Amazon's Good Omens miniseries finally enters the pop-culture consciousness later this month, after decades of attempts to bring it to life on the big and small screen. The six-episode season offers a pitch-perfect fantasy story that's incredibly stylized, entertaining, and earnest, and it sets a pretty high bar for the television that's still to come this year.
Good Omens follows Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and Crowley (David Tennant), an angel and demon who have secretly been friends since the dawn of man. Through a chain of mishaps, the pair learn that they have misplaced the Antichrist, and must find Satan's true heir, a young boy named Adam Young (Sam Taylor Buck), before Armageddon occurs in a matter of days.
The six-part miniseries, which is based on Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's beloved 1990 novel of the same name, not only serves as a perfect adaptation of its source material, but as a delightful extension of it. In episode one alone, book readers will lose track of scenes and moments that are ripped straight from the source material. But even for those who haven't read the novel, there's an almost immediate sense of accessibility that carries all the way through, largely thanks to the genuinely fun ways that the show chooses to tell its story.
Along the way, viewers will be introduced to some interesting conversations about morality, masculinity, the flaws in religion, and the power that young people have to dismantle bad precedents and institutions. But those conversations never really feel preachy or overwhelming, in part thanks to the almost-musical approach the show has to its narrative. The episodes also make some interesting decisions with regards to structure and non-linear storytelling, in a way that will hopefully result in some genuine surprises for even avid fans.
Without getting into spoilers, Good Omens basically becomes a story about the power of friendship and human connection, something that unfolds in a layered and character-driven way. Considering the recent conversation that has popped up about character narratives in fantasy storytelling (thanks, Game of Thrones), there's something both topically and timelessly refreshing about the way Good Omens honors its characters. Nearly every decision and plot point -- no matter how fantastical -- feels motivated by the very humanized characters taking part in it, which results in a fascinating critique of destiny vs. personal agency.
The characters on Good Omens feel incredibly lived-in, even when they have the most whimsical qualities. Tennant and Sheen, in particular, are absolutely exceptional, both individually and as a duo. Tennant's Crowley brings together the intimidating swagger of Kilgrave and the likable eccentricities of the Tenth Doctor, but in a way that feels entirely new and fun. As Aziraphale, Sheen brings so much nuance to a seemingly goody-two-shoes character, with hilarious and emotionally resonant results. Together, the pair of fan-favorite actors create a relationship that's electrifying to watch, with banter that plays out like the best possible version of The Odd Couple. At the core of it all, you can clearly feel how much the unlikely friends care for each other, and it's that emotion that will make audiences want to follow the pair anywhere and everywhere.
While Sheen and Tennant are (understandably) the selling point of the show for some, there are so many members of Good Omens' ensemble that are worth celebrating. Jon Hamm, who plays the archangel Gabriel, marries the suaveness of his Mad Men role with the chaotic energy of so many of his post-Mad Men roles, with great results. Adria Arjona proves she is a bona fide star through her role as Anathema Device, crafting a complex, driven female lead who defies expectation at every turn, even as her character is rooted in following along a divine plan. Frances McDormand and Benedict Cumberbatch, who provide the voices of God and Satan, respectively, feel perfectly cast in their roles. And it's worth mentioning Buck's portrayal of Adam Young, who rises above the trappings that usually plague many kid actors.
Having such a strong cast already works so well in Good Omens' favor, but the show's impressive technical elements help elevate things even more. The cinematography and mise en scene are incredibly lush, but never swallow up any of the action taking place on screen. The costuming is on a whole other level as well, whether it's flawlessly transitioning Aziraphale and Crowley's aesthetics across centuries of history or making the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse look unbelievably cool. The costumes clearly have so much thought to them, but also will probably be pretty easy and fun to cosplay, which is a blessing for shows of this kind. Even the opening titles -- and the theme song, which is too catchy for its own good -- are so much more than meets the eye, as they get a new context with each passing episode.
Some book readers have waited years to see Good Omens adapted into live action, and the Amazon miniseries proves that the wait was more than worth it. With an engaging cast, a wonderful sense of style, and a story that feels both timeless and tailor-made to today, Good Omens crafts a very binge-worthy fantasy tale that audiences will likely fall in love with.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Good Omens is set to release for streaming on Amazon Prime on May 31st.