Review: The Almighty Johnsons

So this is my review, or more of an overview, of another TV series; The Almighty Johnsons. The Almighty Johnsons is a New Zealand based fantasy comedy/drama television series, which was created by James Griffin and Rachel Lang and aired from 7 February 2011 to 23 September 2013.

The story revolves around Axl Johnson, a typical university student who has just turned 21 years old—an event which triggers weird signs all over Auckland. Upon turning 21, his brothers tell him that he and his brothers are the living reincarnations of Old Norse gods, although their powers are not at full effect. It took a lightning bolt to make him realize the truth about his godhood, and he discovers that he is the physical incarnation of the Allfather Odin. After a rival goddess shoots an arrow which nearly pierces his heart, fulfilling the prophecy that proves he is Odin, his older brother Mike tells him about his quest: In order to get all their powers back, Axl (Odin) has to find his soul mate, Frigg, (who is Odin’s wife in mythology). If he doesn’t find her before he dies, his whole family dies with him. However, several goddesses have united to prevent him from finding Frigg, including the one who tried to kill him earlier.

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The series shows representations of many Norse gods, both major and minor ones, and even shows a couple of giants and a dwarf! I’m going to go through some of the examples and look at what mythological stories are represented involving them in the series:

Axl Johnson – Odin: In the series, Axl is destined to take the form of Odin, The leader of all gods. It’s interesting that in this series it is the youngest and perhaps least wise of the brothers that is Odin, and results in most of the story of the whole series showing Axl’s progression into a man and eventually showing some Odin’s authority and power.

Mike Johnson – Ullr: The oldest of the Johnson brothers, and the one who raised the others after the absence of their parents, is the incarnation of the Norse god of the hunt and games. In the series this is shown by his ability to find anyone he wants, although it may take time, and he is unable to lose at any game he tries. His powers and his responsibility for his family causes him to become very stressed and disliked by people, even when he tries to do the right thing. the result of all this is him becoming more of a rebel towards the end of the series, where he tries to take Axl’s place as Odin by finding Frigg first. This plot point plays upon the historic similarities between the meanings of Odin and Ullr’s names, as well as the myth where Odin’s brothers Vili and Ve have an affair with Odin’s wife Frigg.

Anders Johnson – Bragi: Anders (who we immediately recognized as the same actor who plays Fili in The Hobbit!) is the incarnation of the Norse god Bragi, the god of poetry. While he doesn’t seem to have any skill in poetry, he does have perhaps one of the more powerful powers in the show, with which he can persuade anyone to do or believe anything he tells them. While he uses his power somewhat practically in order to be a successful PR agent, he also uses it in order to get his way in most situations, mostly involving sleeping with any and all women he wants. This gets him in trouble more than a couple of times, however, he still manages to do it in such a cheeky way the he stays a likeable character to the audience, just not by his brothers, or most others for that matter.

Ty Johnson – Hodr: Ty is the gloomy one in the family, and perhaps rightfully so as he is the god of all things dark and cold. This results in his power as being something more of a curse most of the time as it means that he is extremely pale and cold to the touch, and can kill someone if he touches them for long enough, meaning for most of the series he is depressed over how he can’t be with the woman he loves. Despite this, his powers mean that his is an excellent ice sculptor, and quite amusingly, a fridge repairman. His powers are also used quite effectively in some cases to counter Loki’s power of fire.

Olaf Johnson – Baldr: Olaf is the Norse god of rebirth, light and beauty. His power of rebirth is not explicitly shown, but he is said to be the grandfather of the Johnson brothers despite appearing too young, which he explains by being reborn in his current form every morning. his powers related to light and beauty are not really shown, but may have something to do with the fact that he is the typical stoner/surfer dude stereotype, which may also explain his role as ‘the family oracle’, and not a very good one. Also, it may or may not be an excellently bad pun that his Baldr and the only bald character.

Some other important characters include other major gods, one being Loki, who appropriately spends the majority of his time in the series toying with and terrorizing the Johnsons and friends. Another is Thor, who is my favourite god in the series. He is in the form of a large, hairy Kiwi goat farmer named Derrick. He is the one who embraces his godliness the most by far, and shows the more violent and rage driven form of Thor. He always carries a hammer that he says is Mjolnir and is extremely skilled at throwing it. The series shows him doing many things appropriate to Thor such as wanting to kill the giants that show up in the series, and at one point is convinced to wear a wedding dress! Linking to the myth where Thor does the same thing as part of a plan to trick some giants. Another important god character is Heimdall, who is an interesting character in the series because, as the god of all-seeing, all hearing and foreknowledge, he spends the majority of the story in the background, subtly directing Axl’s actions so that he finds Frigg (who happens to be Heimdall’s sister in the series) but only once he has proven himself and become worthy. He also, as the gatekeeper of the Bifrost, the way into and out of Asgard, he is able to walk through doors and turn up in any location he chooses, and inflict this on other people as well.

Other mythological references that appear in the series include Anders journeying to Norway and finding Yggdrasil, the tree of life, and bringing back one of its branches, which apparently can only be used by goddesses, such as Sjofn who uses it to gain healing abilities and even brings people back to life with it. Another reference is when giants and a dwarf make an appearance. one of the giants is Eggther, who in mythology is one of the largest and most powerful, however despite being called the most ferocious hunter of the Giants, Eggther is no more dangerous than a mortal when it comes to brutishness and wants to be himself rather than the killer everyone thinks he is. Axl’s best friend, Zeb, who is a mortal but in on the secret identities of the gods, is captured by him and uses ‘reverse Stockholm syndrome’ to befriend him and gain freedom. Another reference comes from Zeb (who is the best character in my opinion) when, after doing his research on Norse mythology, takes on the nickname ‘Freki’ which is appropriate as the best friend of Axl, and Freki is one of Odin’s wolves.

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I could write much more about this relatively short-lived series, but this post is too long already, so I’ll end by saying; overall, this series can feel like a slightly silly and cheesy comedy or soap opera at times. If you don’t know a thing about Norse Mythology, then it may just be that. But for nerds of all things Norse, it will certainly be hilarious at times, and you may even be impressed by the way each character shows characteristics of their god at all times and many of the myths play out, but in a modern setting, which makes it even funnier. Not to mention the Kiwi accents… which make everything better!

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