Series 3. Episode 1. In which mythology slams reality over the head.

July 4, 2013 § 16 Comments

Screen Shot 2013-07-04 at 11.30.45 AM

It was never going to start happy. The end of Series 2 guaranteed a conflict sourced in both family and mythological adversity. In “An Orchard of Trees”, the Almighty Johnsons owned that trauma, delivering well-grounded tension in a welcome return. For the most part, I absolutely loved this episode. Yes, there were a few weak points as there always are, but they were far outweighed by a beautiful series opening.

The episode started with a lavish and overwrought set-piece introducing Axl’s mindset as he fantasized the upshot of Gaia’s Idunn apotheosis. Axl-as-tree hit me over the head with one of my biggest concerns from Series 2 — that an enhanced budget and a desire to focus on comedy had overshadowed good storytelling.  I worried that Gilligan’s-Island-esque goings on would push out the heart of the drama.

For the most part, I need not have fussed.

That over-the-top tree sequence set up the actual tree-in-the-apartment, both with misdirection (who’s tree was it, after all) and with a pay off both earned and satisfying. As the episode closed, an enraged Axl attacked the apple tree, a scene intercut with scenes of Anders and Gaia in flagrante delicto, giving into needs and passions they couldn’t  overrule by will. It was fabulous.

I especially  liked the point of view shots that led up to that moment, the internal hints that both Gaia and Anders couldn’t quite get past mythology.  Gaia and Axl’s forced and desperate attempts to bend reality to their will — even as it became increasingly clear that they could not — were superb. The proposal called back to one of my favorite moments from the last series, when the emotionally destroyed Eva suggested that she and Ty try for a baby. It had that same ring of truth, that same lack of maturity, that same foreshadowing of disaster.

Anders, of course, was one of the best things about this episode. O’Gorman is one of the strongest actors in a good troupe, and I loved that he powered not one but two distinct storylines. The Bragi/Idunn plot is offering him a chance to start exploring the emotional depths that we just got a hint of towards the end of last season. I really hope this isn’t wrapped up quickly.

At the same time, he gets to keep playing jester in the Ty/Dawn thread. Forget Loki, Anders is the true god of chaos when it comes this romance. Seriously, O’Gorman and Turner have the best chemistry on the show bar none. Seeing them play off each other was a delight. The episode last year where Anders decided on a quest of his own, eventually stumbling across Helen in the rest rooms, was another example of how well these two create magic together. I hope there’s more of this going forward.

And who expected that twist at the end? Dawn, remembering the worst possible flashback, transforming the amnesia story (which, honestly, I hated) into something grounded in terror. It was brilliant, especially given the rest of the cringe-inducing stalker storyline that had preceded it. Suddenly Dawn became marginally interesting — something I would not have dreamed could happen. (As some of the commenters here point out, the more common attitude is “Just die already Dawn.” I’m sure the actress is an absolutely lovely person. It’s the character we hate.)

Over in Oracle land, the strange status quo with Olaf paired up with Stacey and Ingrid being ditzily alone still befuddles me. I can only think the writing crew didn’t have a way to bring Stacey into regular contact so they broke up Olaf and Ingrid and decided to have this odd relationship take its place. It just doesn’t make any sense, and it really doesn’t work for me. And Stacey deserves a better story line.

Speaking of couples without chemistry, Mike and Michelle (would that be Mikechelle, CJ?) are bickering about power, evil, and relationships and it’s just…there. I loved when Michelle and Anders were sparking off each other, and I love Mike as a man of passion, principle, and rage (his turn in Ep 7 of Series 1 is my favorite episode bar none) but the two together? They fall flat. Like Olaf and Stacey, it feels more like an attempt to keep under-contract actors engaged in the main story than a natural place for those characters to be.

Worst of all,  no guessing contest on earth works like the one at the store did. I’m sorry, but this is where I have a pedantic hissy fit. You know how those jar-guessing-things operate, I know how they operate, and I’m sure that in no part of the world do employees sit, waiting for the exact answer to pop up, with the reward for the contest happening exactly then. I hated Michelle’s little temper tantrum and Mike’s irrational response to it.

