‘Good Omens’ Is The Chaotic, Celestial Rom-Com You Don’t Want To Miss
David Tennant and Michael Sheen's 6000 year friendship is perfect viewing.
The last decade has been generous to fans of Neil Gaiman’s works.
We’ve had Netflix’s adaptation of the Sandman comic with Lucifer, Starz’s American Gods series, the How To Talk To Girls At Parties film, and now, closing out the current Gaiman-aissance the forces of heaven and hell saved its best for last.
The Good Omens limited series has arrived on Amazon Prime and its damn heavenly.
Based on Good Omens: The Nice And Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter by Neil Gaiman and the late Sir Terry Pratchett, Good Omens stars David Tennant and Michael Sheen as Crowley and Aziraphale.
They’re respectively a demon and an angel who’ve been secret best friends for 6,000 years, but have now accidentally misplaced the antichrist, and are sauntering desperately about London trying to prevent Armageddon and the war between heaven and hell, that’s been brewing since the dawn of time.
Oh, and all of this goes down to a blaring Queen’s Greatest Hits album.
Who knew getting an author to adapt their novel would make it a great adaptation? (spoiler: everyone!)
From its star-studded cast that also includes Jon Hamm, Francis McDormand, and Adria Arjona, Good Omens is for tv and urban fantasy comedy lovers alike.
There are witches and witchfinders, hellhound puppers, and the four horsemen of the apocalypse being summoned by courier in the campiest Armageddon ever written.
Neil Gaiman himself penned the screenplay and it shows in the script’s total chaotic faithfulness to the novel. The author also handpicked David Tennant and Michael Sheen for the leads, and with their crackling chemistry, it’s not hard to see why.
It’s rare for a screen adaptation of a novel to have such heavy involvement from its author. Despite the occasionally uneven and overexcited plot execution, Good Omens really is a masterclass in why author involvement in an adaption is a resource that should not be disregarded lightly.
I remember @neilhimself once said he wanted @michaelsheen to play Aziraphale in Good Omens because he thought Michael's innate goodness would really shine through and have truer words ever been spoken?
— gi (@abookisatardis) June 19, 2019
Screw divine morality binaries!
Crowley and Aziraphale in the book were written as two more players in the ineffable game of Armageddon, but Sheen and Tennant’s versions and their friendship is the TV series’ emotional core.
It is nothing short of delightful watching these two don wigs and outfits of varying apocalyptic campiness to dine at The Ritz, heckle side-by-side at an original performance of Hamlet at Shakespeare’s request, bicker over a beer in ancient Rome, and accidentally hit witches with their car.
All of their shenanigans are done to prevent God’s “Great Plan” — which neither of them have much interest in, beyond it being their 9 to 5. Crowley and Aziraphale are less interested in serving the divine binaries of good and evil, and more in nurturing the fundamental unpredictability of humanity.
The pair’s ride-or-die bond is built on a mutual respect for the best and worst of people’s nature, and a fundamental disregard for the oversimplification of morality.
Finally getting a chance to sit and watch @GoodOmensPrime and I have to say that David Tennant and Michael Sheen as Crowley and Aziraphale is just absolute perfect casting. It’s like they stepped right out of the book and onto the screen. #GoodOmens
— Wulfy's Gaming Tidbits (@wulfeyes05) June 19, 2019
It’s a bond that leads to a surprising amount of teasing and flirting between the pair, as Tennant’s demonic fallen angel, Crowley, performs miracle after miracle to keep Aziraphale out of trouble and vice versa. Crowley’s virulent claims of demonic allegiance easily forgotten with a batting of Aziraphale’s eyelashes.
“You could always miracle it away,” Tennant’s Crowley practically purrs at Sheen’s bubbly Aziraphale, whose white coat has been smeared with paint.
“Yes, but I’d always know the stain was there,” Aziraphale pouts in response. A pout Crowley returns right back before miracling the stain away with his powers, leaving Aziraphale practically blushing as the two continue striding into the nunnery turned paintball camp to find records of the antichrist.
It’s an interaction that isn’t just gay as all hell (and heaven, really), but embodies the shows all too important message, that even the most extreme beings are more complex than they seem.
— Sarah Parcak (@indyfromspace) June 20, 2019
As the voice of God (here voiced by Francis McDormand) says in the first episode, “Most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused, not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, but by people being fundamentally people.”
In our current world, where cancel culture, politics, social media, even celebrity gossip is increasingly polarising, Good Omens is a raucously entertaining reminder that things are often more complicated and human than they appear, that our apparent allegiances are not as important as what we do for the greater good of the people we care about.
A demon does the right things occasionally, and an angel does the wrong, but that’s neither good nor bad on its own. Just human.
Crowley: “ What is it that he said that got everyone so upset?”
Angel: “Be kind to one another “
— Dotun Opasina (@dclassovercomer) June 20, 2019
An Angel-Demon Love Story…
David Tennant’s overdramatic bad-boy rendition of Crowley harnesses the best of both his Tenth Doctor eccentricities, and his time as the deliciously despicably evil, Kilgrave in Netflix’s Jessica Jones, and is perfectly matched by Michael Sheen’s dorkish, bookish not entirely angelic angel, Aziraphale.
The two are irresistibly good together in the yin and yang style portrayal, which they both have said they played as a romance.
While Gaiman has always carefully stated the exact nature of the characters’ love for one another is up to the reader, it’s difficult to watch Michael Sheen gazing adoringly at David Tennant as he saunters around in tight leather pants and sunnies, blaring Bohemian Rhapsody from the radio in his Bentley, and not read the two’s story as 6000 year-long romantic comedy.
There’s certainly a queer undertone to the pairing, not merely characterised by their familiarity or flirtatiousness (or several people observing them as boyfriends on several occasions), but in the consistent cautiousness that both Crowley and Aziraphale approach their ‘fraternising’ with.
One of the many examples being when Crowley offers Aziraphale to stay with him and Aziraphale replies, not with a no, but a “I don’t think my side would like that”.
Aziraphale: “Did you go to Alpha Centauri?”
Crowley: “No. Things happened. I lost my best friend.”
The way Crowley’s voice breaks while saying that makes me sob every time. Just watched GO for the 4th time. @neilhimself what did you do to me? 😍 pic.twitter.com/Vvu0sUt5wP
— Sandra Fabiani (@SFabiani67) June 20, 2019
Something that consistently characterises queer relationships in fiction and life, is an awareness that being together ultimately endangers one another, in contexts where queerness is deemed wrong.
So, it’s no wonder really that Crowley and Aziraphale’s constant fear that their friendship endangers the other, because they are meant to be sworn enemies as agents of heaven and hell, combined with all the other elements of their onscreen relationship is so lovingly read as queer by fans.
But however you chose to interpret it, it’s certainly a calamitously heartfelt relationship, performed stupendously by its leads. Certainly, one of the best Neil Gaiman adaptions to date, and one of the most fun watches of 2019.
Good Omens, unfortunately, is only a limited series with just one season of six episodes on Amazon Prime, but it is worth stealing your mate’s Amazon password for.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m up to my fourth re-watch.
Good Omens is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Merryana Salem is a 20-something Lebanese Indigenous Australian masquerading on most social media as @akajustmerry. She’s also a freelance critic, writer, teacher and waffle addict who hopes you ate something nice today.