Alan Menken makes a sly appearance in the opening song of the second episode, offering to write a theme song for Richard as a young boy.
  • Not as many direct showtune homages this week, but Wormwood’s instructional song on dark magic brings to mind a twisted version of “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.”
  • Although most of Chef and Gwynne’s songs revolve around finding love among oppressive circumstances (in tonight’s case, awaking to find their home smack-dab in the middle of a battlefield), they never get old. I chalk it up to musical diversity and the painfully endearing performances of Darren Evans and Sophie McShera.
  • As Sid points out, the show couldn’t afford to bring back any of its guest stars from this season, but “Weird Al” Yankovic reprises his season-one role as leader of The Monks to sing us out in style. And the original theme is back, too!
  • When signing on to review Galavant’s pilot episode last year, I never expected the show to go to the wondrous, unconventional places it has in its second season. The series feels like it still has a lot of story (and songs!) in it, so I’m hoping it gets renewed for a third. So, as Wormwood did when we first met him, fingers crossed.