In some ways the episode played out as if it were from two different shows. In the one corner, we had Axl/Gaia/Anders/Ty/Dawn. I give that episode an A+. The other episode gets a Gentleman’s B. I’d probably  fast-forward through it on rewatch, even as I’m rewinding parts of the main story over and over again.

  • I loved how Anders was wearing Idunn’s colors at the end, as he opened the door. I think the green shirt showed up earlier as well, but I wasn’t paying close attention.
  • Everyone seems to have the same ringtones now. I found it so confusing. You used to know who was who by their mobile device tones.
  • Not enough Zeb. 
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§ 16 Responses to Series 3. Episode 1. In which mythology slams reality over the head.

  • anise76 says:

    I couldn’t agree more. I felt that Mike and Michelle have more than run their course, and were an unnecessary distraction from the main story. Loved the way the Oracles came into play to try to warn Axl and Gaia not to mess with fate. Overall… I LIKED the episide. I didn’t LOVE it. That said, I didn’t love the first episode of season 2, either, and ended up loving the season in general.

  • drjuliebug says:

    IMO that was the most intense ep of the series yet. It hit you right over the head from moment one; Anders in denial about Helen’s murder (leaving the grisly cover-up to Mike and Olaf); Axl’s rage and jealousy; Ty trying without success to coax some human emotions out of Anders, but failing to realize that his own behavior was confusing and terrifying poor Dawn … Everyone got a satisfying share of divine and/or human angst.

    During the first two seasons, Axl’s story was still the story of a barely post-adolescent still trying to grow up. He’s definitely not a kid any more. And the darkest parts of his and Gaia’s troubled story were the parts about … Axl and Gaia, the young adults, rather than Odin and Idunn.

    As this group’s token obsessive Ty/Dawn shipper, I thought the fridge scene was brilliant. Mike and Michelle, oddly, felt more like comic relief than anything else, but you can also tell that there’s going to be trouble. Down-to-earth Mike and the most high-maintenance goddess of the bunch are potentially a volatile combination.

    And, yeah, I wish Olaf would go back to Ingrid too!

    • kiwigods says:

      Have you noticed all the cool different fridges in Ty’s apartment? They got a great opportunity to show them off during the various cooking and eating scenes. I particularly love the soda fridge being used for groceries and the beer fridge dedicated to alcohol.

  • Susannah says:

    I’m afraid I rather like Mike and Michelle, partly because I think the actors do have some chemistry together, but also because both of those two characters work well when they have someone of the other kind of character to bounce off – Mike needs someone who pushes him into being reckless and enjoying things occasionally, and Michelle needs someone who gives her just an occasional good example or two. (It’s actually why they each work well individually in scenes with Anders, I think – he sits somewhere between them in terms of morals, but is just as pragmatic as either.)

    Stacey and Olaf still makes little to no sense to me, though, no. But the Oracle connection – and shared glances of ‘uh-oh’ – between Olaf and Ingrid are still good, at least they still hang out together.

    Axl annoyed me in this episode, but then he was probably supposed to – and he did have fair reason. Loved Olaf basically calling him a spoilt baby though.

    But oh, Anders. He tried so hard to be basically decent, and look where it got him. This isn’t going to end well, is it?

    ps: and it’s good to have this blog back – I don’t have many RL friends who watch the show and it’s nice to have somewhere to discuss it!

    • kiwigods says:

      I bear you no ill will for loving Mikechelle or (Ullfn, apparently). In fact, I’m glad someone gets them because I just don’t. We welcome *all* shippers here, regardless of slant — whether you’re into Zebchelle, Croupike, Gainders, or even Tyva, we’ve got your back.

      They did an interesting set-up for Stacey and Olaf last year, but have supported it with nothing since, with both characters getting a bit sidelined by major plots. I still haven’t recovered from my beloved BRYNNNNNNN! being straight, carnivorous, and far less interesting than he should be.

      As for Anders, it is *exactly* what you said: “He tried so hard to be basically decent, and look where it got him. This isn’t going to end well, is it?” which is why I love this development so much.

      p.s. I’m really glad you’re here to participate in the discussion. The happiness goes both ways.

