Good Omens 1.6 – The Very Last Day of the Rest of Their Lives

It’s not out of some sense of smugness that we don’t watch very much contemporary television. It’s that there’s so little time and we’re already devoting an hour of our day to watching something old with our son, so we just don’t see a lot of it. Maybe three nights a week Marie and I will look at something else after we put the kid to bed, but those are often older shows as well, although we’re looking at season two of the CBC’s Frankie Drake Mysteries now, and we’ll start season three of Stranger Things soon.

I mention this because when we do watch modern television, I’m often surprised by how incredibly long the endings are compared to an end-on-a-dime ITC adventure series, or pretty much anything else we watch. Stranger Things is a good comparison point again. I think that last hour of the second season finished its climax after about thirty minutes and devoted the rest of the running time to spending a little time with every single character without some killer beast from the Upside Down barking at them. The final part of Good Omens is like that as well. It luxuriates with its full sixty minute running time, despite the resolution coming at the halfway point. So the wrapup and farewell scenes go on a lot more than I was expecting. It was all very entertaining, whimsical, and occasionally sweet, just not what I’m used to yet.

So everything does end well – I mean, the world doesn’t really end, and that’s a good thing – and I was very pleased that all the metaphorical flaming swords from act one find a use in act three. Even some of the Easter eggs have payoffs. One of Adam’s friends quotes Tori Amos’s song “The Waitress” and then Amos herself turns up to sing the old standard “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” at the end. It’s a splendid program, the kid enjoyed it a whole lot, and episode five is majestically silly and brilliant. Us grown-ups were so pleased with it that, since Gaiman undertook this labor of love in memory of his old friend and co-writer Terry Pratchett, the least we can do is show our appreciation by picking up a copy of the original novel. Reckon Star Line Books has a copy.

What I really, really want, though, is a nice tie-in edition of Agnes’s book of prophecies, in a green hardback mocked up to look like the prop in the show, colored pencil drawings on the title page and everything. That and a Blu-ray set. Those’d look nice under the Christmas tree, wouldn’t they?

Good Omens 1.5 – The Doomsday Option

Another short entry tonight. I wanted to note that I’ve always liked the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – the ones from The Young Ones are the best – and these are a fine addition to the film and TV depictions of the quartet. Interestingly, Pestilence has been replaced by one called Pollution, in much the same way that Delirium replaced Delight in Gaiman’s Sandman comics.

It’s an entertaining story where friendship wins out over very stupid decisions, and where Crowley’s lovely Bentley catches fire and the flames, strangely, don’t go out. This builds to one of the most hilarious climaxes ever, which had all three of us roaring with laughter, and then four eleven year-old kids on bicycles steal the gag right out from under David Tennant. Neat trick! Who thought the end of the world could be this fun?

Good Omens 1.4 – Saturday Morning Funtime

Episode four of Good Omens answers the nigh-impossible question, Who could you possibly cast as the Metatron after Alan Rickman’s hilarious and perfect performance as the voice of God in Dogma? The answer is, of course, Derek Jacobi, which strikes me as just right. The scene where Aziraphale calls upon the Almighty and can’t get past the Metatron climaxes with what might just be the most perfectly timed and delivered use of the f-word that I’ve ever seen. Round of applause to Michael Sheen there.

It’s worth noting that the novel of Good Omens predates the film Dogma by about nine years, and it’s ever so possible that Kevin Smith might have read the book once or twice.

Our son’s favorite scene came when Crowley gets to use some holy water that he’s been saving as insurance for the last several decades, and explains why this flashy showoff still uses an analog answering machine with cassette tapes. It really is hilarious. The whole story is wildly entertaining, although honesty commands me to point out that this is a little less child-friendly than I thought it might be. I think that we’re pretty open-minded parents and there’s nothing egregiously “adult” in the show, but in episodes two and three, Jon Hamm did have some fun loudly talking about pornography in Aziraphale’s bookshop, and one of the supporting characters lives across the hall from a sex worker who frequently and discreetly mentions her customers.

Things are shot and filmed tastefully, but even with nothing shown, Anathema’s comedy sex scene tonight still had us wincing. Our son, mercifully, was so embarrassed by the smooching that he looked away and waited for Crowley to do something wild or for the action to return to Adam, his dog, and his kid gang in Tadfield, especially now that Adam has figured out that somehow, he has incredible powers and can alter reality. Still, odds are pretty good that nine or ten years from now, our son will check this show out again and note that he just can’t believe we let him watch this when he was eight.

