First Impressions: Amazon Prime’s Good Omens is a black comedy doomsday romp

In these current dark and tumultuous times it can often seem like we’re rushing faster towards an impending apocalyptic like end. But fear not, the world continues to turn and we can rest assured that in the meantime watching Amazon Prime’s new series Good Omens will alleviate some of that tension. The show is based on the Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett authored 1990 novel of the same name. Good Omens has been living in its own adaptation production purgatory for many years, until finally in January 2017 Amazon Prime greenlit the production and threw some money at Gaiman to make it happen.

The first couple of episodes sets up the story’s overall premise. When the demon Crawley (later renaming himself to Crowley) is tasked with implanting the antichrist into a human family to bring about the end of days, he makes a slight mistake and the child ends up with the wrong family. Both sides of Heaven and Hell are gearing up for war once the antichrist, given the overtly normal human name of Adam Young, comes of age. But both Crowley and Aziraphale, a demon and angel respectively, are intent on stopping it.

Crowley and Aziraphale have become accustomed to their existence on earth, enjoying some of the finer things like eating sushi and collecting rare books or driving around in classic cars and listening to Queen. As emissaries of Hell and Heaven on earth they’ve been tweaking human existence for over 6,000 years, and in that time have become good friends albeit on the downlow. To a celestial being that has the ability to perform small miracles, humans living on earth doing their day to day might seem insignificant or trivial but it’s about enjoying the small things life has to offer. In some ways it feels a little reminiscent of Douglas AdamsThe Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, with it’s large existential notions and ideas, but also reminding us to appreciate some of the simpler things in life.

Gaiman is both a popular and respectable author, and so when it was announced a tv series was going to be adapted it’s not all that surprising that some of the cast attached were fans of his work. Casting David Tennant and Michael Sheen as Crowley and Aziraphale is genius, the pair are a dichotomy and yet hilariously symbiotic in a way. As depictions of the stereotypical image of “good” and “evil” it’s their actions that lend credence to the fact there’s no such thing as entirely good or entirely evil either way, so even mystical beings can have shades of grey. Tennant’s demon has a rock-star swagger dressed constantly all in black, whilst Sheen’s meek angel is a more soft approach in his off-whites, but their dynamics together show a real sentiment and warmth and is what really draws the audience in to continue watching not only their relationship but how they plan on getting out of this mess.

Of course these two legendary actors will be the biggest drawcard for viewers, but the cast lineup also includes Jon Hamm, Nick Offerman, Anna Maxwell Martin and Miranda Richardson too. Plus the voice talents of Frances McDormand and Benedict Cumberbatch as God and Satan respectively. This motley crew of supporting stars provide their own quirks and momentary enjoyable diversions. Hamm in particular as Gabriel, an angel who is fixated on ushering in armageddon purely so that there’s a war between heaven and hell, because it’s all about winning it,

The 6 episode hit and quit show directed by Douglas Mackinnon (Knightfall) stays pretty close to the original book text. Having Gaiman as showrunner is crucial to maintaining the quirky black comedy tone from the book to the television series. And obviously both Gaiman and Pratchett being British, this show is very very British. Sometimes the fact that it’s clinging faithfully to the book hinders it, there’s a fair amount of exposition provided by McDormand’s voice of God in the early episodes. But generally it’s never too overbearing or distracting. The opening credits are a joyously animated romp through the events of the story itself, so if you pay close enough attention you will see some hints of what’s to come.

Fans of the book will probably be quite pleased with this adaptation, but if you’re not familiar with the source material you might be in for a bit of a weird ride. However if existential and global crises are your jam. Or you just love watching David Tennant strut around in tight pants. Then be sure to check out Good Omens on Amazon Prime, streaming all 6 bingeable episodes from 31 May 2019.

 

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