|It's Kind Of A Birthday Present|
|Season 1, Episode 1|
|Air date||February 7, 2011|
|Written by||James Griffin|
|Directed by||Mark Beesley|
This Is Where Duty Starts
It's Kind Of A Birthday Present is the first episode of Season 1 of The Almighty Johnsons.
It is Axl Johnson's 21st birthday - which explains the fire in the sky; the Waitemata Harbour being the colour of blood; the various women who seem to want to kill him; and the sudden need for a family ceremony in a forest.
Axl Johnson emerges from a suburban bottle store, carrying beer. His flatmates Zeb and Gaia trail after him. Axl is looking up, to where a meteor shower is lighting up the sky. Suddenly a car is bearing down on Axl. He dives out of the way, in the knick of time. The woman driving the car, Stacey, looks to back up, and reverse over the prone Axl, but Gaia is in the way. So she slips a dagger into her boot, gets out of the car, and feigns profuse apology. Axl, of course, invites the woman who has just tried to kill him to a party at his house. And so begin the 21st birthday celebrations for Axl Johnson.
We meet Axl’s brothers – Mike, with his wife Valerie, looking at the shooting stars, worrying; Anders, talking a lycra-clad promo girl out of her huntress uniform and into his bed; Ty, taking it on the chin as a woman dumps him, in the nicest possible way. These are the brothers Johnson – and we start to get hints of their powers – Anders’ power of seducing with words; and Ty freezing wine in a glass.
Meanwhile, Axl finds himself outside the party at his flat, on a trampoline, getting to know Stacey more intimately. As they kiss, she pulls the dagger from her boot and is about to strike. When suddenly, an earthquake hits, throwing them both from the trampoline. As people rush from the house, Stacey's dagger is recovered by Zeb. Seeing her chance to kill Axl is gone, Stacey disappears into the night.
The next day, Mike is orchestrating the gathering of the brothers as another Johnson, Olaf, makes one of his typically late arrivals. Ty rounds up Anders (very much the black sheep of the family) and Axl, and it is off to the forest they go for a traditional ceremony, the purpose of which still being kept secret from Axl.
It is in the forest, in front of his brothers and Olaf (who he is told is his grandfather, not his cousin) that Axl is taught the true nature of his family; they are human incarnations of Norse Gods. Naturally, Axl doesn’t warm up to this idea at first, suspecting it is some kind of elaborate prank, but after some displays of Godly power involving the throwing of swords and the playing of Paper, Rock, Scissors, he starts to get on board. And they beging tell him the history of the Norse Gods and how they settled in Central Hawkes Bay in New Zealand.
The reason they are in the forest is so that Axl too can become a God on his 21st birthday. Eventually he is persuaded to remove his clothes, step into the circle of stones from Asgard and to raise the family sword above his head. At which point in time he is struck by lightning from a clear blue sky, and the forest fills with light. When it subsides everyone turns to Olaf, the family Oracle, to announce which God Axl has become. But Olaf has been blown off his feet and is speaking in Norse gibberish, only one word of which has any relevance to the proceedings here: "Odin".
And with this everything changes for the brothers, because if Axl is Odin, then their world just got turned on its head.
As they wait for Olaf to rejoin them in the land of the living and clarify the situation, life goes on for the Johnson family – which means Axl’s 21st, at Mike’s house. For Axl this is a period of frustration because suddenly his family are treating him differently because he may or may not be this Odin dude, but it’s not like he’s suddenly got any super-powers or anything. Even worse, he’s not allowed to tell anyone about his God-hood.
Meanwhile, across town, there are a group of women – including Stacey – who are not pleased that they have missed their chance to kill Axl. The woman seemingly in charge, Agnetha, is adamant that having missed their chance – now they must wait and see, along with everyone else.
