In “Aw, Hell, the King,” we find Galavant and King Richard back at the imprint of Richard’s castle, bewildered as to where the big thing could have ended up. The two scratch their chiseled chins, and go into town for answers, and they quickly find them. It seems that, with Richard gone to Valencia and incommunicado, in homage to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the people slowly came to the realization that, hey, they might not actually need a king. So they broke down the castle, repurposing all its fancy parts to more practical uses.
As Peasant John explains, “We realized the king is only the king if the people say he is.” (Sidenote: Peasant John is played by Bridesmaids’ Matt Lucas, who I didn’t know had such a lovely singing voice. One thing that I love about this show is continuously being surprised by actors I know, and seeing their many talents.) Of course, to drive the point across, the villagers bust into a song and dance number to explain their new, “democratic,” system. There’s one key line about how it excludes women, gypsies, hippies, and the lame, but as long as you’re straight, male, and pale, you got a vote. So less feudal, but not exactly democracy for all.
As Galavant and King Richard continue along, they play against their archetypes, which provides both commentary and comedy. Richard is the opposite of kingly: he’s feeble, a virgin (not by choice), yet still kind of a dirt bag, as he also finds it amusing being cruel to his people. He’s a wicked weakling. He notes when he sees his monogrammed bed sheets, now used as curtains, that the initials were “embroidered with all the plucked hairs of the kingdom’s redheads.” Dear Richard is having a mid-life crisis now that he’s no longer the spoiled king. Who is he now? What will he do know with his life? At the moment, he’ll sing, which brings him to the realization that, at the end of the day, he’d still be him (which isn’t necessarily a great thing to be…). The “Excalibur” sword, though he hasn’t named it yet, shines brightly next to him. Perhaps the wicked weakling will turn a valiant corner?
With Richard unable to order his army to help Galavant free his one true love Isabella, the young knight attends the town hall to incite the people to follow him in his quest. He stands in front of the villagers in his super tight pants. I know men’s pants in medieval times were tight, but Galavant’s leggings look like he’s about to do a shoot for American Apparel. The townspeople are confused, remembering that he already went on a quest to save his true love, Madalena. In Valencia. Galavant blubbers, explaining that that was last year’s true love, now it’s Isabella in Hortencia. One person cries out, “Hero, more like zero!” Richard, emboldened by his sense of self, steps in and gives an inspiring speech, beckoning all to join the quest. One person stands up—Roberta (Clare Foster).
Back at Valencia, Richard’s ex-best-friend, King Gareth, has been having nightmares every night about his betraying Richard. He shouts in his dreams, waking poor Queen Madalena from her beauty sleep. She orders Sid to get him under control, or she’ll cut his neck. After using methods employed to calm down toddlers, Sid helps Gareth face what he did and overcome some of the guilt. The big baby is able to rest more peacefully.
Isabella’s own thoughts weigh heavily on her mind, as she’s given up on escaping since Galavant doesn’t love her anymore. The parents bring in a wedding planner (Robert Lindsay). This conniving schemer is the opposite of Aladdin’s genie. He breaks down any resolve the princess may have had by placing a tiara on her head that will control her, making the princess his puppet.
In “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” Galavant and Richard are now a trio with Roberta and on the road again. She turns out to be an amazing swordsman, as well as Richard’s childhood friend, who he knew as ‘Bobby.’ The three continue to look for an army, with no way to pay, aside from their good word. It turns out that Richard, in a slightly Christopher Walken à la Pulp Fiction manner, swallowed the stone of Valencia and ‘digested’ it, successfully sneaking/passing it out of the castle. They now have a way to pay for an army.
Galavant realizes that Bobby and Richard have some chemistry, and the wheels turn in his perfectly-shaped head. He sets up the two at dinner, then ditches them when the waiter brings over a crow with an emergency note. As soon as he gets up, he passes Richard a rose. Richard, being Richard, says ‘Thank you’ and sniffs the rose. With an eye-roll, Galavant, takes Richard’s hand and shoves it forward into Bobby’s, making clueless Richard pass her the rose. He leaves them to it, but watches from a distance. It’s pretty painful to watch; Richard is a terrible date. Galavant channels his inner Cyrano/Sebastian the crab, and serenades them with a song to bring them together, “Maybe You Won’t Die Alone.”
While Richard is my favorite character, Chef and Gwynne are my favorite duo. The actors are exceptional, (which is a little redundant, because all the actors in this show are amazing). Gwynne is having a hard time adjusting to her new, not-poor lifestyle. In song, Chef tries to convince her to appreciate their new, less terrible, life, as they are “part of the upper-lower classes” and now they have the “classier type of bed bug species.” But Gwynne just can’t get comfortable with comfort, and decides to leave. Chef says if she goes, he goes. They will not be parted. He packs his one belonging, and is ready to go. She tells him he doesn’t have to, and he responds that he could be a king with a castle, but without her, the love of his life, it wouldn’t matter.
In this episode, we also see Madalena choosing between gold or diamond earrings (she doesn’t want to look poor). She’s been invited to Sunday roast with the Basikobitcz Queens (Sally Philips and Sarah Hadland), and relays her childhood memory of them. Madalena was a poor, peasant girl, and these two older, royal girls, humiliated her. To the comment that, “they sound awful,” she responds, “Oh they are and that makes me realize I want to be just like them.”
When Madalena arrives, she realizes that the Queen Sisters are there not just to roast the pig, but mainly to roast Madalena. “Except love, friends… and a decent pair of earrings.” (Nice Friar’s Club comedy club reference.) Madalena is humiliated, forced to walk home. These scenes give some introspection into Madalena’s character, which gets deeper than Galavant usually gets, showing a poor, peasant girl, that has risen in life to become a Queen with her own queendom. She’s knocked a few pawns and kings off the chessboard to do it, but somehow, her ambition has an admirable quality. She’s like Queen Guinevere, but rather than giving up her king and title for true love, she’s balls out grasping for total power. It’s refreshing to watch.
Humiliated by the fellow queens, she feels the pain of her nouveau-riche category, and realizes no matter how hard she strikes, she’ll never be as privileged as those that were born into it. Broken hearted, she actually tears up, showing a softer (still diabolical), side, in her song, “What is a Feeling…” Gareth, moved by her sadness, gets her the Sister Queens’ earrings… with their ears still attached. Touched, she kisses him on the cheek and he caresses the cheek where her lips grazed. This leaves me wondering: is love going to turn Madalena good, or is it going to turn Gareth bad?
So we have Madalena who has taken control, and on the other side, Isabella, who is quickly (though comically) losing all her rights. In medieval fairy tales and pre-21st century Disney movies, females have three roles: bad (villain mothers/queens), good (sweet daughters/princesses), and helpful (nice moms/fairies). In Galavant, we have Madalena playing the evil queen, but what are her other options? As we see from Isabella, who is smart and tough, the world they live in, regardless of it being presented in a lighthearted manner, leaves women with only two roles to fulfill: ruthless or victim. Isabella is the latter. Her parents locked her up. The moment she marries her child cousin, she’ll be being bossed around by an 11-year-old. And without her Prince to save her, she has completely resigned to her destiny. Let’s hope this isn’t how things end up.