Series 2 Episode 2: Frigg Magnet
March 9, 2012 § 8 Comments
I am deeply torn after watching episode 2 of the second Almighty Johnsons series. On the one hand, many delightful bits sparkled. When the show shined, it shined bright. On the other, pedestrian plotting dragged down the overall pace and storytelling. The episode felt unpolished, with many missed opportunities that might have been better addressed. If anything, this week made me wonder if having a special effects budget this year is hurting the storytelling.
As an example, in a big show piece towards the end of the episode, Colin creates a large ring of fire, daring Mike to cross it to fetch some keys. Mike needs to both win back Axl’s debt that Colin has manipulated him into, and to win a bar.
In executing this sequence, the special effects reached pre-modern Doctor Who levels of awful. Worse, this kind of contrived supernatural activity took the focus away from real characterization. It was trite, manipulative, and poorly done. What emotional tension was to gained from jumping over fake fire? What deeper meaning to be found with stunt scenes? None, I’m afraid. It came across as cheap and unnecessary.
Compare and contrast with season 1, with its absolutely grounded, minimal effects — a touch of frost (or lack thereof) in the air, a well-placed lightning bolt, or even a hammer that flies a bit too far. Those effects propelled the story without drawing attention to themselves, serving the story rather than overwhelming it.
Admittedly, the sequence did have this going for it: (Yes, this is for you CJ/ae. See? I do care.)
Thank you TAJ creators.
What worked better for me was Colin’s lecture on building. It was brilliant. (And true.) Although I hated his outfit (a big mismatch for a real working lawyer no matter how eccentric), his introduction on what awaits construction workers in real life helped explain who he was, and where he was coming from, as well as giving any builder or engineer in the audience a huge belly laugh. It showcased his strengths, gave background to why he’s picking up all these buildings for cheap, and put Axl at an emotional disadvantage. Great stuff.
I also quite liked the bonding sequence (prior to the whole set-up and betrayal) between Colin and Axl because, damn it, Loki and Odin are meant to be dysfunctional besties. They have a natural mythological pairing, and despite Axl’s extreme non-Odin naiveté, the two actors showcased enough chemistry and fun to make that scene really work for me. I want more of that.
But the rest? The fake “she called rape”, the bar tab, etc? Too much, too heavy handed, too contrived — and in the end Axl just went crying home to Mike to get saved like a damsel in distress (more about that at the end of this episode). The always brilliant Zeb was just wasted here. Listen people: when Spongebob hangs out at the bar with Squidward and ends up in deep trouble, surely there’s got to be more for Patrick to do narratively than throw mandarins at him.
Ty’s story also had its highs and lows this week. It worked best with his Anders phone call, worst with Dawn and Eva. The OCD part of me is forced to point out that Public Relations firms do not do advertising in that way. That is something you’d hire out to Mac Delany and his firm. You would never have a secretary (sorry, “assistant”) take wine home and… Oh never mind. It was just wrong, and badly written. And wrong.
As for the home branding-with-a-hot-iron club? Yuck. I can kind of see what the writers are going for, but I wish they’d just let that storyline actually develop–you know, with real conversations between Eva and Ty–rather than clubbing us over the head with “Eva is wrong for Ty. Hod may be getting off on all this, but Ty needs out of this relationship.” We get it.
In fact, if we could have a rule that Turner were only allowed to have scenes with O’Gorman, that might solve all of these lingering problems. Because as I already mentioned, the short phone call scene was the best part of that story line this week. And yes, I did end up googling obscure Nordic dishes, and no, while authentic sounding (one word: Lutfisk), the whole smoked-reindeer-cheese-in-lard bit seems entirely made up. Pity!
My eyes glazed over on the Agnetha front except for her one good scene with Eva. Forget about putting Ty and Eva together on-screen. I’d really like to see more Agnetha/Eva moving forwards.
And where was Michelle this week? Missed her. Two episodes in and our favorite evil Doctor isn’t even a bit player here. Maybe she has to wait for Anders to get back from Scandahoovia. The Oracle Surfing and Comedy Hour team were also MIA. Solo Olaf provided some deeply important eye candy (Hi CJ/ae!) but that was about it.
Finally, there was Gaia — showing up at the very last second and acting extremely out of character. Her plain-spoken assertive self seems to have been replaced with some kind of stupid damsel-in-distress hiding in a wardrobe. To be clear, series 1 Gaia doesn’t do wardrobes. She’s a take-charge alpha woman. Gaia should have stomped in there and kicked her boyfriend out on her own. In fact, the only person who’s allowed to intimidate Gaia is Bryn — and he’s coming back!
I squeed as I watched the coming attractions. BRYN!
So there you have it. I wasn’t really thrilled by this episode but I remain engaged and looking forward to what comes next.