Wed in haste, kill Anders at leisure
July 12, 2013 § 7 Comments
If I haven’t hit you over the head enough with Anna Karenina, let me remind you one more time. Happy families make bad TV; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, especially when they are secretly Gods in New Zealand. Axl and Gaia were never going to ride off into the happy sunset, and while they believed they could make it work, no one wants to watch long, boring shows about happy Kiwi families unless their last name is West.
Axl is interesting precisely because he has this huge secret in his life. It’s the thing that’s driving the narrative and it’s fantastic how this new series is playing that angle. There was almost nothing in this episode that I disliked. (Even Dawn was tolerable.)
Anders’ Bragi nature is driving things with Idun, (one n? really?) currently housed in the body of a woman he considers about as exciting as paperwork, domestic chores, and weak beer. Forced to fight between principle and lust, well, this is Anders after all. You can’t expect any high-minded heroics from him.
Worse, Gaia is realizing how much bigger this god business is than she expected. Finally, we have a point of view character just entering godworld, but with far more impact than Axl. Because Axl is Odin, his god powers must arrive slowly, stealthily, out of his control. If Odin were to appear fully realized, it would make a very boring series indeed. But with Gaia, we get to witness how overwhelming this change is. Even though she’s flown off, out of the story, everything that happened to her over last episode and this informs who Axl and his family are, and why this matters to the story of the Johnsons as a whole. It was brilliantly executed.
(By the way, while this episode did not have anything near the stylish Oracle sequence that ended Ep 1–something I meant to write about last week and totally forgot to–once again the visuals and the direction were outstanding. The Anders prat falls especially towards the end were just perfectly shot and the scenes on the freight train showed an outstanding eye for framing. Yes, there were a few lens flares, but it wasn’t anything near JJ Abrams territory.)
For the most part, this week didn’t try to juggle too many stories. We had AxlAndersGaia suffering in one corner, Mikechelle redecorating in the other, with a tiny smattering of Stacy (in a welcome, character expanding sequence) and Ty — just enough to provide breaks from what was otherwise a pretty heavy storyline. When Axl threw Anders across the room, I was expecting a prat fall (as later followed), not the blood and gore the show delivered. It was pretty shocking, and exactly what that storyline needed. Being Odin isn’t pretty, and the more Axl realizes this, the better he’ll grow into a role that’s been thrust upon him.
The Almighty Johnsons works at its best when it realizes it’s a tragedy. Although Zeb longs to be part of that world (with apologies to the Little Mermaid), the reality is that being a god is a curse, not a superhero fantasy. Ty’s gotten away a little too easily from this — and the amnesia thing doesn’t seem weighty enough a payment. Pretty much everyone’s life would be vastly improved by expelling these supernatural parasites, and yet the fact that they’re there is what makes TAJ such a fascinating show. It offers endless dramatic potential due to this shared burden, one that the writers are doing an especially good job this series of showcasing.
In the end the Oracles oracled (how I love this pair — romantic or not, they do deserve their own Oracle Comedy and Sketch hour, with special guest appearances by famous disco musicians), Gaia left, Axl suffered, Michelle healed, Mike fussed, and Anders fell flat on his face — over and over again. It never grew old, not once.
I’m sure I’ll think of another billion things that I forgot to post about and will add them as bullet points as they occur to me. So what did you think of the show this week? Loved it? Hated it? Still shipping Idin/Odun? Drop a note in the comments.
- The show keeps making me fall in love with Auckland. This week’s travel porn moments included that beautiful park Anders and Gaia met in (were those Palm trees?), that golden sunlight-lit railroad with the cityscape in the background, and that unknown tennis arena with Mike and Anders.
- The bit with smashing vs hauling things to the skip was very Michelle.
- I spent the entire time inside Ty’s house trying to spot his refrigerators. It was not a good fridge episode this week.
- The scene with Stacey and Ingrid comparing guy notes on the couch would have been my favorite if not for floppity Anders, the nosedive king. Delightfully hilarious. I also loved Mike’s reaction to Ty’s House of Booze and Oracles. Plus, one cannot uncrash the train, once that train has crashed.