Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Almighty Johnsons, Season One, Episode One: It's a Kind of a Birthday Present

The Almighty Johnsons is a fantasy show based in New Zealand.  I think this is the first time we have done a show from this area of the world.  The Johnsons are all human manifestations of Norse Gods.  They become aware of who and what they are on their 21st birthday. They escaped to New Zealand (of all places) to avoid religious persecution.  Throughout the years, their powers are diminished but it has beeN foretold that when Odin completes his quest that they will again become full Gods.

Axl Johnson is about to turn 21 and so his grandfather, who he believes is his cousin, and his brothers, take him out the woods to tell him the family history.  He is rightfully distrustful and believes that his family is about to pull some sort of weird prank on him.  He learns that the man he believes to be his cousin is actually his grandfather.  Olaf Johnson is actually Baldr and this makes him the God of long life and rebirth.  This is why he looks young, despite the fact that he is actually 90 years old.  Olaf is the oracle of he family, and he is the one responsible for figuring out exactly which God Axl is. It turns out, Axl is the reincarnation of Odin.

Axl quickly moves from disbelief to excitement.  He is desperate to find out what his God power is as all of his male family members do seem to have some sort of power.  His older brother Mike Johnson who raised him is Ullr - the God of the hunt and he has the ability to win any game he chooses to play. Anders Johnson is Bragi, and is he God of manipulation and poetry.  A simple whisper in someone's ear is enough to get them to act in the manner that he wants.  Mike makes it clear that he believes that Anders is evil, as well as the veiled suggestion that he is a rapist.  If one is manipulated into having sex, then one cannot consent.  Ty Johnson is Höðr - the God who has the power to make everything around him cold. 

There are a group of women who attempt to halt the prophecy of Odin's return, but their actions actually fulfill the finale prophecy.  At this point, I highly suspect that this group of women are actually female Gods, but we have been given no back story surrounding their purpose. They attempt to kill Axl twice, and they  fail twice.

While in the hospital recovering from an arrow to his chest, Axl learns that all of the prophesies have now been fulfilled.  He is then told that he has to reunite with Odin's soul mate the Goddess Frig.  Once this is done, his family will rule as Gods again; however, if he cannot manage to accomplish this before he dies, his entire family will be killed.  Apparently, this has already happened once in the 1930's to another reincarnation of Odin.  At present, Axl does not actually have any powers, he only has the promise of powers to come.

Axl is very immature and he totally misses the romantic attentions of his roommate Gaia.  His mother walked into the forest and chose to become a tree rather than raising four Gods into adulthood.  The only female Axl seems to pay attention to even remotely is Valerie Johnson, Mike's wife. The only thing we know about her at this point is that she and Mike are trying to have a child. 

The majority of the characters appear to be White.  Considering that this show is about Norse mythology, I am not really surprised.  Just looking at Keisha Castle-Hughes, the actress who plays Gaia, leads me to believe that she is mixed, but at this point I have not been able to find out for certain.  If Keisha Castle-Hughes is indeed a WOC, she is the only person of colour to be introduced thus far.  The Almighty Johnsons also has a completely straight cast.  This is only the first episode, and so I hope that this will change.  Once again, while none of this erasure is acceptable, it is common both in media and in the fantasy genre.

The Almighty Johnsons is really a low budget show.  There is one scene in which Axl is struck by lightening but essentially, the show depends upon story telling. Over time, I suspect that Axl's immaturity will get on my last nerve, but I think  it will be interesting to see if he is turned into a Gary-Stu. As first pilots go, I most certainly have seen worse, though this obviously is not a ringing endorsement at this time; it's more of a wait and see.