Sunday, August 18, 2013

Almighty Johnsons, Season 3, Episode 7: Typical Auckland God

Axl wakes up, naked with a woman, Suzy, who would be naked if she weren’t wearing his t-shirt. And they play the memory game where Axl tries to remember how this state of affairs came to be followed by a repeat of some of those better memories.

Having relived those memories Axl goes to check on Derek, taking his truck back. His house is a wrecked mess with more than a few discarded weapons. Derek wakes up, disorientated and kind of nasty in pyjamas that the nice people who took him home must have dressed him in. Derek loses his shit and strips naked in horror of the indignities they may have visited upon him. Apparently Tom and Kerry are the “bandits” that stole Mjolnir.

So that sends Axl to the neighbours who are no fans of Derek’s. Kerry is a man, Tom and Kerry are a gay couple and Derek is a homophobe (the “indignities” Derek feared are now cast in a nauseating light) and, in addition to telling everyone he’s Thor, he threw his hammer at the house along with an anti-gay slur because he disliked their music. If he wants his hammer back they want an apology (because they’re extremely generously not pressing charges) and him to actually remove it from their house -  because they can’t shift it.

Of course, Axl can remove it. But Tom and Kerry still don’t want to give the hammer back until Derek apologises. Oh and they’d like their land back.

Axl tries to talk sense to Derek who is adamant he won’t apologise. And he calls them bandits not because they stole his hammer – no, he calls them “arse bandits.” Language that Axl is quite horrified that Derek is happy to use – and apparently publicly.

As to the land, it turns out the land does belong to Tom and Kerry but Derek won the land from “drunk Murray” in a game at some point and they never got round to doing any paperwork. Derek protests he farms the land and has for 15 years (examining the clearly unused land, Axl asks what he farms.)

Axl gets more information from Suzy – Derek stopped farming and took up drinking when Delphine (his daughter) moved away with Ross. When Tom and Kerry moved in and tried to claim their land Derek got a new hobby – harassing the “poofters” next door. Suzy gives Axl the full history of the land dispute and adds that, despite how out there Derek is, she still worries about him. She says this while pouring Axl a drink from a bottle Axl just tried and found empty… He distracts her, drinks his beer and tries to pour from the bottle – it’s empty. But when she returns and pours the bottle is full again.

Golden hair, cares about Thor… some distinct Earth-goddessness with spawning of ale (agriculture). Is this Sif?

He returns to Derek’s farm to find Tom and Kerry trying to talk to Derek who responds with “bugger off back to homo town you homos.” And he urges Odin to “smite the sodomites.”  Charming. Tom and Kerry also offer to buy Derek’s farm – but he won’t listen to, well, anything. When they leave Axl suggests that maybe he should sell the wreck of a farm but Derek rejects it (adding a good line about Odin becoming a god of agriculture and a much worse line about Axl becoming their “bum buddies”).  Axl asks Derek about Suzie being a goddess – specifically Frigg, to which Derek thinks it’s unlikely since she’s too nice to be “one of those slags” – but if she is… Axl could do worse.

Axl talks to Suzie and learns they were born close to each other and that she never knew her parents, they died when she was young. And when she turned 21 she had an awesome party with fireworks no-one else saw and then found an enormous number of half-empty beer bottles.

She also has a job for Axl – her previous bar man is homophobic and refuses to work a stag party for Tom and Kerry who arrive to help organise their party. And they’ve actually invited Derek as a peace offering – albeit before he threw a hammer at them. And then things go squiffy – and Almighty Johnsons was actually doing so well – in that they want an apology and for Derek to turn up “dressed in what he has in his closet.” Kerry thinks Tom is far too kind to Derek. I agree with Kerry.

The clothes he has in his closet is his wife’s wedding dress. Yes, Kerry is trying to force Derek to turn up in drag. And they were doing so well. Derek talks emotionally about his wife and what she meant to him adding some more homophobia. Axl talks him into wearing it by saying he disappointed all the gods when he threw his hammer – and he needs to atone. Derek agrees – so long as Axl is his bridesmaid

Cut to Axl in a dress and Suzie praising his bravery for wearing it in a bar full of gay men and lonely farmers. In a moment alone, Axl calls home and talks to Olaf (not about his car) claiming he thinks Suzie is Frigg for many reasons – but when Axl describes the never emptying bottle, Olaf tells him it’s not Frigg – it’s Saga. Odin’s best mate and drinking companion (ok that’s actually a pretty decent re-interpretation of the eddas). He adds that Saga is “essentially a dude in a frock”.

At the party, Derek doesn’t show up – though he’s at home in his wife’s wedding dress. Axl rides out to check on him – Derek is knocking down the fence he made with his tractor. While wearing the dress. Axl finds Derek on his tractor with a noose around his neck, looped around a tree limb and the other end tied to his tractor. If he drives forwards he will hang himself. Axl confronts him – Derek took Axl’s criticism to heart. He’s a failure as a husband, a father, a farmer and a god. While Axl tries to talk him out of it, Derek says he doesn’t belong on this world – none of them do.

Axl stands in front of the tractor and declares if the mighty Thor is going to kill himself, he might as well take the useless Odin with him. This Odin lost the woman he loves (about time someone remembered Gaia), can’t find his Frigg and no-one listens to him or respects him. Derek says he respects him – and then follows Axl’s instructions to turn off the tractor, remove the noose – and go get the hammer.

