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.

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§ 8 Responses to Series 2 Episode 2: Frigg Magnet

  • Simon says:

    Re Gaia, next week you’ll find out why she’s behaving out of character. Stuff has happened to her since we last saw her leaving with Jacob.

    Thanks for another insightful write-up.

  • justanothermortal says:

    B.b..but…blindfolded chess! Heh. I’m still not sure what is happening with Mike in general (Axl’s right: lots of talk so far, but little to show for it except the speedy dispatching of Loki) but his back-and-forth with Zeb made me laugh a lot this week. “Do you want me to lock you in the cupboard again?” And I quite liked his and Olaf’s serious talk with Axl, but I agree Axl was a total fool about Colin. Dude, you IDIOT.

    Agreed: the building lecture where he “napalmed” the class was awesome, the Briana stuff not so much. Olaf’s chest was indeed a very kind gift to us (*fans self*) I was kind of annoyed by the ring of fire but for different reasons from you kg – I couldn’t see why Mike went along with it. HHe’d said toss a coin, he hadn’t agreed to anything else. He’d have been perfectly right to say, sorryI said toss a coin, so either we toss a coin or all bets are off.

    I did love the fact that Mike and Olaf were too dim to realise he’d get caught in the middle though. Hee. That was so *Johnsons* of them. Hee again.

    I was actually ok with the Dawn/wine-tasting too. I think they did acknowledge that this wasn’t usual business – Dawn was just as surprised as we were. It was just Agnetha and Anders’ (What is in it for him? Is it purely brotherly love – he doesn’t want Ty with Eva any more than Agnetha does, after all. But then again, this is Anders.) plan to set up Dawn drinking and looking sad so as to lure Ty back in. I’m with you on Eva though: enough with the creepy stuff. Let’s start the Ty-intervention and get him out of there.
    All in all, I can completely see where you’re coming from, kg, but I kind of loved a lot of it anyway. God Academy, Mandarin-Smiting and all 😉

    PS – Simon, that sounds intriguing… looking forward to finding out!

  • kiwigods says:

    For me God Academy was fun because Zeb was being used onscreen — the actual mandarin-smitage left me meh. I enjoyed the mocking audience in the balcony as well — Statler and Waldorf in the Kiwi version of the Muppets.

    +1 on your suggestion of a Tyntervention, but I also hope that Mike gets more arc than “Here I am to save my baby brother again”. Wouldn’t it be nice if Croupiergirl made a re-appearance and ripped him to shreds? Mike can’t be all at the bottom of his barrel one week and then brotherly-competent the next. It’s giving me whiplash.

  • agc173 says:

    I think I need to watch the episode a couple more times to reach the level of detail that you show in your reviews. That’s why I like to read them! I did enjoy the episode – it seems that in this season the boys will try to “find” themselves – each has their own bit of existential crisis to go through – Axl has to mature a bit – goes about it the wrong way but it will not be a fun story if he would know what to do from the start; Mike has a bit of midlife “who am I” crisis thing going on; still have to see what’s Anders crisis going to be, mind you; Ty’s going to be dealt with next episode apparently; and of course Olaf is just chilling. On top you add the “godly powers” and for now it makes for an interesting show. And throw in some good (and good looking 🙂 ) actors…

    Anyway, as always, your review was really appreciated and used to identify some of my own misgivings with the show.

  • Paul Walsh says:

    nice screen grab of my painting in this post! you can see a larger version on my website – http://paulwalsh.co.nz/paintings-2008-2012/

    🙂

    -p

  • […] you can find more by the same artist, Paul Walsh, over on his website. I used a screen cap of it a few posts ago and Paul was kind enough to drop by with a pointer to his other work. It’s all clever and […]

  • Paul Walsh says:

    cool – thanks very much for the post! appreciate it.
    -P

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