Amazon Prime’s Good Omens: An Ominous Good Time
Bart Sullivan (compiled & edited, with footnotes of an educational nature and precepts for the wise), 06-10-2019

David Tennant and Michael Sheen star as Crowley and Aziraphale in the apocalyptic Amazon Prime series Good Omens.
Sophie Mutevelian / Amazon Prime Video
It all started with an apple—that, and the lending of a flaming sword. Years later, the eternal friendship between an angel and demon will both cause and prevent the end of the world. Based on Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett’s comedic novel of the same name, Amazon Prime’s miniseries Good Omens brings audiences into the worlds of Heaven and Hell as the Antichrist is delivered to a hospital to be swapped with the newborn child of an American ambassador. Once the child turns 11 years old, a hellhound will find the boy and the apocalypse will begin. Unfortunately, the demon Crowley (David Tennant) delivered the child to a confused satanic nun who placed him with the wrong family, which means everything Crowley and the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) have done to prevent these events have been for naught

This is also the story of Agnes Nutter, a witch who accurately predicted almost 400 years’ worth of prophecies in 1656, ranging from the health factors of running to the founding of Apple Computers (though she didn’t quite know what she was predicting). The Device family would study these prophecies through generations, up to the present day, when her ancestor, Anathema (Adria Arjona), was an increasingly popular topic of predictions.

While the idea of a filmed production of the novel had been passed around by Gaiman and Pratchett for some time, it wasn’t until after Pratchett’s death in 2015 from complications with Alzheimer’s that Gaiman wrote the script for a multi-part story, rather than a movie. The story was last heard on BBC Radio shortly before Pratchett’s death, starring Mark Heap and Peter Serafinowicz, with both authors cameoing as traffic cops.

Thanks to Gaiman’s role as screenwriter, the television series feels as if it were pulled straight from the novel, with multiple scenes narrated wholly from the original copy by God, voiced by Frances McDormand. Many of these scenes feel very reminiscent of Pratchett’s writing in the novel and his Discworld series, utilizing sarcasm and humor to the same extent as fellow author Douglas Adams

While Sheen and Tennant steal the show, the variety of minor characters bring a sense of whimsy to the dangerous events of the series. Sgt. Shadwell (Michael McKeen) and his fortune-teller/escort neighbor introduce an uncomfortable love/hate relationship, while Shadwell’s apprentice, Newton Pulsifer (Jack Whitehall) is every worried 20-something, having just left college—if only he had any skills aside from destroying technology. Jon Hamm introduces a false-salesman side to the angel Gabriel, being the one character that truly shows no angel is only good. Meanwhile, the four horsemen of the apocalypse show an even more dastardly human side, though not quite as much as the series Supernatural had provided. War, Famine, Death, and Pollution (Pestilence has long since retired) arrive not on horses, but modern motorcycles, ready to ride with coffee in hand. Although these portrayals are perfect for the events at hand, the design of Death in this series lacks a lot, particularly in his baggier look, rather than the more traditional skeleton he has been seen as, especially in the film productions of Pratchett’s Discworld novels

Much controversy online was generated during the show’s opening weekend, with various complaints from trolling viewers on Twitter about casting choices. With the non-corporeal form of God read by a woman, and Adam and Eve shown at the show’s open as African-American, Gaiman’s Twitter page became full with complaints that some found humorous enough to troll back. For Gaiman, however, this made him happier with his creation. “It’s when people who proclaim themselves as ‘white supremacists’ turn off Good Omens after the first few minutes, and then come on Twitter to tell me off, that I think sometimes a negative review is a marvelous and heartwarming thing,” he remarked on Twitter.

Overall, Good Omens is a perfect adaptation of the 1990 novel, updating the events for a 21st-century audience. The series ends completely, as does the book, with no loose ends to tie up in a second season, though the demon Crowley mentions possibilities for retaliation from Heaven and Hell, which could set up another series if Gaiman wishes. While the duo had originally considered writing a sequel to the novel, the idea was squashed after Gaiman moved to America and they were no longer in close proximity to each other. Many ideas they had considered fell into the script, however, which might be enough to convince Gaiman to write a second, possibly fitting with the current run of the adaptation of his novel American Gods on Starz. If no further content came from these characters, however, audiences would still find the limited series viewable on multiple occasions. Besides, no one has found a prophecy from Agnes that a second season will happen anyway.

Good Omens became available for streaming on Amazon Video on May 31st.


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