Series 2 Episode 1: They’re baaaaaaaack
March 1, 2012 § 5 Comments
If Series 1 of the Kiwi TV Series “The Almighty Johnsons” could be said to offer a mix of delights and quibbles, then Series 2 launched directly on-form. It offered an episode that took great care to introduce new viewers to the Johnsons’ world, as well as to ease the returning audience back into the groove, and it did so with its standbys of family dysfunction, mythic silliness, and bawdy goings ons.
The episode opens with Zeb and Axl situated on a breathtakingly lovely beach (I write this as a landlocked person who grew up on coasts and misses them), recapping the action to date. Throughout the episode, this framing sequence provides interstitial commentary around a series of “what happened next” scenes.
It seems that Zeb is now calling himself “Freki” (pronounced freaky), which is both the correct name of one of Odin’s two wolves (the other is Geri) and a joke that’s simply too good for the writers to have passed by. I don’t blame them. Building off flaming eye-fillets and miraculous healing, Zeb is totally committed to the Odin quest at the start of this new episode.
Outside of Zeb and the tiny bearded glimpses of O’Gorman’s Anders, none of the remaining characters felt quite settled in their first outing of series 2. There is exposition to be done, and the episode does its best to get the ball rolling on the new story arcs.
Mike has rebounded off Valerie’s infidelity by going on an Ullr-bender. He’s drinking, gambling, and sleeping around, with all the personal destruction that entails. His clothes are ratty, his attitude worse. He’s moved back in with his baby brother, and numerous appliances–the detritus of game god successes–litter the shared flat like used needles. He’s in a deeply bad place, with no direction and too many excuses.
He’s given up on the whole building contractor thing (one of the weaker constructs of Series 1) and has been given a much more involving path to explore. Raising his brothers, he missed out on that whole self-destructive young adult thing. Now, 15 years later, he’s fallen into it full-force. I am really looking forward to where the writers take him this time ’round.
Anders, bless his little dwarfish beard, has been sent off to Norway on some mysterious and obviously ill-advised quest. Save for a nice scene at an outfitters, all his scenes were solo — a trend I hope does not continue, as O’Gorman works best when bouncing off other actors as their foil.
I wonder how much of this is due to the filming of the Hobbit, and how much is intentional for story development. He’s shown in a few shots doing Anders-y things: drinking, flirting, getting a massage, irritating foreigners. What he’s not doing, however, is developing any character growth or acting as a direct villain. I’m hoping that will change soon and deeply.
Three core characters accessorize Ty’s arc: daylight Dawn still not over him (or him her), midnight goth Eva revelling in her new marriage and power-position with her father, and non-trivially (and most welcome) father-in-law Colin, being utterly deliciously duplicitous.
(It looks like Michelle is tangentially floating around the edges of this arc as well, but I suspect that’s more of a Colin-Axl-Michelle storyline, not a Ty-centric one. Plus Stacey has basically moved in as their live-in handmaiden. That made me laugh when she realized she was still stuck there but I’m hoping the writers have something deeper planned than using her for simple comic relief.)
As Eva surrounds herself with her emo baby bat friends, Ty seems caught up in a level of self-destructive implosion that puts Mike’s story to shame.
He’s doing bad drugs, listening to worse music (seriously, beautifully, laughably, horrible music — loved it), wearing extremely unflattering clothes, engaging in abusive sex, and basically self-destructing as a human being (let alone as a god) just so he can experience any sensation, even really really bad ones. (He also seems to have hit the gym–hard–between seasons. Looks like a High School wrestling coach.)
Several scenes show us that he’s still not over Dawn, and that she’s not over him. A perfectly picked present (a small tropical figurine from the trip they never took together) communicated everything we need to know about true love, bad blood, and clingy death goddesses. Makes me think that unbreakable contracts and souls meant to be together forever can have arcs that take you to surprising places.
The Oracle Recreational Travel and Drinking society made a non-impactful visit, introducing us to a Character of Great Expositional Importance, but otherwise dancing at the boring edges of the episode. It’s hard to service so many characters when jumping back into a new series, so I won’t be too disappointed that Grandpa Olaf did little more than introduce the Great Peeing Spittle Exposition God, who basically gave away the big story for the series: Axl must grow up, become Odin-like and earn his Frigg.
If the Plot Anvils of Doom are to be believed, Frigg will be sucked down into his Chosen One, regardless of her mortal or god antecedents via swirly godjection into a handy corpse, a la Mamma Johnson. I have a $5NZD bet on this eventually being the recently departed Gaia. (Admittedly, the only reason I’m currently looking foward to her return to the story is that she might bring Bryn, along with his phallicized vegetables, back to the screen. TAJ needs more Bryn. Lots and lots and lots.)
Speaking of Mamma Johnson, I greatly appreciated the eject soul, become tree, insert-in-new-person development that explains her body swap. Thank you, writers. I may not like the Plot Anvils of Doom result that flows from the explanation, but beggars can’t be choosers here. Well done, and not overly retconned at all.
Finally, there’s Axl. Despite his role as the moral and plot center of The Almighty Johnsons, Axl had little to do this week, allowing the other story lines to develop around him. Yes, he’s off to find the wizard, the wonderful wizard of Frigg, just down the Kiwi-brick road. But other than filling in the background of his Quest, he acted only as a competent master of ceremonies, letting the other stories play out around his unifying thread.
All-in-all, I felt this was a strong return and a promising start to the new series. I’m looking forward to seeing how things progress, and hoping that the writers continue the strong commitment to character development-over-fantasty that powered Series 1.
- I greatly prefer the new redesigned jpr logo — I *hated* the old one.
- The colors and overall video quality seem far far improved over the last series. New camera tech?
- Could they not re-use the sets from last year? Every place looks new, including the shared flat.
- Yggdrassil scotch? Guess they got tired of Fenrir Vodka?