As a general rule, we're inclined to dread the impending arrival of Armageddon. It just does not sound like a fun time at all. However, given that it provides an opportunity for David Tennant and Michael Sheen to team up, we're willing to keep an open mind. It turns out that's a good call, because the two stars of the new Amazon Prime Video series, Good Omens, are a perfect match as a demon and angel trying to prevent the end of the world.
It's up to an angel and a demon to save everyone. (pic via imdb.com)
Based on the beloved novel of the same name from Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett (and adapted for TV by Gaiman), Good Omens maintains the warmth and humor of its source material. It's a promising sign when the opening sequence (including a voice-over from God, played by Frances McDormand) has a Monty Python-esque feeling to it. We are quickly introduced to the angel Aziraphale (Sheen) and the demon Crowley (Tennant) who have been on Earth since the Garden of Eden. The two characters spend most of the following 6000 years cancelling each other out with their desire to spread good and evil across the world, and a friendship develops along the way.
Both men are supposed to be excited when they find out that the arrival of Armageddon has been put into motion. After all, it's the "grand plan" they've been waiting for, and all that. The problem is that both of them have gotten used to living on Earth, and they don't really want the fun to stop. That motivates them to try to thwart the plan by convincing the newly-born antichrist to just skip all of that "doom and gloom" nonsense. Things get messy when the realize they've been grooming the wrong kid for 11 years, and now they have about a week to fix things.
Michael Sheen is terrific as Aziraphale. The generally timid angel enjoys performing an occasional miracle here and there, but he mostly focuses on good food and his bookshop. He's a gentle soul who one suspects might be startled by a butterfly. David Tennant is pure rock star as Crowley. He struts into every room dripping with attitude and charisma (and often entering to a Queen song.) Crowley seems to enjoy causing some moderate mischief here and there, although deep down inside, his demon status comes across as more like one bad choice than an inherently evil nature.
There are a number of Doctor Who Easter eggs in the series in tribute to Tennant, and it feels like Crowley could be one of the Doctor's cousins. Crowley's decades-long relationship with his Bentley also has a slight Doctor - TARDIS feel to it. Michael Sheen was wonderfully menacing as the voice of "House" in the Doctor Who story, "The Doctor's Wife," (also written by Neil Gaiman) but it's clear he also could have been a terrific companion for the 10th Doctor. He and Tennant have a terrific chemistry which powers this entire series. These characters have a clear affection for each other that makes it clear they're looking to save each other as much as the Earth. At one point, Aziraphale tells Crowley to do something, or else the angel will never talk to him again, and you can feel how much that would hurt the demon.
The series is also helped by a strong supporting cast. Jon Hamm seems to have a great time playing the archangel Gabriel. His face lights up every time he's on-screen as he tells Aziraphale nothing will stop Armageddon. Frances McDormand is a perfect choice for the voice of God, as she provides a lightness to the story while still fulfilling the role of the almighty presence. Sam Taylor Buck does a nice job as Adam Young, the 11 year-old anti-Christ who has both a youthful optimism about him while also tapping into a danger fitting of the son of Satan. Michael McKean is solid as the witch-hunter/lunatic Shadwell, and Miranda Richardson does well, particularly towards the end of the story, as Madame Tracy. The one spot that could have used a little more time is the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. They get an intriguing set-up, but feel a little thin at the end.
Good Omens is a story about friendship, tolerance, free will, and the importance of peaceful activism to improve the world, rather than counting on blind faith to make it happen. The series generally stays true to the book, and the six episodes go by in a flash. The door seems to be open to a second season, and this group has shown that they can be trusted with another adventure. Good Omens fans have high expectations for this series, and they will not be disappointed.
Readers in the United States can buy the DVD here.
Readers in the United Kingdom can buy the DVD here.
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