An angel, a demon, and a Thermos flask filled with holy water…
Good Omens is a distinctly British six-part miniseries based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman and the late, great Terry Pratchett. This collaborative effort between Amazon Studios and the BBC is directed by Doctor Who alum, Douglas Mackinnon, and centres on the improbable friendship between the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and the demon Crowley (David Tennant) who (having developed a fondness for humanity, and for one another) join forces in an attempt to avert Armageddon by ensuring that the ironically cherubic antichrist doesn’t come into his power. The problem is, thanks to Crowley’s carelessness, the antichrist is delivered to the wrong set of earthly parents, and he and Aziraphale spend eleven years working to neutralise an entirely human boy before realising their mistake; cue a Carry-On-esque caper featuring a star-studded ensemble cast.
As the quietly defiant Aziraphale, an angel with a penchant for fine wine, rare books, and well-tailored suits, Sheen excels. Tennant is equally brilliant as Crowley, bringing a comedic sensuality to the role; impish and oddly endearing, his performance is understated when it would have been so easy to go OTT. Never is the show better than when these perfectly cast counterparts share the screen…which, inadvertently, exposes the show’s main weakness, but we’ll come back to that.
Good Omens is a visual delight, gleeful in its Python-esque silliness. The special effects are intentionally bad, reminiscent of the 90s era in which the source material is set. The costumes are beautifully designed, particularly those of Aziraphale and Crowley throughout their years on earth… and the set is equally well dressed; there is an attention to detail that fills me with an almost unreasonable level of joy. Then there’s the soundtrack, an orchestral score interspersed with Queen’s greatest hits; Crowley’s favourite band.
Speaking of Queen, I feel somewhat under pressure (eh, see what I did there!) to explore where the show falls flat…
Despite a supporting cast boasting names such as Frances McDormand and Brain Cox as the voices of God and Death respectively, Mireille Enos as War, one of the Four Bikers of the Apocalypse, and Anna Maxwell-Martin as Beelzebub, the leader of the forces of Hell, the show’s short run gives these accomplished actors very little space to give a more fleshed out performance in their respective roles. There are, in my opinion, two notable exceptions; Mad Men’s Jon Hamm gives a deliciously smarmy turn as the Archangel Gabriel, heaven’s middle man hellbent on bringing about humanity’s total annihilation, and as Hastur, Duke of Hell, Ned Dennehy is quietly maniacal as he attempts to thwart Crowley’s best laid plans. However, I’d be lying if I said that when the action moves from Sheen and Tennant onto the other characters, it didn’t feel like an intermission before the real show returns.
Despite the missed opportunity to explore the source material in greater depth, Gaiman’s screenplay still shines, resulting in a largely successful adaption of a novel once said to be unfilmable due to multiple failed attempts to bring the story to the screen. Ultimately, Armageddon is incidental, the story’s beating heart is the friendship between an angel and a demon, their love and appreciation for one another despite their differences, and their willingness to accept humanity despite its flaws; in the same way, I recognise the show’s failing, but choose to embrace its triumphs.
As I write, it is yet to be confirmed if there will be a second series, however given that Gaiman and Pratchett had begun work on a possible sequel, tentatively titled “668 – The Neighbour of the Beast”, it is possible that Aziraphale and Crowley may yet return.
Amy is a guest contributor to Upside Down Shark. We asked if she had an social media profiles she wished to share, she declined.