While humanity has always viewed angels as strictly forces of good with demons as strictly forces of evil, Amazon Prime’s new series, “Good Omens,” attempts to break the mold, placing an angel and demon into a bitter-sweet kinship as they try to find the antichrist and prevent — or at least delay — the end of days.
“Good Omens,” is produced and written by Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Coraline), who also co-wrote the novel from which the miniseries is adapted with Terry Pratchett. The series centers on an angel, Aziraphale, played by Michael Sheen (Underworld) and a demon named Crowley, played by David Tennant (Doctor Who), who have known each other since the beginning of creation.
Seen as outcasts by the rest of their kind through interest and indulgences in human affairs such as eating, reading, and listening to music, Aziraphale and Crowley gravitate towards each other through their shared love for humanity and Earth, which are ultimately about to be destroyed as the war between heaven and hell becomes breaks out.
The unorthodox friendship between the angel and demon is the show’s greatest strength, no doubt thanks to Sheen and Tennant’s acting, which is unlike any of their previous roles. As viewers learn in the first episode of “Good Omens,” entitled “In the Beginning,” Crowley is not only a demon but the serpent who tempts Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, while Aziraphale gives a flaming sword to Adam for protection as he and Eve flee from the Garden of Eden.
Right from the start, Aziraphale and Crowley’s personalities are brought to the forefront and instantly engages the viewer in their bickering as if they were the perfect odd couple. Sheen and Tennant have no trouble humanizing their characters and grounding them in reality, making the audience forget they’re watching two immortal, supernatural creatures. Their witty banter and snide remarks add enjoyment and aids in washing down the bitter taste of the show’s often cheesy and ridiculous moments.
Without Sheen and Tennant’s performances, “Good Omens” wouldn’t have any legs to stand on. With the amount of emphasis placed on Aziraphale and Crowley’s origins and individual storylines, there isn’t enough room for a viewer to care about the actual plot or supporting characters.
Despite the plot revolving around an eleven-year-old antichrist named Adam Young, “Good Omens” never manages to spend as much time with him as it does with Aziraphale and Crowley, resulting in the character’s lack of emotional depth and rushed character arc.
The same can be said for the other supporting characters, including the witch Anathema Device (Adria Arjona), and rookie witchfinder Newton Pulsifer (Jack Whitehall), who never showed any character progression leading up to their predictable, cliché endings.
While the whimsical tones common in other works by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett foster innovative ways for their audiences to engage their imaginations, the medium of a miniseries conversely fails to suspend disbelief in the show’s outlandish material better suited to words on a page. Reading a scene from a book intended to have a childish tone allows the reader to gauge in their visualization the extent of how silly an author wishes to portray a certain character or setting.
For example, readers more partial to realism may perceive a character’s attribute as more life-like rather than cartoony. Others who prefer the strange or the grotesque may take the liberty of including some horror elements with the author’s description to view a character the way they want.
On the other hand, with a TV show, viewers don’t have the same freedom of visualizing a character or setting, prohibiting the use of their imaginations and forcing them to settle on what’s displayed onscreen.
In the same light, “Good Omens” may annoy some viewers who aren’t accustomed to shows which don’t take themselves seriously or come across as trivial. People wanting a more serious take on the eternal feud between angels and demons should look to the show “Supernatural.” Though not without its own comedic moments, “Supernatural” still manages to depict angels and demons in a genuine light where the stakes are real and the tension remains high.
Aside from Sheen and Tennant’s stellar performances, the show has few other positive qualities worthy of making the miniseries watchable. The contemporary issues of pollution and nuclear warfare are alluded to, creating a parallel of the biblical apocalypse to a real-life possible catastrophe brought on by humanity’s own doing.
Pollution takes the place of the Biblical horseman of Pestilence as a new threat posed to humanity. The other horsemen — famine, war and death — remain relevant threats capable of bringing about the end times.
The last notable aspect of the show is the inclusion of God as a third-person narrator, voiced by actress Francis McDormand. The tone of McDormand’s voice captures the appropriate detachment seen in omniscient narrators — such as God — to characters they have no connection to or reason for caring about.
Hearing about Aziraphale and Crowley’s history through an outsider’s perspective evokes a true sense of Neil Gaiman’s storytelling ability, appearing as though the viewer is listening to the audiobook of the show’s novelization.
Overall, “Good Omen’s” whimsical tones and silly moments fail to create any tension for the audience and inhibits them from feeling any of the apocalypse’s chaotic effects. Instead, the apocalypse feels dull, with no lasting repercussions for any major character.
Regardless, the show’s six episodes still have enough payoffs and an ending that is fulfilling enough to keep a viewer satisfied, even if the ending is somewhat fairy tale in nature.
For someone looking for a new series to binge, has time to kill and doesn’t mind a show of an absurd nature, “Good Omens” is an adequate way to pass the time.