There is a certain type of individual who will not enjoy Good Omens. They will be sent screaming to their religious leaders (or, more likely, anyone on Twitter who will listen) by the first six minutes of Episode One. It is here that we are treated (in order), to a woman’s bare bottom, the revelation that Adam and Eve were black and the idea that an angel might do something dodgy like give his flaming sword away. This is all well and good, as it enables the rest of us to get on with the serious business of enjoying perhaps the single best work of live-action religious comedy since Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
A quick explanation for the uninitiated. Good Omens is adapted from the 1990 novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. If those names ring a bell, you likely have exquisite taste and have spent some time hanging out in libraries and book shops. Both writers went on to develop rather impressive portfolios on their own and the revelation that they once wrote a book together hits many readers who discovered them through later works like a ton of bricks. The Amazon Prime adaptation of Good Omens into a six-part mini-series was overseen by Gaiman himself, per the final wishes of Pratchett, who died in 2015.
The basic plot of Good Omens centers around the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and the demon Crowley (David Tennant) – technical enemies, who have found they have more in common with each other and the humans they live among than their bosses in Heaven and Hell. When the final battle between Good and Evil is scheduled, Crowley finds himself entrusted with ensuring that the Anti-Christ is transplanted into the appointed place at the appointed time, so that he can be given a properly evil upbringing and rule the fallen kingdoms of Man as prophecized in the Book of Revelation.
Unfortunately, something goes wrong (or right) and all Hell (and Heaven) fail to break loose, as Crowley and Aziraphale join forces to try and save the world. Joining them in this mission, indirectly, are a young boy named Adam Young and his friends, the mystic Madame Tracy (who offers psychic visions and light discipline by appointment), the mighty Witchfinder Army (both of them) and Anathema Device, practicing witch and keeper of The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch – the only accurate book of foretellings in the history of mankind.
Confused? There’s a lot for newcomers to take in, but the slow-boiling pace of the six episodes allows plenty of time for the plot to unfold and the characters to be introduced. Fans of the original book will be in Seventh Heaven, as the ensemble cast have all been perfectly brought to life. More, Gaiman’s scripts offer some new material, so there’s still a few surprises in store for the faithful. There’s also a few nods to jokes from the book that don’t quite work in live action but still warranted inclusion. You shall know them when you see them.
In the end, Good Omens is as good an adaptation of the original novel as we could have hoped for in this world or the next. It is easily accessible to newcomers and sure to please the devout. A follow-up series seems unlikely, as Gaiman has voiced a desire to return to novel writing after spending so long working in television and it’s unlikely he’d want to write a sequel without Pratchett’s input. Those pilgrims seeking further enlightenment would do well to track down Pratchett’s novel Small Gods or Gaiman’s American Gods, which further deal with the concept of religion in an equally amusing fashion.