REVIEW: Good Omens, Episodes 1 and 2

The infamous apocalyptic comedy Good Omens has finally made it to the small screen – or the computer screen, if that’s your thing – after three decades of false starts. The 6-part mini series arrived on Amazon Prime this week, scripted by the book’s co-author Neil Gaiman and directed by Douglas Mackinnon (Doctor WhoKnightfall). Is it the Armageddon fans dreamed of? In many way, yes, although it may not stray too far from the lines set by the original.

Everyone enjoys hopping around, right?

The story spans 6000 years, because that’s how long Earth’s history is obviously, but the focus is on the last 11 years before the war to end all wars. Though the cast is huge, the central dynamic is between an angel named Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and his good friend, the demon Crowley (David Tennant). The duo’s chemistry is the glue that holds Good Omens together as it travels around the world and umps through time in order to map out how the end of the world has come about. While newcomers may feel disgruntled by the skips and large chunks of time spent without Sheen and Tennant onscreen, book loyalists will be relieved to learn that series didn’t leave out any important characters.

In fact, Gaiman added some to the new version: Angel Gabriel (Jon Hamm), the heavenly bureaucratic nightmare being the primary one. His visits to Aziraphale introduce another layer of urgency to the protagonists’ mission to prevent the end of the world, not to mention emphasizing the delicious commentary on the nature of good and evil. There’s also several hilarious cameos from both British and American actors, who populate the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter with skill and verve. The story may be complex and at times meandering, but the performances and humor never fail to keep viewers engaged.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the first two Good Omens episodes, though, is the role that the children have to play in the Apocalypse. It is very quickly revealed that Adam Young (Sam Taylor Buck) is the foretold Antichrist, though he has been accidentally switched with Warlock (Samson Marraccino) and thus thrown the end times and their prevention into disarray. And while the show never delves into the idea of nature vs. nurture head on, it is present in all of Adam’s interactions with his adorable group of friends and his Hellhound – who he turned into a friendly puppy without even realizing. Even his idea of a witch hunt is so inoffensive that even the actual witch sent to stop him, Anathema Device (Adria Arjona), passes him by thinking he can’t possibly be who she’s looking for.

Anathema on the hunt.

Another highlight of the first two hours is Frances McDormand’s narration. Her quirky reading of “God” certainly helps smooth out any hiccups in the sprawling tale, and she does a far better job of keeping the story running smoothly than the signposts detailing the location and time as if any viewers are actually keeping track. Paying attention to the timeline is likely to cause more headaches than necessary, especially when the light tone of the story keeps the end of the world from seeming like a real possibility.

Bottom line is, Good Omens is about as faithful an adaption as you can get – which is only right as Neil Gaiman is the force behind the production. Fans of the book who wished to see it come to life should be more than satisfied, though the uninitiated may not feel the need to pick up a copy once they’ve finished watching given the similarities. Nevertheless, it is a fun and frothy adventure with a compelling supernatural friendship and a steadfast belief in humanity’s goodness at its core.

All six episodes of Good Omens are available on Amazon Prime video.