- Matt Linton
Review: Good Omens - Season 1 (2019)
Title: Good Omens
Stars: Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Adria Arjona, Jack Whitehall, Sam Taylor Buck, John Hamm, and Frances McDormand
Adapted by: Neil Gaiman from the novel he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett
Bias: I'm a huge Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett fan, and the novel was shockingly formative for me.
In a Nutshell: As prophesied in the Book of Revelations, it's time for the final battle between Heaven and Hell. There's only one problem - their respective representatives on Earth, the angel Aziraphale (Sheen) and the demon Crowley (Tennant) aren't quite ready for things to end. They're happy with their lives and (against their better judgment) their centuries-old friendship with each other, so they'll do everything they can to forestall the Apocalypse.
The Critique: This is, in many ways, a perfect adaptation of absurdist, yet hopeful, book by Pratchett and Gaiman - perhaps unsurprising given that Gaiman wrote each of the episodes, and did so in large part to help honor the memory of his friend and co-author, Terry Pratchett, who passed away in 2015. The tone is very much in keeping with Pratchett's body of work, which includes the hilarious Discworld novels, which are themselves influenced by Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books. What grounds Good Omens (and this may be Gaiman's influence, though it's truly impossible to divide their contributions) is the relationships at the core of the story.
Obviously, there's the friendship between Aziraphale and Crowley, but equally there's the modern day witch, Anathema Device (Arjona) and the modern day witchhunter Newton Pulsifer (Whitehall), Adam Young (aka the Anti-Christ) and his group of friends, and even the veteran witchhunter, Shadwell (Michael McKean), and his neighbor, the lady-of-the-evening/psychic, Madame Tracy (Miranda Richardson). At it's heart, the ultimate message is that what may save the world has little to do with abstractions like Good and Evil, but the relationships we form and the choices we make because of them.
Casting is often a make or break consideration for adaptations, and while it's excellent across the board here, the perfection of Sheen and Tennant can't be overstated. The former portrays Aziraphale's fussy stuffiness in a way that manages to make it endearing, while Tennant perfectly captures both the banality and the coolness of evil with the simplest and most amazing of walks. Most importantly, you truly believe that two people (well, not really people, per se) who have so little in common could also find things to admire and be drawn to. And it's because, despite their origins, they have more in common than they like to admit - Aziraphale, despite defensively citing the ineffable-ness of God's (McDormand) plan, is first introduced defying it (slightly) by giving Adam and Eve his flaming sword when they're banished from the Garden of Eden, while Crowley is described in the novel as "the angel who did not so much fall as saunter vaguely downwards." At the end of the day, both are far more human than they'd like to admit, and maybe that's God's ineffable plan.
Shoutout: Aside from a further shout-out to the cast as a whole, I'd like to give a nod to the costume and art design for the series.
Final Verdict: This is the perfect summer series, with just enough philosophical and emotional depth to be engaging, while breezing along as a light diversion that makes it enjoyable just to spend time with. And, at just six episodes, it's worth stretching out your viewing, rather than marathon-ing through it, while also short enough to revisit on a Saturday afternoon.