Good Omens

“But that’s how it goes; you think you’re on top of the world, and suddenly they spring Armageddon on you.”

Main Cast: Michael Sheen, David Tennant

Creators: Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett

Once upon a time (aka 1990) Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett wrote a book called Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Predictions of Agnes Nutter. It was to be the first of two books (though the second never came to be) about the end of the world, the coming of the antichrist, and a great war between heaven and hell. It was also about an unlikely pair of immortals intent on gumming the works. Nearly 30 years later Gaiman has gifted us with a 6 episode Amazon Prime Video mini-series based on the book and…it’s delightful.

Yes, Good Omens is a series about Armageddon and it is delightful. It’s also very British, very irreverent, and has spawned one of the funniest internet petitions ever (more about that later). Our main characters are the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and the demon Crowley (David Tennant). Both have been around since the dawn of time, with Aziraphale charged with protecting Eden while Crowley set about tempting Eve as a serpent. Over the years, the two have become accustomed to life on Earth and are not eager for the upcoming arrival of the antichrist and the destruction of their pleasant lives.

The series is narrated by God (as voiced by Frances McDormand), who explains to us what’s happening at crucial junctures. She introduces us to the newborn antichrist, and his parents. She shows us how even the best laid plans can go awry, and in general is available when further explanation is required. In addition to our main immortals we have some humans who find themselves entangled in the celestial shenanigans as well as some denizens of both heaven and hell who are not thrilled with the interloper angel and demon. I can’t possibly explain why they’re all there – that would take all the fun out of watching! Suffice to say that they are a very eclectic group with frequently diametrically opposed goals.

Before watching Good Omens, I had read a little Neil Gaiman but no Terry Pratchett. I had no idea what to expect. What I got was a whimsical, visually inventive, and oddly touching celebration of humanity in all its many guises. Gaiman did some tweaking of the source material to give us an uptight and very funny Jon Hamm as archangel Gabriel who is at least as annoying as any denizen of hell. The main characters all have conflicted motives and desires and aren’t particularly competent, which makes them terribly lovable. The series is filled with cameo performances, voices, and touches that will thrill fans of both Gaiman and Pratchett. It’s also filled with clever bits of magic and visual devilry that give the entire production a fairy tale feel (albeit a fairy tale with rotting demons). There is bad language and cartoony violence and a little bit of sex, should you mind those things.

My favorite part of the series is the relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley, and the performances by Sheen and Tennant. They’re a sweet and devoted pair, fumbling with assigned duties that clash badly with their own judgement. Their scenes together are the best part of Good Omens.

Mostly, Good Omens is a lighthearted story of the fallibility of religion and religious doctrine and I thoroughly enjoyed the entire thing. Not everybody is me, however, and a clever group of internet dwellers has started a petition to have it removed (because of devil and girl god) from the airwaves…by Netflix. I’m sure Netflix would be glad to oblige, since it’s a series drawing lots of viewers…to Amazon Prime Video. These folks are basically proving the whole point of the ridiculousness of religious rigidity. Congratulations to Neil Gaiman for inspiring this group—who clearly have not watched the series to which they so strenuously object—to have such a delicious tantrum. If you’re very religious or don’t enjoy British humor (it’s a bit Monty Python-ish), Good Omens may not be the series for you. Everyone else? Give it a shot – but do be careful not to take any unplanned naps while you watch. There’s a lot going on here and you may end up quite confused. Good Omens is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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