During the last two days I have binge watched Good Omens, a series produced by the BBC and Amazon. The series is based on the novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman from 1990. Sadly Pratchett died in 2015, but Gaiman is acting as showrunner with the good fortune that it stays true to its source material.
So what is Good Omens about?
So what is Good Omens about? Well, that is not so easily explained. Essentially the forces of light and dark, heaven and hell are containing their eternal struggle. Angel Aziraphale is responsible for making people on Earth behave themselves while Crowley seeks to undermine them. Both have become disillusioned with their jobs. They believe their respective sides don’t really care for the fight too much. Things take a turn for the unexpected when the son of Satan is born on Earth, considering how his success would undo them both they make a pact. They will ensure he will neither be good or evil.
As you may have guessed, the plan goes wrong. A baby is swapped, promises forgotten and so for six episodes we watch how an angel and demon try to prevent the coming of the antichrist.
Good Omens is basically absurdist humor. But it works. It never goes completely off the rails like other British productions, such as Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. The focus remains on the angelic / demonic duo Aziraphale and Crowley and their attempts on stopping the rise of the antichrist. There are plenty of flashbacks and directorial playfulness but not to the degree to actually confuse the viewer.
Instead, Good Omens steadily sets the stage for the return of the Son of Satan with each episode. Slowly the cast is expanded as the day of reckoning is coming upon us. But it is all done in a lighthearted way, of course.
First let me explain the title: Good Omens. It is based on the 1990 novel titled Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. This explains that the series deals with prophecies, or more accurately – how people deal with them. It forms the basis of several subplots that are effective in bringing together a diverse set of characters.
And there are plenty of secondary characters. From John Hamm‘s portrayal of the cynical archangel Gabrielle to Ned Dennehy‘s Hastur Duke of Hell. The two characters explain a great deal about why Crowley and Aziraphale made a pact to not do their respective jobs. However my favorite are Anathema and Newton. Anathema is a living descendent of the last witch burned in England – Agnes Nutter. Newton is the last living descendent of ‘adultery’ Pulsifer, the man who lit the torch (and ended up being blown up as Agnes had 50 pounds of gunpowder shoved up her petticoat).
The characters are played by Adria Arjona and Jack Whitehall respectively. And they do a fantastic job. Slowly their characters become more important and when they do find each other they are sucked deeper into the battle between heaven and hell. That they eventually form a couple is both rewarding and funny. My hat goes off to Adria Arjona, her range of characters she is portraying in the last few years has impressed me. Good Omens is another feather in her cap.
There are plenty more side characters. The parents of Adam – son of Satan – Adam himself, his friends, War – one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse (Mireille Enos), Sister Loquacious (Nina Sosanya) – a member of a Satanic order of nuns and who manages to switch the baby of Satan with another child. I think this list alone is a reason why you should watch Good Omens.
Good Omens remains focused on the lead characters. Both Michael Sheen and David Tennant go all in portraying their characters. As a result the acting is top notch. The series goes into considerable detail showing their complicated relationship and why over the millennia they decided to work together instead of opposing one another. The series is thus not afraid to take a detour and show some backstory as it helps to understand them better.
I find it hard to typify Good Omens. I have never read the book from authors Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, but I am considering picking it up as a summer read. In the end I am happy the show cannot readily fit into a category. I already mentioned Brazil, but Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and American Gods also come to mind. To fully appreciate the series I fear you may have to be of British descent. There are plenty of references to the 80s and local affairs, but the series is also livened up by the ample use of Queen.
Good Omens season 2?
I hope we will see more of Neil Gaiman on the screen in the future. I am not sure Good Omens will be back, it is hinted at in the final episode. That said, the book on which it is based never had a sequel released. However, the authors did outline a second novel. Perhaps that could form the basis of a second season.