Show Stealer spotlights some of my favorite side characters across television. Though they don't lead the show, but they have something unique about them that makes them worth celebrating
To inaugurate this column I want to memorialize on of TV's strangest shows, the winning and probably soon to be canceled fantasy musical Galavant.
The key to Galavant's charm was the contrast between the archetypical roles the characters were slotted into and how they acted within those roles. No one represented this contrast more than Richard, a man who's arc from “arch-nemesis” (his words), to “hero's BFF” (also his words) to “hero of all the seven kingdoms” (prophecy's words, actually) over the series' scant 18 episodes has been a great journey.
The first season casts Richard as a petty tyrant, one who in the opening number kidnaps the titular hero's girlfriend Madalena and one timeskip later invades a peaceful neighboring country Valencia. Any menace he holds is immediately deflated by the next episode when he pouts about getting gravy on his tummy flowers. Richard's defining traits are his inherent longing for approval, by anyone, his innate need for that approval to be earned and not given to him, and his complete inability to figure out how to accomplish that.
Richard's need to be loved drives his actions in the first season, and the comedy flows from his failure to understand why the oppressed people of Valencia aren't cottoning on to his comedy routines and depressing parties. It's the second season where the writers find a new gear for the character, where he finds himself deposed and hunted by Madelena, with rival Galavant conscripted into being his bodyguard. After losing everything, the writers have given him the perfect slate to build himself back up again.
Actor Timothy Omundson plays him so perfectly pathetic, caught between his honest earnestness to help with the complete inability to know even the most basic facts of life thanks to his coddled upbringing, and it's his perfect commitment to even the most ridiculous lines and musical numbers that make Richard a sympathetic character. Season 2 sees him unseated from his comfortable role in show as a pampered ruler and on a more meta level in the easy to classify villain type. Early on in the season his role as a hero is foreshadowed, both in a meta opening number and from discovering a sacred sword, King Arthur style, but it's the journey to this improbable point that's the fun of it.
What makes Richard heroic isn't just what destiny prescribes for him, but the fact that he realizes how short he falls of the role and committing himself to working towards that goal. The transformation is only complete however when Richard has something to fight for. Part of his redemption comes from his care of the adorable pet lizard, sorry, dragon Tad Cooper, but an even bigger role is kindling his love for his childhood friend Roberta, the one volunteer in his and Galavant's quest to reclaim Valencia. The connection between the two is one of the lovable subplots of the season, in no small part because Omundson continues to commit to the character's open faced sincerity.
By the time Richard finally embraces his inner hero in the finale, it's a moment of triumph because it's a capstone on his personal growth. The writers have done an excellent job in figuring out how to turn around what was once a despicable (but still comical) character, and it's by leaning into the good traits he had all along. Richard was always an interesting and hilarious character thanks to his inner contradictions, but these last episodes have made him into a complex one, worthy of stealing his show.