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Episode Recap: It's Kind of a Birthday Present


Axl Johnson emerges from a suburban bottle store, carrying beer.  His flatmates Zeb and Gaia trail after him.  Axl is looking up, where a meteor shower is lighting up the sky and then suddenly a car is bearing down on Axl. Luckily, he dives out of the way, in the knick of time.  The woman driving the car, Stacey, is about to hit reverse and roll over Axl once and for all, but Gaia is in the way.  So she slips a dagger into her boot, gets out of the car, and feigns a profuse apology.  Axl, of course, invites the woman who has just tried to kill him to a party at his house. In this way begins 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 to seduce with words; and Ty freezing wine in a glass.

Meanwhile Axl finds himself outside the party in 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…an earthquake hits, throwing them both from the trampoline.  As people rush from the house, Zeb recovers Stacey's dagger. Seeing that the 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's off to the forest they go – for a purpose still being kept secret from Axl.

It's 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 whom his family is – the human incarnations of Norse gods. Naturally Axl doesn't warm to this idea at first, suspecting it's 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 starts to learn of his history of Norse gods settling in Central Hawkes Bay.

The reason they are in the forest is so that Axl too can become a god. 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. The forest fills with light. When it subsides, everyone turns to Olaf, the family Oracle, who will announce which god Axl has been come. But Olaf has been blown off his feet and is speaking only 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 birthday party at Mike's house. For Axl this is a period of frustration because suddenly his family is 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 godliness.  

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 they have missed their chance and now they must wait and see, along with everyone else.

Axl's party on one level is what you would expect from a typical Kiwi turning 21— lots of drinking and naughty behavior. But there are things going on on other levels: Olaf is still passed out in Axl's old bedroom. It's here that Axl learns that his mother and father were gods and his mother walked into a forest to become a tree – treasured moments in Johnson family history. Later, Anders turns up with a couple of  girls in tow; 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 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 harbours for him, is keen that they leave together. And for a second this looks promising, until Axl feels someone looking at him. He turns to see one of the goddesses at the party, Michele, in the same outfit as one of the girls Anders showed up with. 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 Odin, all father, leader of souls.

But there is one final twist, because as Odin Axl gains not powers, but a Quest: to find the human incarnation 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.

No pressure.