Russell Baillie 's Opinion

Russell Baillie is the Herald’s entertainment editor

Russell Baillie: Norse time had by all

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Keisha Castle-Hughes as Gaia in The Almighty Johnsons. Photo / Supplied
Keisha Castle-Hughes as Gaia in The Almighty Johnsons. Photo / Supplied

So the Almighty Johnsons finally came to some sort of a conclusion last night. And not for the first time in the two seasons of this, the strangest local show to sustain more than one season on prime time, we of the fanclub were left wondering: What just happened?

The second season about the family of Auckland blokes, who are the dysfunctional embodiment of various Norse gods, had started well off the back of the first.

It even managed to sustain a little life-imitating-art for a while there with Keisha Castle-Hughes' character Gaia going through bit of a wild patch just as the actress was popping up on the front pages for much the same thing.

But season two risked climaxing a little early with the death of Eve Gundersen, the resident emo-cum-psycho wife of Ty and the daughter of sleazy lawyer Colin Gundersen, aka Loki, God of Fire.

The show's main narrative seemed to peak when Axl Johnson, in one of his first big decisions as Odin, banished his reincarnated mum, Agnetha - who had previously been a tree - to the woods for knocking off her daughter-in-law for making her boy Ty's life a misery.

Father Colin, unhappy at Odin's judgment, burned down the forests.

Maybe it was collective smoke inhalation but TAJ seemed to run out of puff for a while there soon afterwards.

Fortunately, it was actually saving its breath for a run of episodes which have been among the maddest and funniest in the show's often mad and frequently funny two seasons.

Why? In short, some Maori turned up. Not just any Maori, but a trio of deities: Maui, Punga and Rongo. Like the Johnsons, they had been hiding out in suburbia. And like those Pakeha, they had come to the conclusion that Gaia was their Papatuanuku, just as Axl figured his flatmate might be Frigg, the goddess he was destined to be with.

And so warped Norse mythology collided with the front row of Maori legend.

It could have been nasty, especially after Maui and his mates kidnapped little Miss Whale Rider. But no; calmer minds and a hui in a garage prevailed.

And if you've ever been a Pakeha trying to agree on a waiata at such an occasion, the scene where the Johnson boys burst into There's Something About a Magpie - an ancient ode to the Hawkes Bay rugby team, and the family is from down that way after all - was pretty much the greatest scripted moment in New Zealand comedy in a very long time.

Elsewhere, some of the biggest laughs have come this season from TAJ characters on the periphery, especially Ben Barrington's Olaf, the boy's surfer-stoner oracle of a grandpa and Rachel Nash's Ingrid, whose wonderfully daffy presence reminds of Ashley Jensen from Extras and Ugly Betty.

It's also going to be hard to shake the image of Shane Cortese's mad bad and dangerous-to-know Colin, when the actor returns as nice guy Mac in Nothing Trivial. He's been a hoot in a suit.

That all was all part of the lead-up to last night's big Gaia moment.

She emerged from her goddess baptism as neither Odin's nor Maui's new missus but a reincarnation of another deity felled a few minutes earlier by a crossbow wielding Scandinavian god-botherer.

Oh well, these things happen in the The Almighty Johnsons, a show which has amusingly disappeared up its own comic cosmology. I, for one, would like to see them happen some more.

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

Russell Baillie

Russell Baillie is the Herald’s entertainment editor

Russell Baillie has been writing about entertainment since shortly after entertainment was invented. His first music review was of five whalers singing around a piano which got him run out of the town of his upbringing, Whangarei. Along the way he discovered writing about moving pictures with sound was just as rewarding as his coverage of gramophone products and musical ensembles. Eventually he found a home at the Herald, as the founding editor of the TImeOut section, where has won prizes for editing, reviewing and feature writing.

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