      • Susannah says:

        Ullfn is an awesome (-ly terrible) ship name. Hee.

        Which reminds me to mention I’m glad they haven’t dropped the weird comment Loki made about Michelle being the most powerful goddess around. I have no idea what’s going on there, but I kind of like that it doesn’t seem like she does either. I’d like Michelle to have to deal with some real problems at some point.

        (Incidentally, the wiki entry on Sjöfn implies she is occasionally thought to be another form of Frigg’s. It’s probably not where the story is going, but wow how much amazingly terrible chaos would that cause if true?)

  • just another mortal says:

    Surely Mike and Michelle would be Ullra, kg 😉 ?

    I loved this. Totally agree with your write-up, though – Mike/Michelle really just take time away from the good stuff, and I actually cannot get behind how Mike just gives Michelle a pass for being a terrible person. She tried to KILL Axl, then she tried to frame him for drug-dealing. But it’s just “bygones”? And if she “loves” Mike, then I’m Wonder Woman. The only person Michelle loves is herself.

    Anyhoo, now I’ve got that off my chest – I adored the rest of it. Anders is just amazing. He makes every story better. The Ty/Dawn thing would be unbearable without him, but with him it’s quite funny. And the Gaia/Axl/Anders triangle is INSPIRED. What’s quite poignant as well is he never gets any credit for it, but no matter how obnoxiously he goes about it we have seen him trying to do the right thing by his brothers a lot – this week he tried to ignore his attraction to Gaia, he tried to reassure Axl etc. He did give in, but only after she sought him out. (The Oracles talking-to was great.). Anyway, in case I haven’t made it clear, I love Anders. And this show 🙂

    • kiwigods says:

      You are so utterly and completely right about Anders. Plus, he deserves a romance at his own level. Helen didn’t engage him emotionally and everyone before then was simply a tool of his bragipowers. Why not Gaia? It’s an exciting and challenging development. Plus, it leaves Axl where he needs to be, growing up and becoming Odin.

  • drjuliebug says:

    I have a different take on Mike and Michelle. Every time I see them together, I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop — is it real, or is she using Mike? I’ve always assumed the latter, but (a) there’s enough going on to make you wonder, and (b) ultimately, no matter what your powers are, you can’t really game Ullr.

    The development of Anders is very sly and subtle. When Ty checks up on him to see how he’s coping with Helen’s death, Anders’ attitude is cold — he seems worried more about his linoleum than about having seen Helen murdered. But he’s obviously in terrible shock when he stares at the bloodstains on the floor. And there’s Mike’s comment about Anders twice in his life crying helplessly while leaving Mike to bury a body — first his pet guinea pig, and then Helen. We viewers didn’t see it, but his brother did.

    Anders is the only brother we haven’t seen go through emotional hell yet. Clearly, that moment is coming. He tries not to get emotionally involved with the women he seduces. He tries in his own way to not hurt his brothers. And now, for the first time, those things are completely out of his control.

    • kiwigods says:

      I love your take on things. Michelle isn’t an “Oh squee I love you” sort of person. Surely, she’s playing a long game?

      Plus, did you catch all the cool little Ullr jokes in the ep? Not just the ones with Axl turning things into a guessing game. Anders asks him “Did you make it a hiding game?” with Helen’s body, and there was another one that made me chuckle — now I have to think of what it was.

      I love where the writers have placed Anders — not only have they given him a worthy story line, it gives Gaia something interesting to do as well. I’m not sure I’m not hoping for a Gaia-Anders resolution, with poor Axl being left solitary, lonely, and with all the weight of the world on his shoulders.

  • Ratatosk says:

    Love this blog – and although i don’t mind the Mike/Michelle relationship, I too hated the Mitre 10 scene, but given the funding woes they had last year I assumed that it was a sponsorship deal

    • kiwigods says:

      Glad that you stopped by. It would be awesome if they sold tie-in hammers with Mjollnir burned onto them, wouldn’t it?

      • Ratatosk says:

        that would be cool – maybe some emergency Ragnorok kits too – although hopefully that won’t happen in this series! have been reading up on the mythology so that i can try and guess plot lines. I’m hoping that Njord will make an appearance.

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