Some mild spoilers ahead!
So… a lot of people have been talking about the recent Amazon Studios adaptation of the 1990 novel Good Omens, written by Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett. It earned a lot of early attention for its star-studded cast, lead by David Tennant & Michael Sheen playing the show’s protagonist duo of the demon Crowley and angel Aziraphale.
Joining them is Frances McDormand as the voice of God, John Hamm as the angel Gabriel, Nick Offerman as US Ambassador Thaddeus Dowling, and whole castload of other British stars that will make you go “wait, I’ve seen them before!”. With an impressive number of famous names attached to the project, as well as Neil Gaiman himself, the show was very highly anticipated from the moment it was announced.
So, did the show live up to the hype? Well, the millions of Twitter & Tumblr fans sure think so.
Almost immediately after the show was released it garnered a large and extremely devoted online fandom, praising the show for its depiction of the relationship between the two leads. While never explicitly romantic, the series does go out of its way to show the centuries-long friendship and the many ways in which the two genuinely care for each other. The show is, in many ways, built around this idea more than anything else — which is why many compared it to the BBC series Sherlock.
But aside from the strong friendship between the male leads, Good Omens shares very little else with Sherlock (except perhaps the brief appearance of actress Sian Brooke in both series). Sherlock was a clever, grand scale drama, while Good Omens is a sort of tongue-in-cheek comedy that makes light of an impending apocalypse. For the most part it does this comedy quite well, and the contrast between the absurdity of the worldbuilding and the pure heart at the core of the story between Aziraphale and Crowley is such an interesting blend of emotion that you can’t help but admire the spectacle they set out to achieve in only 6 episodes.
However, spectacle is what quite a lot of the show comes down to. Whether it’s a visual spectacle of the world burning to the ground or the various time periods and locations the show rotates between, or the narrative spectacle that jumps between 4 to 5 storylines at any given time, it’s a show that relies heavily on an audience that’s willing to be confused for a while. This is not bad in and of itself, but add on top of that a bizarre clash of tones and it may leave some viewers feeling as if they’d missed something.
The thing is, though clever as it is at times, this show is weird. It begins with a cult of Satanist nuns all anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Antichrist, who is said to be born that night, and it’s up to them to deliver the baby and track its whereabouts until it turns 11, at which point it’s destined to call upon the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and unleash Armageddon on the world. But a mishap involving a second, unexpected expecting couple causes the demon Crowley to misidentify the Antichrist and they end up watching the wrong kid for 11 years. With an inciting incident like this, you can kind of see how the show is playing for laughs more than social commentary.
Things get much more complicated from there, and it requires multiple deep-dives into obscure moments and characters from the past to ultimately unravel a puzzle for the future. It seems clever on the surface because there’s so many moving pieces and people and time jumps and everything else… but to me (and this is probably going to be a controversial opinion) much of it just felt unnecessary.
I found myself getting frustrated when the story would turn away from Aziraphale and Crowley, who are by far the most interesting characters, and focus on other plot points that tied loosely together in the end. I didn’t love the overly-stylized look of the show because I thought it distracted from their attempt at playing the absurdity so seriously. I get what they were doing, but I was never really fully invested in the side stories, even if they ended up contributing.
Some bit were really clever and fun, and it has a strong sense of British humor that I really appreciated. Some parts were downright weird, but they didn’t feel out of place — just that they were taking screentime away from the more interesting bits. It’s silly and funny and it doesn’t take itself too seriously, nor does it expect the audience to.
So what does this mean for the finished product as a whole? Well for me it was just a bit too indiscriminate in its tone, and it seemed like it tried to be satirical but it didn’t commit all the way to it. Things it tried to pass as serious came off as funny and things it tried to pass off as funny were unevenly lofty. Again, I definetely understand what the idea was, but it didn’t nail it for me personally. That being said, I also hated the Netflix adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, which looked and felt very similar to this show — FULL DISCLOSURE: I had no where near the problems with Good Omens as I did with A Series of Unfortunate Events.
A lot of people really liked this show, and though normally I’m not afraid to tear something to pieces if I didn’t love it, I don’t feel the need to do that here. This feels genuinely like a moment where it didn’t work for me personally, but there’s nothing overtly offensive about the show, and it’s a really solid adaptation (due largely to the fact that Neil Gaiman penned the entire script). It’s a fine, lighthearted series. I wouldn’t watch again, but I know tons of people that have already seen the show over five times.
I would say if you’re curious, give it a shot, because if there’s one thing that’s true, there’s nothing else like this series.
Final Score: B
Tell Us: Did you like Good Omens? Why or why not?