Episode 8

March 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Almighty Johnsons had a relatively quiet outing this week. Episode 8 spent its time carefully moving pieces across the Almighty Johnsons chessboard, preparing for the next two episodes, which will be wrapping up this first series.

This week, the search for the goddess Frigg heated up. The episode ended with Axl laying eyes on a young woman as sparks quite literally flew. Is Eva the goddess that he’s been looking for? In all likelihood, I think that yes, she is. (So much for my Gaia is Frigg theory, assuming that Eva isn’t Hel or Skade or some other heavy hitter.) Is Axl going to end up with Eva, fulfilling the prophecy and restoring the Norse pantheon to their former glory? That’s far less clear.

Although he played an important role in the episode’s dramatic conclusion, Axl didn’t have much to do this week, along with Ty. This week was all Mike, Olaf, and Anders — all three moving forward on their individual story arcs. Axl only briefly joined the sandwich-consuming Norse Greek chorus as he and grandfather Olaf failed to grasp the niceties of trying to lie with PR.

They helped sort through the many fake claimants being funneled to them by the shrewd and knowing Agnetha and dogsbody Ingrid. Sad how Anders’ clever little trap was unmasked within minutes of going live. I did love Ingrid’s work ethic, how she tried very hard to make the imaginary claimants geographically plausable.

Ty managed to show up for about a half a minute, locking lips with Dawn before she and the other two human plot complications drove off into the sunset and away from the next two episodes. As they drove away, I did think how a convenient meteor could clear up any number of awkward storylines, and help focus characters back on getting back-to-god-basics.

Speaking of human plot complications, I was a little let down in the Rob-being-awake thread. Rob briefly told Mike how frustrated and angry he was at having his life being taken away. Mike filled in Rob on the progress of his Val relationship. There was no big emotional payoff, no fight,  no anger, no resolution there. Instead, Rob just shuffled around, as much a zombie in his scripted-lines-existence as he was in his coma. Wasted opportunity, especially in regard to his coma-bound oracular utterances. Particularly when there was plenty of shock and awe with Valerie.

With Val, we didn’t get the same level of emotional intensity as last week’s fights — there was a cringeworthy “I can now truly love you because Rob is awake and I don’t have to worry about him” scene — but there was also…Anders.

Anders? Oh Valerie, Valerie, Valerie… Anders? Really? What were you thinking?

Learning  the backstory on how Mike and Valerie moved from friendship to interest to relationship, with Anders playing misguidedly warped Cupid (wrong pantheon, I know), was actually quite shocking. O’Gorman really sold the Mike/Anders confrontation where he explained how sleeping with his Brother’s Best Friend-in-a-Coma’s Mourning Fiance and Growing Love-Interest was actually an act of love. Oh, TAJ writers, how I love you guys. The book deal for a 15-year-coma-patient was just icing on that cake.

I particularly appreciated his delight in explaining to Mike how dumping Valerie, being free from mortal obligations, and resuming a carefree existence was the height of brotherly love. This, from the same character who explained to Ty that he tells everyone that he’s gay because he can and it amuses him. There’s no delusion like Anders delusion and he remains the best written character on the series.

Anders’ interactions with Michelle made some important steps forward as well. I really liked how Anders’ agreed to swear on his mother’s grave (hah!) without hesitation. I’m curious how the blood binding will play out — if we’re lucky, the characters will have messed with forces a bit out of their league and have to deal with the consequences. Since I don’t really believe that the whole Axl/Frigg re-deification plan is going to play out successfully, I’m hoping there’s some other way this plot line will grow.

We had some delightful screen time with the Balder and Snotra Oracular Comedy and Surfing hour. Really, these two should have their own show. And that picture on Ingrid’s desk… Was it me or was that a snapshot of a young Hayden Frost, the guy who plays Zeb? If so, that wouldn’t make Zeb a god (assuming his adulterous father was human), but would certainly tie him in further to the inner plot in a way that Valerie, Rob, and Dawn either cannot or will not. (Three plot devices all together in a car. A small, vulnerable car.)

We learned a bit more about the fearsome Goddesses this week. Agnetha owns a vodka company and was willing to cut a check on the spot (with contract!) to encourage Eva to head off to Seattle or Austin to find her music and avoid her destiny. I liked how the girl gang stood up to her (for several hours!) before she inevitably retook the reins of power. “He is a god. Which is like a man. Only worse.” Oh Agnetha, you hilariously bitter woman. More please!

We also discovered more about Stacey, or “Fulla”, whose role in safekeeping Frigg’s shoes and casket I learned more about through the wonders of Google.  (Take that, Olaf you luddite! Speaking of which, were the producers unable to secure rights to Apple’s real incoming mail sound? Because that “bing” was completely unrealistic. Also, there’s no *way* Axl wouldn’t know what a “hit” was. He’s a University student and his best friend does IT. That was just reaching for another dope pun, one that wasn’t really needed.)

But back to Fulla. Once again, front and center comes the reminder that being a god (at least in TAJworld) really, really, really sucks. Unlike so many escapist superhero fantasies, the Almighty Johnsons frame a world where no one would ever want the kind of powers these characters are stuck with. Godrankings, not experience, not personality, rule the day. Younger brothers order their elders around. Witchy bullies send their minions off to murder innocents.

Poor Fulla realizes that contrary to any human sense whatsoever that she actually wants to serve and protect a complete stranger. This goes beyond any bdsm scenario into a desecration of the human spirit of independence. Belligerent Stacey becomes tragic Stacey as she tries to explain how her love for Eva isn’t just sick fandom — but something entirely different, even if no less sad. I also liked Michelle & Stacey’s discussions as they came to a growing awareness that finding Frigg was the beginning of the story, not its end-point.

We didn’t get to see much of the Colin Gunderson character this week (did I get that name right?) but what I did see, I liked — especially with reference to the tension between him and his daughter and the fact that he hasn’t exactly been forthright about the changes in her life since turning 21.  Drugging and sectioning aren’t exactly the responses to apotheosis I personally expected, again re-inforcing that in TAJworld, godhood sucks.

So we’re off to next week, where Axl meets the ‘rents, gets set on fire, and Gunderson stands menacingly in Mike and Val’s driveway. With an envelope. Can’t wait.

What’s with all the short jokes about Anders? The actor appears to be the same height as the ones who play Mike and Ty. It’s just Axl and Olaf who are insanely tall. Is Anders’ character actually supposed to be shorter than the actor who plays him?

The “god power recognition sense” introduced in this episode seems more than a little ret-conny. No one (especially Thor) seemed to react when first viewing Axl, who as Odin would be pretty much the maximum of heavy-hitter gods.

Despite Anders’ suggestion that Frigg would be a hot blond chick, all the Norse gods we’ve encountered to date have been brunettes. (Stacey’s and Anders’ hair treatments don’t count.) Interesting production choice.

Upon re-viewing it sounds like whoever penned Eva’s lyrics certainly could have been teasing Hel over Frigg. From her lyrics written “a year ago”, she sings “I close my eyes and I let you in. The devil came and it played to win” and later “Don’t tell me that you understand. When you take my hand, I feel colder than ?disease/the sea?”. Helheim was cold, not hot. Eva’s dark thoughts and work with carcasses (kind of a Hel specialty) may contribute as well. Surely Hel would produce the same retconned Heavy Hitting Goddess-reaction-effect™ as Frigg?

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