Thanks to centuries of conditioning, most people consider angels and demons to be sworn enemies; after all, most representations depict the two as bitter adversaries. In the 1990 novel “Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch,” Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett simply wonder, “What would happen if an angel and a demon became friends?” Recently, Amazon Prime released a miniseries based on the widely acclaimed story, and, oddly enough, the ins and outs of an angel-demon relationship are surprisingly light-hearted and charming.
The tale begins with God, voiced by Frances McDormand, correcting widespread misconceptions about reality. “Firstly,” she remarks, “God does not play dice with the universe. I play an ineffable game of my own devising. For everyone else, it’s like playing poker in a pitch-dark room for infinite stakes, with a dealer who won’t tell you the rules and who smiles all the time.”
In “Good Omens,” the Earth is relentlessly incomprehensible, but it begins with a familiar scenario. The Garden of Eden narrative, complete with Adam, Eve and the unfortunately placed tree, unfolds according to tradition, but two characters receive a quirky makeover.
Crowley, also know as Crawly, makes his first appearance as a demonic snake, who convinces Eve to eat the infamous apple. In response, God entrusts Aziraphale, a bumbling, kindhearted angel, with a sword to protect the garden. As they fulfill their conflicting duties, Crowley and Aziraphale strike up a conversation.
Crowley, portrayed by David Tennant, dubs God’s banishment of Adam and Eve as a “bit of overreaction,” because it was a “first offense and everything.” Aziraphale, played by Michael Sheen, is initially shocked by his peer’s skepticism; later on, however, the angel sheepishly reveals that he gave his celestial sword to the humans. After all, he insists, “There are vicious animals. It’s going to be cold out there, and she’s expecting already.” Although brief, Aziraphale and Crowley’s first exchange solidifies the show’s premise: Aziraphale is an angel, but not a saint, and Crowley is a demon, but not a monster.
Aziraphale and Crowley continue to chat through the ages, in Ancient Mesopotamia, at the foot of Golgotha and during the French Revolution, and they develop an unexpected friendship. By 2018, both angel and demon have come to adore certain aspects of human life. Crowley, now a swaggering, leather-garbed devil, prefers jamming to Queen and The Velvet Underground instead of tempting mortals, while Aziraphale, given his refined sensibilities, loves classical music, old books and gourmet food.
Naturally, both hell-raiser and do-gooder are crestfallen when the Antichrist appears on Earth, signaling the beginning of Armageddon. Their personal attachments aside, they both agree that the cataclysmic event seems barbaric and unnecessary, so together, Aziraphale and Crowley set out to prevent the end of time. The odd pair’s quest piques the attention of many supernatural creatures, who rise to either help or hinder the unlikely duo.
The most praiseworthy moments within “Good Omens” involve Aziraphale and Crowley. Hilarious, sympathetic and brilliantly portrayed, the duo’s interactions make every scene entertaining. As the two race to save the world, they engage in snarky debates about music, ethics, food and history, and throughout the series, their respective commentary highlights their own personal attributes and growth.
Aziraphale, the kindhearted angel, experiences the most character development. At the beginning of the series, Aziraphale delegates any morally questionable but necessary action to his demonic buddy. Uptight and hesitant, he constantly worries about contradicting the divine plan, but gradually, as the years roll by, his prim anxiety decreases, and by the end of his adventure, Aziraphale seems to have reconciled his angelic nature with his individual convictions. Formerly spineless and stuffy, the tortured angel eventually violates heaven’s bureaucratic rules to save the world.
In contrast, Aziraphale’s companion never hesitates to break the rules. Crowley’s attitude violates the statutes of both heaven and hell, making him a genuine outcast, and far from being angelic, Crowley constantly challenges the Almighty’s divine plan. To Aziraphale’s dismay, Crowley’s speech is often peppered with volatile questions. As he considers his skepticism and subsequent banishment from heaven, the demon angrily cries, “I only ever asked questions. That’s all it took to be a demon in the old days.”
Obviously, he’s far from adopting an angel’s passive acceptance of God’s terms — but Crowley isn’t exactly evil. After Aziraphale references his fall from heaven, Crowley snappily remarks, “I didn’t really fall. I just, you know … sauntered vaguely downward.” His suave but sincere remarks solidify Crowley’s status as a demon with a hidden spark of goodness.
Endearing, otherworldly creatures are a staple of Gaiman and Pratchett’s respective works, and “Good Omens” is no exception. The series bursts with the dark whimsy typical of a fantasy novel: a witch hides gunpowder and nails under her petticoat, igniting a deadly surprise for a fire-wielding mob; an exorcist, attempting to rid a shop of demons, accidentally destroys an angel; Crowley, while driving through a searing ring of fire, jams to “I’m in Love with my Car” by Queen.
These quirky anecdotes, however, do not make up for the show’s occasional misstep. For example, most supporting characters lack Aziraphale and Crowley’s vibrancy; in contrast to the angel-demon duo, their dialogue is often cringe-worthy or stale. There are a few exceptions, like the straight-laced Gabriel and the unforgettable Nuns of the Babbling Order, but for the most part, minor characters only seem to limit the protagonists’ screen time.
And speaking of screen time, the climax of the series receives very little attention. Fundamentally, “Good Omens” is more concerned with the aftermath of action-packed battles, rather than the fights themselves, and the final episode, entitled “The Very Last Day of the Rest of Their Lives,” hints at the preference. Ultimately, characters’ respective futures receive more attention than any physical confrontations, but Armageddon’s speedy resolution may disappoint any viewers anticipating a lengthy conflict.
Despite the occasional mistake, “Good Omens” is, inarguably, a binge-worthy series. Aziraphale and Crowley’s zany relationship never fails to elicit laughs, and their interactions present interesting ideas to ponder. At the story’s beginning, Aziraphale considers Crowley the personification of evil, while Crowley labels Aziraphale as the epitome of virtue. However, both do-gooder and hell-raiser eventually acknowledge the nuances of their friend’s behavior.
In one of the last scenes, Aziraphale and Crowley exit a garden together and, although implicit, it signifies the duo’s complex moral characters. Crowley is, according to Aziraphale, “just a little bit a good person.” In return, Crowley allows that Aziraphale is, “just enough of a bastard to be worth knowing.” The pair resists stagnant classifications of “good” or “evil” and, as a result, intrigues audiences to no end.