When the most recent adaptation of Good Omens was announced, every fan of this bestselling book had to have felt a few palpitations. Written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, this story of the adventures of an angel named Aziraphale and a demon named Crowley who are trying to prevent the apocalypse, has been the victim of multiple failed attempts. A Terry Gillian film adaptation fell through in the early aughts. There were rumours that Terry Jones, of Monty Python fame, might write a screenplay for a limited tv series. In 2015, Pratchett passed away after his long tussle with Alzheimer’s. Gaiman has said he lost interest in adapting the series after Pratchett’s death, but when he received a letter that Pratchett had written to Gaiman while he was alive, Gaiman changed his mind. Pratchett had left the rights to adapt Good Omens to Gaiman. Which is how we got the first season of Good Omens in 2019, written for television by Gaiman (who is also executive producer on the show), directed by Douglas Mackinnon, and starring Michael Sheen as Aziraphale and David Tennant as Crowley.
Stars of Season 1
Aziraphale runs an antique bookshop and enjoys eating sushi (much to the horror and puzzlement of his supervisor Gabriel, played by Jon Hamm, who does not understand the appeal of eating for sustenance). Along comes a demon named Crowley, wearing dark sunglasses, and professing love for ridiculously fast cars and loud music. “I didn’t really fall,” Crowley says about his fall from heaven, “I just … sauntered vaguely downward.” After living on Earth for thousands of years as part of their respective assignments, Aziraphale and Crowley have formed a certain attachment — to each other and also to humans. Sheen and Tennant’s chemistry in the show is incredible as they bring to life the charming bromance between the angel and demon who should be on opposite sides, but find they have a lot in common. The show’s star cast also included Frances Mcdormand, Nick Offferman, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brian Cox and Bill Paterson. For those who haven’t watched the first season, McDormand plays God and Cumberbatch is Satan. You’re welcome.
Pressing Pause on the Apocalypse
The stakes of the show is a pending apocalypse, i.e. the end of the earth and humanity as we know it. The catalyst of these events is the Antichrist — a young boy named Adam Young (Sam Taylor Buck), who is prophesied by a witch named Agnes Nutter in the 17th century to usher in this series of cataclysmic events. Neither Aziraphale nor Crowley are particularly interested in ushering these end times, even though both have strict orders to go along with the prophecy.
Thanks to a mix-up orchestrated by Crowley, when the real Antichrist is born, the baby ends up with the wrong family, which means when it’s time to prevent the apocalypse, Aziraphale and Crowley have to find the correct young boy in order to influence him, in a good way, to reject his dark destiny. While trying to keep the world from ending, Aziraphale and Crowley also realise that their supervisors seem to be eagerly gearing up for a war between Heaven and Hell. This is not good news for an angel and demon who have gone from enemies to friends.
The dilemma for Aziraphale and Crowley is whether or not they should kill Adam the Antichrist. Can they persuade Adam to not destroy humanity, or does that intention of persuasion register as too trite?
Meanwhile, it is revealed that a descendant of Agnes Nutter, Anathema Device (Adria Arojna), is in possession of the last remaining copy of Agnes’s book of prophecies. Anathema also wants to prevent armageddon and so embarks upon a quest to find the Antichrist.
In the middle of all the humour, Good Omens explores the serious philosophical implications of free will and predetermination. There are also subversive takes on characters from some religious texts. (So much so that a Christian group felt revolted by the show’s deviant representation of angels and demons, and called for removal of the show from Netflix. Incidentally, the show is on Prime Video. God, as they say, is in the details.)
Also in the Running
There is also a witchfinder whose name is Sergeant Shadwell (Michael Mckean), who is deeply involved in spreading social awareness against witches, and Newt Pulsifier (Jack Whitehall), a descendant of the witchfinder who had put Agnes Nutter to death. Pulsifier has a puritan streak, but in a classic twist, he ends up canoodling with the witchy Anathema in a carnal fashion.
Keep an eye out for the four horsemen of the apocalypse too, who are faithful to their roles but not in a villainous way; just in a way where bringing about the end of the world is just another day in the office. There is also Duke of Hell, perpetually annoyed and acting on his petty impulses, eradicating anyone who causes him mild anguish.
Throughout the season, Aziraphale and Crowley's actions to prevent the apocalypse attract the attention of their respective superiors, Gabriel from Heaven and Beelzebub (Anna Maxwell Martin) from Hell. Though Aziraphale has goodness (of a variety) coursing through him, he does not conflate this with the obeisance to authority that is considered basic for angels. Similarly, Crowley thwarts his superiors and reveals a hint of wickedness to his good self while wading through satanists, the four horsemen, witchfinders and God herself in an attempt to find Adam the Antichrist, with Aziraphale for company.
Meanwhile Adam — in stark contrast to how most would imagine the harbinger of evil — is a regular kid, albeit with a hellhound.
Spoilers for Season 1
Ultimately, when confronted with Adam’s humanity, Aziraphale and Crowley decide not to kill the boy. Crucially, Adam expresses no intention to play a part in the pending apocalypse, which alters the course of events. The threat of the world ending has been neutralised.
Elsewhere, Pulsifer and Anathema make a go of it as a couple. They also receive another book of prophecies from Agnes Nutter, but decide to cast it aside and make their own way. Shadwell and Madame Tracy similarly find a connection. it’s happy endings all around, except for Aziraphale and Crowley, who are sentenced to death in Heaven and Hell respectively.
Fortunately, they come up with a clever switch, inspired by Agnes’s last prophecy, and the last we see of them is the two enjoying a relaxing dinner together. Adam, on the other hand, is confined to a garden as punishment, but decides to leave it anyway, grabbing an apple on the way out. To quote the God of Good Omens, “There never was an apple, in Adam’s opinion, that wasn’t worth the trouble you got into for eating it.” In the end, we’ve come full circle and ended up where we started, even if the otherworldly forces would have it otherwise.
What we know about Season 2
The second season of Good Omens is based on the notes of a sequel that Gaiman and Pratchett had been working on, Gaiman has said in interviews. The book was tentatively titled “668: The Neighbour of the Beast”. The season focuses on events that unfold after the apocalypse has been thwarted, and the story centres around the mystery of Gabriel’s forgotten memory, which Crowley and Aziraphale are trying to help with and investigate. In the first look from the teaser, we see Gabriel naked, and covered with a blanket in Aziraphale’s bookshop, enjoying a delightful cup of coffee offered by the angel. He knows he is supposed to relay important information to the angel, who is now considered a traitor, but cannot seem to recall what it is. He is worried that something terrible will happen unless he is able to remember it.
The first episode of Good Omens season 2 drops on July 28th, 2023.