Wed in haste, kill Anders at leisure

July 12, 2013 § 7 Comments

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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.

§ 7 Responses to Wed in haste, kill Anders at leisure

  • drjuliebug says:

    The most shocking images for me: Olaf and Ty laughing at Anders when he kept passing out after nearly bleeding to death on Mike’s floor. Anders was being a jerk, his relatives all knew it, and it was clear by then that he wasn’t going to die, but I still found those scenes really brutal. Maybe the most disturbing part is that it was actually hard to fault Olaf and Ty for their apparently callous reactions. There’s one helluva lot of anger in the Johnson family.

    I’m glad everyone now knows why Michele is the most powerful goddess; I agree with previous posts about how TAJ is best when it doesn’t draw out its secrets for too long.

    And I just loved Zeb in this episode. Not to mention Stacey and Ingrid exchanging sexual fantasies about various Johnson brothers — too funny!

  • just another mortal says:

    The scene where Olaf explained that “even if Gaia had leprosy and lost her face and her arms and her legs, Anders would find her irresistible” just slayed me. It was very un-pc, I know, but the matching set of perplexed and slightly creeped-out looks on Mike, Ty and Anders’s faces was absolutely hilarious.

    There was a fair amount of comedy, but I agree, kg, this was a pretty dark and sad episode for the most part. To be honest, it’s Axl I feel least sorry for – yes, he’s heartbroken now, but he’ll eventually find his Frigg and probably be gloriously happy with her in the end. However, Anders and Gaia are doomed to want each other desperately till one of them dies and they’re also doomed to hate themselves for it? All the while giving the Johnsons yet another reason to purportedly despise Anders, and saddling Gaia (who I don’t care about too much but I’m pretending I’m not all about Anders 😉 ) with the double burden of guilt and heartbreak. Their fates sound a lot worse than Axl’s, and neither of them has the luxury of other people to blame for it.

    However, none of that stopped it from being brilliant. The scene where Axl almost killed Anders was fantastic – the way the mood just flipped to sheer panic was amazing – and then Dean O’Gorman just nailed every pratfall from then on. I agree with Drjuliebug that Ty and Olaf’s reactions were pretty brutal though – they disturbed me a bit too.

    Loved “rule number 2: get out of my chair.”

    LOVED the Oracles too.

    But really, if Michelle could die as quickly as possible, the show would be perfect. I cannot bear her.

    • Susannah says:

      That leprosy line was SUPERB. I had to stop watching the show to recover from my laughter. That’s the line of terrible comedy this show treads so well, and it’s worth it for moments like that even if there was probably one Anders pratfall too many for my comfort level elsewhere.

  • Susannah says:

    I also loved this episode, I think it might be one of my favourite of the whole show (probably third after Odin-flu and female Odin). Brilliant character work with my favourite characters, excellent acting from everyone concerned (though I wasn’t quite convinced by Keisha Castle-Hughes’ crying face, which got a bit too much screentime), deep tragedy and high comedy within the space of one episode.

    Everything surrounding the bar fight was perfect, from Anders’ absolutely terrible attempt at explanation beforehand, then the slow character-by-character reaction to his injury (and that shot of the blood gushing through his fingers), through Michelle’s moment of decision to heal him to Mike’s confused and angry response to that and then his trip to find Axl in the train truck. A superb 10 minutes or so of television there.

    ps Michelle destroying things was brilliant. She was having so much fun that I wanted to join in.

  • Pilgrim jake says:

    Maturity, fate and free will.
    The first arc of the season is driving home these reoccurring themes with a vengeance ( of odins);

    taj has made the point that while, as gods they are fated, as humans they are free a few times now – and gaias decision to leave rather than be beholden shows this tension perfectly.

    I am really enjoying the growing maturity and respect in mike and Michele’s partnership. As an antipodean this relationship rings true – it’s the chemistry  of cautious caring by those who have been hurt by family before. They appear both quite aware of each others past – mikes desertion by both mother and father, and Michele’s grooming for power then abject dismissal by mother when she fails to deliver on goddess power. I get a sense that, as a god and goddess pair ( who don’t have the hideous weight of being a fated couple) they are looking for a more mature and respectful way to be together. At the back of the characters minds must be the thought that for the Norse gods to survive there has to be godlings – and anything is better than their own uprearing. I particularly like the small shot of Michele listening in on the brothers attempts resolve family strife- and her response to it seems to to be honest and contrite about Yggdrasil with mike. The mutual respect in their relationship being capped off with mikes tacit pronouncement of it as hers.

    All this is of course in stark contrast with axels immaturity- from apple tree to getting married, raging about infideity then Running off after savaging his brother. I rather suspect we have not yet hit bottom with the immaturity. 

  • drjuliebug says:

    I see a lot of growth in Mike and Michele as well. At first, they seemed to have hooked up mainly for the thrill of the chase — she pursued Mike because she perceived that he and his family had power, while Mike found her a wild and exciting change after his failed marriage and too many one-night stands. All of that mischief is still part of the god stuff, but the relationship just seems more real and more human now. Of course, they both have enough baggage to keep us guessing. (BTW, I’m surprised that Michele didn’t explain to Mike that she used Yggdrasil to heal his injuries after Thor smashed him into the tree in the woods. It wasn’t a potential matter of life and death, as were her Yggdrasil-mediated encounters with each of his brothers, but it was still impressive, and he has to remember it even if he didn’t actually see it.)

    Also agree with Pilgrim Jake’s call on Axl’s need to mature much more. He’s going to be traumatized by how close he came to killing his brother, as well as by Gaia’s departure. But I don’t think Gaia will stay out of the picture. Getting her temporarily out of the way will move other stories forward, and I think it’s well-timed, but I don’t think it will last.. Never thought I’d say this, but I actually hope that Bryn returns to her story at some point. And maybe Eggther, too!

  • The season two finale and the first two episodes of season three were awesome, and almost entirely centered around Anders and Gaia. When Gaia became Idunn instead of Frigg, I felt bad for Axl but at the same time, I also felt bad for Anders and Gaia. It would have been easier for them if they found each other attractive and somewhat tolerable but neither of them could stand each other, which made their godly pull much more difficult to bare. But it was so interesting. And I really liked how it seemingly changed Anders. He felt GUILTY over it and I think in his own way, he did care about whether or not he hurt her (and her in general, even in a small way), just like he cared about what he was doing to his brother.

    Even though brief, I liked the Anders/Gaia pairing. Probably because it was so “forbidden fruit” type deal. And the fact Frigg was still out there would have met things would have changed between Axl and Gaia anyway. With everyone wanting or expecting Gaia to be Frigg or Papatuanuku, it was refreshing and completely unexpected. One question I have: Were Anders and Gaia have illusions of each other because of their guilt or because their gods were destined to be together?

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