Sunday, January 11, 2015

REVIEW: 'Galavant' - Galavant Visits Sid's Hometown and Deals with Land-Bound Pirates in 'Two Balls' & 'Comedy Gold'

ABC's Galavant - Episode 1.03 "Two Balls" & Episode 1.04 "Comedy Gold"

A visit to Sid's hometown reveals he has not been truthful about his career path. King Richard decides to throw a ball to cheer up the people of Valencia. An encounter with land-bound pirates forces Galavant, Isabella and Sid to learn how to get over their petty squabbles. King Richard tries a new tactic to win Madalena's love.

The plots of "Two Balls" and "Comedy Gold" are very similar to one another. A fact made entirely more apparent by the scheduling of them back-to-back. This is where ABC's decision to run the whole first season in four weeks in January works against the show. Yes, Galavant is unlike anything else on television. Pairing it with itself is the only logical thing to do. However, it felt like the characters were learning the same lessons in both of these episodes - to the point that I was wondering why we were seeing these things again in "Comedy Gold" after seeing them get some resolution a few minutes prior. I do think each episode has their own merits. But their pairing is the largest issue I had with them.

Neither episodes are as instantly memorable as the first two episodes. The songs are still catchy and thematically different while still being a part of the same universe. And yet, I easily forgot about them the second they were over. The point of doing a musical comedy is to craft songs that will stick in viewers' heads for awhile. I understand it's insanely difficult to make every single song memorable and have a purpose. Sometimes they can just be exposition dump - especially in "Comedy Gold" where we learn about the petty squabbles the main trio have with each other and the story of the land-bound pirates.

Of the two, "Two Balls" is the better episode. That is largely because it actually makes Sid a part of the team. Galavant and Isabella have been given characteristics and the drive to propel story forward. Sid has largely just been tagging along on the journey. He is Galavant's squire but rarely does something of merit. Returning him to his hometown allows the show the ability to see the world through Sid's eyes - and how that effects Galavant and Isabella's image of him. We get the explanation as to how Sid became Galavant's squire and how Galavant appreciates everything that Sid does for him. Unfortunately, so much of this personal story is centered around Galavant and his reactions to this town's praise of Sid. He's the one who has to put his ego aside. That is rewarding. And yet, I wish there was more of a push-and-pull in Galavant and Sid's relationship. Couldn't Sid love the fame too? Why does he have to give it up and tell the truth just because his honesty is the quality that Galavant respects the most?

And then, Galavant, Sid and Isabella go from being friends to bickering and ready to kill each other within the first few minutes of "Comedy Gold." That bickering leads them to being captured by weird pirates - led by Downton Abbey's Hugh Bonneville. Once again, the character journey is shown through Galavant's eyes. All he has to do is have a conversation with the Pirate King and take his sword away. And then, he returns to see that Sid and Isabelle took care of the rest of the crew. That is impressive and it's treated like a cutaway joke. Those two characters are capable people whose motivations are also important. And yet, that's not important unless Isabelle is trying to warn Galavant that he is wandering into a trap. That moment worked until it was revealed that Galavant is still just a jerk and didn't listen. How is that suppose to make me like him as the main hero?

Lastly, there are the Richard and Madalena subplots which are only about him trying to get her to notice and appreciate him as a husband. It was the same stall concept in both episodes and completely forgot about the progress that was made at the end of "Joust Friends." Perhaps that development came too soon in the season? Afterwards she went straight back to being disgusted by him and fooling around with the Jester while he was completely oblivious to it. That was a joke that could only be used a handful of times. So I'm glad it didn't overstay its welcome. This side of the narrative usually offers the weirder bits of story. Both the ball and the comedy performance were great moments for Timothy Omundson - who is largely the only cast member whose performance I can single out as special. And yet, it also feels like the show is in a holding pattern with these characters until Galavant reaches the castle.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Two Balls" was written by Dan Fogelman and directed by Chris Koch.
  • "Comedy Gold" was written by Kat Likkel & John Hoberg and directed by John Fortenberry.
  • The trio's biggest selling point is their diversity - which isn't not true.
  • King Richard has done so many horrible things to the people of Valencia. And yet, he never remembers any of it. Burning their last remaining crops was the only vicious thing he has really done on screen though - well, that and plot Galavant's death.
  • The fact that Madalena didn't even bother to learn the Jester's real name only further proves that she's probably not the woman that Galavant deserves. Or perhaps, he does deserve her since he's a jerk too. But I think we are suppose to be rooting for Galavant and Isabella to be together.
  • Isabella: "I trained in monologues not poetry."
  • Gareth: "Everybody laugh!"