Axl’s 21st is, on one level, what you would expect from a typical Kiwi 21st: a lot of people drinking to excess and behaving badly. But there are things going on on other levels: Olaf is still passed out in Axl’s old bedroom, and Axl learns that their parents were also Gods. He is told that when his father shot through (left them for the sea), his overwhelmed mother walked into a forest to become a tree – treasured moments in Johnson family history. Then Anders turns up with a couple of promo girls in tow, as a birthday present to the future Odin; which leads to a fight with Mike about the nature and responsibilities of being a God.
When Olaf finally regains consciousness, there is a hurried congress of the brothers/Gods to learn the story of Odin’s return, which breaks down to the fact that there are a series of signs that must be fulfilled before it can categorically be stated that He has returned. Axl ticks all the boxes on these signs (earthquake, meteor shower, the harbor turning red with an algae bloom, etc) – except the last one: “he shall have two hearts – the heart of man and a heart of the earth". Axl, as far as he is aware, only has one heart.
Not thrilled at the way this whole Odin thing is turning out for him, Axl is keen to leave the party. Gaia, on the verge of telling/showing Axl the feelings she harbors for him, is keen that they leave together. And for a second this looks on the cards, until Axl feels someone looking at him. He turns to see one of the Goddesses – Michele – in the guise of one of the promo girls. Gaia is forgotten in a hurry, as Michele lures Axl away from the party and into the night.
When they learn Axl has gone, Mike, Anders and Ty give chase – with Mike actually using his Godly powers as Ullr, God of the Hunt to guide them. It is Ty who arrives just in time to see Michele fire an arrow into Axl’s chest.
At the hospital Axl survives his wounding, but the metal arrow-head remains wedged in his chest – giving him the heart of the earth that completes the signs: Axl is the living incarnation of Odin; Allfather and Leader of Souls; God of Wisdom, Victory and Magic.
But there is one final twist, because as Odin, Axl gains not powers, but a Quest: to find the human incarnation of Odin’s true love – the Goddess Frigg – and to be reunited with her. If he dies before achieving this Quest, then all his family will die along with him, and a resulting natural disaster will likely kill everyone in their area.
It ends with Axl saying, "Great. No pressure then."
- Emmett Skilton - Axl Johnson / Odin
- Tim Balme - Mike Johnson / Ullr
- Dean O'Gorman - Anders Johnson / Bragi
- Jared Turner - Ty Johnson / Höðr
- Ben Barrington - Olaf Johnson / Baldr
- Alison Bruce - Agnetha / Freyja
- Keisha Castle-Hughes - Gaia
- Hayden Frost - Zeb
- Eve Gordon - Stacey / Fulla
- Michelle Langstone - Michele / Sjöfn
- Rachel Nash - Ingrid / Snotra
- Fern Sutherland - Dawn
- Roz Turnbull - Valerie Johnson
- Tahei Simpson - Doctor
- Jessica Grace Smith - Just Friends Woman
- Ashleigh Rose Keating - Rhiannon
- Sheeley Meecham - Vodka Girl #1
- Witter - James Griffin
- Director - Mark Beesley
- Script Editor - James Griffin
- Storyliners - Rachel Lang & Tim Balme
- Producer - Simon Bennett
- Executive Producers - James Griffin, Rachel Lang, Chris Bailey & John Barnett
- Production Manager - Tina Archibald
- Production Accountant - Sheree Silver
- Casting Director - Annabel Lomas
- 2nd Unit Director of Photography - Kevin Riley
- Camera Operator - Oliver Jones
- A Camera Assistant - Anna Steedman
- B Camera Assistant - Alyssa Kath
- Camera Assistant - Jacob Slovath
- Lighting Assistant - Conrad Hoskins
- Sound Recordist - Myk Farmer
- Boom Operator - Eoin Cox
- Sound Assistant - Steven Harris
- Editor - Bryan Shaw
- Costume Designer - Katrina Hodge
- Make Up Designer - Kevin Dufty
- Gaffer - Antony Waterhouse
- Best Boy - Trent Rapana
- Gene Op - Reuben Morrison
- Oh My - Performed by Gin Wigmore (Theme Music)
- Dead Babies - Performed by Tourettes
- Saturated - Performed by Opshop
- Young Blood - Performed by The Naked and Famous