Good Omens 1.3 – Hard Times

There’s a bit of a “haven’t I seen this before” in the very, very long pre-titles sequence to tonight’s episode. It traces Aziraphale and Crowley’s long friendship over a few thousand years and reminded me of Dream and Hob’s meet-every-hundred-years friendship from the pages of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman comic. Then again, it didn’t really strike Marie that way, and she’s read more of Gaiman than I have. I really enjoyed it. Mark Gatiss shows up in the Blitz segment as a Nazi spy.

We were up pretty late tonight and didn’t get started until our son’s usual bedtime. Afraid he mostly zoned out of this one. We shouldn’t keep him up playing games, I suppose. He’ll need a recap before the next installment.

Good Omens 1.2 – The Book

Our son doesn’t have much of a background in religious mythology, largely because we’re going to spend precious minutes on silly things, I’d rather spend time talking about the sea monsters around Dead Man’s Point. But it occurred to me today that he’d probably never even heard of the antichrist before last night, so I tried to give him a crash course in the Book of Revelation, but I ended up talking more about Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist and The Omen, because people in the seventies were really, really worried about Satan.

Our son does this thing where he has a whole lot of trouble maintaining eye contact when he’s troubled or worried. I forget that it usually means something’s bothering him and just grew impatient while he looked at everything around me. “It’s just that it’s just kind of… weird,” he grumbled, and we assured him that not so many people believe this stuff anymore. “They’re really, really worried more about the Rapture these days,” I said, and left it there.

So on to episode two of Good Omens, and a few minutes in, Crowley muttered that he hadn’t planned to be among the Fallen, he was just along for the ride. I figured I should interrupt for another crash course. I did very well. I didn’t even get onto a tangent about free will.

There was a little less of Dog in this installment than our son had hoped for, but the cast grows to include a pile of new characters, including the first of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a witchfinder-in-training with a Fourth Doctor necktie, and Anathema Device, the great-great-great-something-granddaughter of Agnes Nutter, who was the last witch to be executed in England. Anathema is played by Adria Arjona, who had been Dorothy in that Oz show I forgot to watch a couple of years ago (just like 98% of the television audience!) and she possesses the only known copy of Agnes’s hilariously specific The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter. The whole episode is entertaining, but once Anathema’s book ends up in Aziraphale’s hands, it’s a roaringly funny climax, as the book even knows what the angel is drinking.

Good Omens 1.1 – In the Beginning

Every once in a while, the three series that we’re watching on alternating evenings all wrap up at the same time, which is a perfect opportunity to change up the format just a little and watch something across, say, six evenings. And hey bravo, here’s the brand new Amazon / BBC co-production of Good Omens, written and overseen by Neil Gaiman, and based on a celebrated and much-loved novel that Gaiman co-wrote with the late and very much-loved Terry Pratchett in 1990.

Our son knows Gaiman from Coraline, which he has read and watched and loved, and Fortunately, the Milk, which I enjoyed reading to him very much, and I hope that he’ll love The Ocean at the End of the Lane one day, because I think that one’s wonderful. Pratchett, I don’t know at all yet. Sorry. I’m aware it’s a hole in my edermekation, but we can’t all know everything.

Good Omens is available to stream for Amazon Prime members now – and I was due for another free trial – and will air on the BBC later this year and then be available on proper shelvable media. Over the course of six episodes, it will tell a story I knew nothing much about going in, other than it stars Michael Sheen as an angel named Aziraphale and David Tennant as a demon named Crowley, and they’ve spent the last 4400 years being pals and not letting any of their kind know about their unacceptable friendship, and that they enjoy music and drinks and used books and spirited debate.

And then one bad night eleven years ago, Crowley gets an assignment: to drop off the newborn antichrist where he can be swapped with the newly-delivered son of an American diplomat – y’all remember those Omen movies from the 70s, right? – and, on his eleventh birthday, take ownership of a hellhound and destroy the planet. Crowley convinces Aziraphale that he should stop being so passive and thwart this evil scheme, despite the fact that the Almighty must have planned this.

Eleven years go by and the hellhound does not show up on this tyke’s birthday. That’s because the antichrist got swapped for a different kid entirely, and while our heroes have been working their supernatural influences on the wrong boy, the real antichrist has been growing up with a perfectly ordinary life in the town of Lower Tadfield.

To be sure, there’s a lot that an eight year-old isn’t going to get in this delightful comedy, but ours grasped the basics and the misunderstandings. Apart from Tennant cussing up a storm when he learns his lovely little planet, with all its fast cars and loud music, has got just eleven years left, I don’t think there’s anything here that an open-minded parent would find objectionable. It was a very, very fun hour, and the arrival of the hellhound many, many miles from where anybody thinks its meant to be, had us laughing out loud and really looking forward to tomorrow night’s installment.