Based on the 1990 novel by the late Terry Prachett and Neil Gaiman, the latter of whom oversaw the television series as creator, co-executive producer, and sole writer, Good Omens tells a comedic story about the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and the demon Crowley (David Tennant) working together to stop Armageddon in order to save humanity from the war between Heaven and Hell.
Narrated by God (Frances McDormand), Aziraphale and Crowley first meet in the Garden of Eden. Crowley, who went by “Crawly” then because he took the form of a snake, tempts Eve into eating the apple from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. To assist them after being cast out of the garden, Aziraphale gives Adam a flaming sword, so both have some responsibility for humanity moving forth.
Jumping ahead to 11 years before present day, Crowley is given the Antichrist as a baby in order to switch it with the newborn baby of an American diplomat but the child mistakenly ends up with an English family. In an attempt to guide the Antichrist, the spiritual duo get jobs working at the diplomat’s estate to keep an eye on the young American boy, hoping to keep him from naming his hellhound on his eleventh birthday, which is how Armageddon begins. The actual Antichrist, named Adam (Sam Taylor Buck), does just that, which leads to the summoning of the Four Horsemen (War, Famine, Pollution, and Death).
In the second episode, viewers are taken back in 1656 when Agnes Nutter (Josie Lawrence) is burned at the stake by Witchfinder Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer (Jack Whitehall), but she gets her revenge in a very clever manner. Punished for her prophecies, Agnes wrote them down in The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. The book helps guide the characters who decipher her visions.
The first half of third episode presents an entertaining tangent as viewers see Aziraphale and Crowley’s friendship develop over a few millennia. The dialogue seems briefly anachronistic during a scene set in 3004 BC, at the time of Noah’s flood, when Aziraphale refers to Native Americans and Australians, designations I don’t believe would have been in existence yet.
Back to the story, Adam the Antichrist exerts his newfound power. His dreams become realities and he bullies his friends, who don’t take kindly to it, causing him to rethink his behavior. Heaven and Hell prepare for battle, which will surely begin after the Four Horsemen initiate a global nuclear war, and those in charge don’t care for the indifference and interference of our unlikely heroes.
Sheen and Tennant play off each other very well. Their characters keep the viewer engaged and are missed when not on screen. Although another novel was plotted, it was never completed. But even if there isn’t another adventure with Aziraphale and Crowley, hopefully a producer with reteam the actors.
Am curious if the series could have been less than six episodes because some of the characters and subplots, like the descendants of Agnes and the Witchfinder, respectively Anathema Device (Adria Arjona) and Newt Pulsifer (also Jack Whitehall), who also get involved in the search for the Antichrist, felt superfluous, due to a combination of the writing and the performances. However, the plotting and humor are strong and the conclusion is well-written, as is the epilogue that deals with the main duo, which wasn’t in the original novel.
The video has been given a 1080p /MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer at its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The colors appear in strong hues alongside the bright whites of Heaven and the inky blacks of Hell. Depth and detail are properly captured and the digital effects blend well real objects. The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Dialogue is audible through the front center. Ambiance, David Arnold’s score, and Queen songs fill the surrounds. The subwoofer is active, supporting the action and storms, and explosions.
There are extras on each disc. All in HD.
- The Characters of Good Omens (2 min) and The World of Good Omens(1 min) are brief peeks into the story.
- Neil Gaiman helps lead Page to Screen (6 min) and Bookshop Tour (HD, 5 min)
- Galleries: Storyboard (5 min), Concept Art (4 min), and Costume Design (1 min)
- Good Omens Trailer (HD, 2 min)
- Commentaries on Episode 1 & 3 are of Neil Gaiman with series director Douglas Mackinnon, who are so excited to start chatting about the show, they don’t introduce themselves and get right to it. On Episode 2, composer David Arnold and first assistant director Francesco Reidy offer their points of view.
- The lead characters/actors get the spotlight in Aziraphale’s World (5 min) and Crowley’s World (4 min).
- Deleted Scenes (10 min) – During the eight short scenes, they are particularly of interest to see before the digital effects have been inserted.
- Queen Compilation (12 min) – After a quote from the novel helping to explain why Crowley is listening to it, eight scenes that feature the band’s music are presented without comment.
- Good Omens VFX Reel (3 min)
- Commentary on Episode 4 is by production designer Michael Ralph and costume designer Claire Anderson; on Episode 5 by actresses Maggie Service, who played Sister Theresa Garrulous, and Nina Sosanya as Sister Mary Hodges; and on Episode 6, Gaiman and Mackinnon return,
I haven’t read the novel so can’t speak to how the TV series contrasts and compares, but Good Omens is an enjoyable fantasy that brings to mind Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, though it doesn’t reach that height. It has fun playing with the ideas of Heaven and Hell without being sacrilegious and also offers thoughtful social commentary. The Blu-ray’s video looks very good and the audio is as expected from a TV show.