Good Omens is not the first Neil Gaiman adaptation to be taken under Amazon’s wing. American Gods burst onto the scene, a parade of special effects and style. It was more of a treat for the eyes than the brain, as cinematography enjoyed more refinement than the plot.
This peacocking is what Gaiman’s books command; it’s why they are so well-suited to streaming services rather than channels who have to appeal to advertisers. While the BBC is not held by these restrictions it does not have the same budget to risk. So Good Omens found a home where it needed to be.
The series has adopted a quantity over quality approach. Quantity in this case is not the length o the series; We follow angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and demon Crowley (David Tennant) for only six episodes. No, in this case it’s special effects and cameos. It’s just fortunate that quality was not nowhere to be found.
While the CGI is often questionable by even a 2006 standard, the cameos are excellent. That is, they’re excellent from a British point of view. It’s a who’s who of, “Oh, I recognise that actor from something on the BBC!”. The UK’s preference for national content over international is on full display here.
As far as story is concerned, the quest to stop armageddon is not one which should run smooth but how incomplete and overloaded the series can feel is still taking liberties at points. We are primarily following our two heroes try to find the antichrist- though not always together so their separate lives are different plots. But then there’s the antichrist living his life with friends, them trying to fix the world, the four horsemen finding each other and a biblical war.
It’s hard to get past how much the cast holds this show together. Sheen, Tennant, Jon Hamm, Jack Whitehall, Frances McDormand, Adria Arjona et al. are the roller bearings, keeping the building upright during the earthquake. Even the child actors are more bearable than usual. Perhaps it is not a bad thing, instead a (new) testament to how pivotal acting is.
It’s not a laugh a minute but on the right side of goofy. The audience needs an appreciation for the quirky to get any enjoyment out of this. There is little to nothing on offer for those who like a dark tone to their drama. Storylines don’t get much more serious than the end of the world but you must switch off to enjoy it.
Gaiman has stated that the show ending differs from the book partly because they needed to fill the time after wrapping up the story. Yet the show seems like it should have been two episodes longer. So dedicated to the charisma of its leads, the plot felt like it was playing second fiddle to itself.
It is a fun show and worth a watch but the flaws are still clear. With different actors, it would not work nearly as well as it does. As it is, when Aziraphale relatably obsesses over books or Crowley swaggers away from his car blaring Queen, the faults are forgiven. There’s a charm to it, a charm afforded by the names in its delightful title sequence, and that is what the international audiences will stick around for.