The surprising season 2 finale of The Almighty Johnsons aired last night on TV3 with a death, a birth (well, a rebirth), another death, and the makings of a pretty exciting video game - and I have a few thoughts right after this spoiler warning:
(Warning: Spoilers from Season 2 of The Almighty Johnsons follow.)
You know, it's kinda funny reading back through old reviews and comments from after the first season of Johnsons, and even from earlier in this season, because it quickly becomes clear that expectation is something the writers on this show are purposely trying to subvert and exploit.
For example, after the first season, I was ready for Ty and Eva to have a long and (un)happy marriage, for Agnetha and the goddesses to do battle with the Johnson brothers all season, and for Axl and Gaia to have some kind of star-crossed romance after he found the real Frigg - and exactly none of that has turned out to be the case.
The tagline "expect the unexpected" is something of a cliché on television; if I had a dollar for every time a promo told me that an utterly predictable episode would be "the most shocking episode yet" ... well, I'd be able to single-handedly fund the third season*. Yet, the writers here seem to get off on making viewers expect one thing, then delivering something else entirely - even if it means dragging their characters into some miserable, unexpected places.
That was the thought I was left with as the credits rolled last night: the final act of the show saw the mysterious Natalie (played by Natalie Medlock), a god-hunter for a mysterious Christian outfit, put an arrow through Helen/Idun's heart, which inadvertently threw a spanner in the plan for Gaia (Keisha Castle-Hughes) to be reborn as either Frigg or Papatuanuku when she ended up becoming a new version of Idun in the wake of Helen's death.
Or what about Ty (Jared Turner), who traded in his god-powers to pursue romance with Dawn (Fern Sutherland), but was surprised to learn that choosing a mortal life has made every other mortal (that is, human) forget who he was.
As of right now, it appears that a third season* will revolve around a crazy Christian group trying to exorcise the gods, Gaia's newfound crush on Anders (and the fallout from the failed attempt at rebirthing Frigg), Ty's attempts to woo Dawn, and some kind of Mike vs Loki faceoff.
It's an interesting place to leave the season - and I'd be more excited if I wasn't so sure that I'm completely wrong.
That's really the question: how long can the writers keep up this pace? At some point, viewers need some form of certainty to latch on to. Questions need answers and stories need resolutions, and as much fun as the show might be right now, I feel a third season of moving goalposts would be more frustrating than entertaining.
The second season of the show was entertaining though, deftly balancing the longer story arcs (the identity of Frigg, romances between Axl & Gaia and Ty & Dawn) with newer, shorter stories (Anders & Helen, Ty's quest to ditch his god-powers) and new ideas (the introduction of the True Gods of Aotearoa).
The Almighty Johnsons serves as a showcase for writer James Griffin, a rare talent behind the scenes, and for what is possible in local television productions.
It's also a great display of talent - Emmett Skilton made massive strides this year, Jared Turner and Ben Barrington were both great, and Fern Sutherland was a delight to watch - not to mention Tim Balme, Dean O'Gorman, Michelle Langstone, Shane Cortese ... the cast is absolutely loaded.
Anyway, enough from me - this was a great second season of an incredible local show, and I'm anxiously hoping for a third. But I'm interested in what you think:
What did you think of The Almighty Johnsons, Season 2? Do you agree that it was hard to know what to expect? Do you think that was a good thing or a bad thing? Are you happy with where Season 2 left off?
(*) It goes without saying that I think the show should be renewed. Please, NZ On Air and TV3, do the right thing.
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