Back to the party, where the unforgiveable crime of karaoke is being perpetrated. He is complimented on his dress to which he says “I hope you mean that, it means a lot to me this dress.” Which may be the one line of the night that’s worthwhile from Derek’s mouth. He still refuses to apologise, but he will sell his farm. Kerry still insists in an apology. Derek refuses to apologise because no-one bullies him into it – but because he feels like he owes them he steps up to the karaoke stage to sing the sing he sang for his wife on his wedding day – for the gay – happy – couple. He’s actually pretty damn good – and Tom gives him his hammer back. Tom and Kerry dance while Derek sings. Suzie praises Axl for making it happen.

The party is a huge success, ending with Suzie and Axl alone. She asks if she’s happy, generally, and she says she is – happy being right there, being who she is. Axl decides not to tell her about gods and decides to go home in the morning.

He goes to Norsewood (where he was born) and sees there’s an Odin street. And a message in an envelope pinned to a billboard – it’s addressed “for the eyes of the true Odin only”.  He opens it and finds a picture of a snake biting it’s own tail and the words “Jormugand is stirring”.  He’s picked up by Mike and he hurriedly hides the note. Axl asks why Mike’s there –Mike got a text asking for help – from Axl’s phone. But Axl threw it away – and it was picked up by the same man who dropped in near Thor. He and Mike have a road trip – especially since Axl has heard of a place where you can win $10,000 for getting a hole in one

Back in Auckland with the rest of the family, Colin’s advertising campaign has taken off, heavily featuring Dawn which means Ty, as Olaf puts it, gets to ride around with his unrequited love staring down at him from everywhere. Ty’s also worried about Dawn being in the nefarious hands of nefarious people – Colin and Anders.

Dawn picks up that there’s tension between Ty and Colin and Anders tells her Colin was Ty’s father-in-law. Ty asks Stacey to take him off any runs to Anders’s office because he may punch Colin. Thankfully another courier, Alanna, doesn’t want to do any more runs for a bunch of creepy, sexist advertisers so they swap.

Alanna praises Ty for “sticking it to the man” which I could understand if they mean “boss” but Alanna points out Stacey’s “tom-boy vibe” which just makes a good comment all kinds of dodgy. After talking with Alanna, Ty invites her to lunch at his house. And she could be a wonderful date. Except Olaf and Anders crash it and Alanna invited Lance. And Dawn. Poor Ty.

Worse, he gets to hear Lance’s rather ignorant political views and Dawn enduring them with thinly veiled contempt. Even worse, Dawn defends Colin! Ty is driven to the edge – and he freezes his glass. Shocked, he grabs Olaf. Olaf takes a little while to get it but realises that Ty is supposed to be mortal. He shouldn’t be able to do the freezing thing. Olaf puts it down to strong emotion and some remnant of Hodr left in Ty.

When everyone clears out, Dawn checks on Ty, recognising she may have upset him with her praise for his ex-father-in-law. There’s a lot of underlying sexual tension even Dawn can feel – and she kisses his cheek goodnight – and has a flash of memory to when she and Ty were dating.

There is actually one of the more random Eddas that has Odin reclaiming Mjolnir from a pack of Jotun who stole it – and he does it by wearing a wedding dress and pretending to be Frejya (the Jotun’s price for Mjolnir’s return was Frejya’s hand in marriage) and then slaughtering them all while wearing a dress and Frejya’s best gems.

Needless to say, Loki was involved. He was the bridesmaid

When I saw Tom and Kerry were gay I cringed. Almighty Johnsons does not have a good record when it comes to casual homophobia. Yet for a long time it was handled fairly well – Derek kept up a constant tirade of homophobia but it was equally clear that Derek was extremely out of line for his bigotry. I don’t object to portrayals of bigotry if it is challenged and shown for what it is. Tom and Kerry were portrayed as decent, even amazingly patient and forgiving.

Of course, the fact remains that Tom and Kerry’s sole role in this episode is to be a constant target for homophobia which detracts a lot. And Suzie herself adds to the homophobic commentary which puts the doubt on exactly how out of line Derek was. Is “arse bandit” not ok but “poofter” fine? (I realise this is a slur that seems to have not reached the US, while being common in the UK, Australia and New Zealand – but no, it’s really really NOT OK).  And then we have the gay men conspiring to force the straight men into drag.

Which is a shame because they even had Derek step up and at least partially recognise he was in the wrong. I also didn’t like that the close of the party as Kerry calls Suzie a “barmaid” and she says it’s offensive and he laughs to get over it. Is this supposed to be some kind of comment that Kerry (the man least inclined to forgive Derek’s homophobia) is the one being “oversensitive”?

And I hate that they had something good with the reinterpretation of Saga – and then said she’s a “dude in a frock.” Noo... why? Why not have the awesome reinterpretation of Odin’s best friend and drinking buddy actually being a woman without trying to deny her womanhood? They destroyed a really good message they could send. Similarly with the attempted denial of Stacey’s womanhood – don’t make women the boss, or a drinking buddy or an actual man’s friend and then try and invalidate their womanhood while doing it.

I had considered looking at Derek selling his farm through the lens of class and rich townsfolk driving out farmers - but that can only follow if you consider that Derek is somehow representative of the rural poor or working class - which is insulting in and of itself. Derek isn't being driven off because of his poverty - he's earned their enmity through his bigotry. He isn't in a land dispute because of nefarious deeds - but because he and his drunken friend exchanged property by gambling and were incapable of filing paperwork. He even gave up farming years ago. You can't attribute Derek's problems to class without implying that the things he did to get in his position (being drunk, bigoted, foolish and having only the most tangential grasp of reality) are somehow connected to his class position

Hodr! Hodr is back it seems! I hope so! I like Ty the god

It’s also good to see Axl get back on the Odin train – we haven’t seen nearly enough Odin-ness this season.

What I don’t like is how utterly forgotten Gaia is. More and more it seems like she’s not going to return.