I waited a long time for this show to come out. It was one of the things I was most looking forward to this year, and it didn’t disappoint. You don’t have to have read the 1990 novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman to enjoy the show Good Omens. It helps give you a deeper understanding, but it isn’t necessary. Gaiman has made the show different enough from the book that even if you just read it yesterday you won’t know exactly what’s going to happen. I don’t want to ruin anything for those of you who haven’t read/watched it yet. What follows isn’t really a review as much as a list of all the reasons you should just shut up and watch it. And then go read the book.
Honestly, I only had a problem with 2 things so I’ll get them out of the way first.
The narration – it wasn’t badly done, but felt off to me. It wasn’t until Arian said something about Frances McDormand not being British that I realized that’s what it was. This is a very British book and show. To not have God be British too threw things off. If they’d gotten Emma Thompson or someone of her English caliber it would have been perfect.
The pacing – not all of the time, but was sometimes just a bit off. I know they were trying to make a novel into a 6 episode series, but an entire episode dedicated to Crowley and Aziraphale’s friendship through the ages was a little slow compared to the events leading up to Armageddon that we’re meant to be following. Not that big a deal all in all considering how great everything else about the show is.
Okay, so everything else was pretty damn fantastic.
The writing – well of course Gaiman adapting his and Pratchett’s work was going to be great. With Pratchett very sadly dead, Gaiman could have gone off in his own direction and changed things up how he liked. I’m sure that would have pissed a lot of people off, and also been a dick move, but he was very careful to stay true to Pratchett’s contributions to the story. All of that Douglas Adams style humor? Very Pratchett. If you don’t like dark and dry British humor this might not be the show for you. It also helps to be a little aware of English slang and terms. If you’ve watch any Doctor Who or read any books by either of the two authors you should be fine though.
The cast – Michael Sheen and David Tennant are so good that they’re going to get their own sub-section here, but the rest of the cast is outstanding too. Jon Hamm, Michael McKean, Miranda Richardson, Josie Lawrence, Nick Offerman, and many more appear in roles both large and small. And I’m just listing off the actors you probably know off the top of your head. There are many many more that I knew I’d seen before, but had to look up to be sure. All are wonderful. You don’t get to see them, but Brian Cox and Benedict Cumberbatch are also here doing voices. Even actors with the smallest parts are well cast, and that takes me to…
The acting – Not only were all of the characters instantly recognizable, but they were also very true to the characters as written in the book. One of my free Audible book downloads was the BBC radio dramatization so I had a preconceived idea of what the characters should sound like at least. Even though they’re played far differently here (Anathema is much more American and “witchy” looking than I expected) you’ll have an easy time figuring out who’s who in this enormous cast. I’ve heard people say that Adam was annoying, but since he’s a kid and the son of Satan he can probably be cut some slack.
The Doctor Who references – I read something telling me that there were easter eggs, but I refrained from looking them up until after I’d seen the show. I think I caught most of them, but having the actor who played Strax the Sontaran walk by out of makeup wasn’t fair. I knew it had to be an easter egg when he stopped to talked to Michael Sheen as David Tennant was walking away, but how was I to know what he looked like in real life? From what I can tell I got the most of the rest. In case you haven’t gotten them I’ll be vague. There’s also references to Gallifrey, the T.A.R.D.I.S., the 4th Doctor, and the Daleks. There are also a ton of actors who have previously appeared in Doctor Who. Including (but not limited to) David Morrissey, Derek Jacobi, Mark Gatiss, and Bill Paterson (who also starred in my favorite movie about Munchhausen by Proxy syndrome. Get it?). I’m know there’s more, but those are with ones I recognized without having to look up. I’m sure there are some that I didn’t recognize easily to look up so let me know if you catch something else.
Tennant and Sheen – if ever there were two actors better suited to play their roles I don’t know about it. Michael Sheen is one of those actors who has been in a ton of stuff, but I really don’t remember him from much besides a shitty Twilight movie, less shitty (but still not great) Underworld movies, and a brief appearance in 30 Rock. His stuffy, human loving angel Aziraphale is spot on. The nuance, subtlety, and flair he brings to the role are astounding. We all know David Tennant was the 10th Doctor Who, and he was brilliant, but he’s perfect as the demon who has just a bit of good in him. He’s got the sexy swagger of a rock star, but that same ridiculously expressive face that makes it impossible not to be hypnotized just watching him. Even when the pacing is thrown off by glimpses into their relationship it’s okay because their relationship is the main point of this show (and the book). The apocalypse just happens to be going on around them during the time this takes place. At various points in their history they’re each convinced they aren’t friends. Then they go for meals, get drunk, and save each other from “death” (as immortals it’s more discorporation than dying. A lot of paperwork comes with losing your body so it’s still bad). The deep bond that can come when good and evil put their differences aside is what’s at the heart of things here. From a certain point of view Good Omens is a love story (if platonic one) that really gets you in the feels more times than you’d expect.
I’ve watched it twice so far (gotta catch all the things I missed the first go around), and I’ll watch it at least once more. Don’t let the “season 1” thing in the episode selection get your hopes up too much though. This is likely to be the only one. As much as Neil Gaiman was happy to bring the book to life I haven’t read anything that gives me the impression he’d want to carry on without Terry Pratchett. They only wrote the one book together. There was talk of another, but they just didn’t get around to it before Pratchett’s dementia took it’s toll. So take what we did get, and enjoy it. Nobody ever thought we’d get a movie, much less a series. I can’t imagine it could get much better than this either. Nothing is perfect, but this is about as close as we’re likely to see this year.
Okay that was going to be the end, but then I found this petition while I was looking up pictures to use. There’s a religious group petitioning for Netflix to cancel Good Omens. What’s more funny – the fact that the show was done by and is airing on Prime Video, or that these people are offended by a story that’s already out in the world and can’t be canceled? I wish I could make this stuff up guys. I copied an excerpt below, but it’s funny enough to read it all for yourself.
The Netflix series “Good Omens,” based on a book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, portrays the agents of Good and Evil as fighters in an arbitrary struggle devoid of meaning and truth. This series presents devils and Satanists as normal and even good, where they merely have a different way of being, and mocks God’s wisdom in the following ways
Hungry for more movies, music, and pop culture? Visit the Needless Things Archives for a decade of dorkery!