I love absurdist existential humor that bluntly yet gently proposes that maybe we're taking the cosmic machinations of life, the universe, and everything a bit too seriously. If we can clearly observe that many of our leaders and systems are run by buffoons who scarcely know what they're doing, is it that much of a stretch that the universe and various possible metaphysical forms of divine order might be a bit of a joke? The masters of this tone, Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, suppose a gigantic and all-powerful cosmic existence that's far beyond our reach as mere mortals bound to our insignificant little blue planet, but nonetheless suffers from the same lack of order and meaning we contend with every second of every day.
Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy and Pratchett's Discworld series create massive sci-fi and fantasy worlds, respectively, that equally skewer and celebrate the borderline anarchic irreverence of existence. Good Omens, the long awaited and eventually miniseries adaptation of Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's 1990 novel, succeeds primarily because it captures this absurdist tone in a visual storytelling format that usually waters down said giddy anarchy in favor of more traditional story structure and character arcs. Adapted by Gaiman himself and garnering Pratchett's blessing before his passing in 2015, the beauty in BBC and Amazon's miniseries lies in the mischievous little details and world building around its simple but existentially significant premise about an angel and a demon who are secretly friends trying to stop Armageddon from causing a really, really bad day for residents of the universe.
The relationship between the naïve but well-meaning angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and the sneaky demon Crowley (David Tennant) has a shaky start when Crowley causes Adam and Eve to be kicked out of the garden due to that pesky apple and knowledge scenario, screwing things up for Aziraphale, who was supposed to protect the garden. Since millions of years of forced companionship in the form of keeping an eye on those ridiculous and pesky humans who populate Earth after the garden incident should result in some form of a bond, Aziraphale and Crowley eventually become friends. Since such camaraderie between the minions of heaven and hell are prohibited, the two keep their chumminess to themselves. Yet all of this is about to come to a screeching halt as the Anti-Christ is revealed to eventually bring about the death of all corporeal existence, and Crowley is tagged to make sure this plan goes smoothly.
The plan doesn't go smoothly. First, a deliciously ‘80s sit-com style mishap results in Crowley guarding the wrong kid he thinks is the son of the Prince of Darkness, while the real thing, a modest child named Adam (Sam Taylor Buck) and his trusty hellhound disguised as an adorable pooch, lives unaware of his tragic destiny. Crowley and Aziraphale eventually decide to put an end to Hell's plan by stopping Adam, who also might not be so hot on the idea of his 11-year-old-self bringing about the end of days.
This is of course just the initial set-up of the many wacky adventures Good Omens has in store for us. Yet despite its versatile plotting and intricate structure, it's the various details about the way this absurdist metaphysical world operates, as well as the impeccable chemistry between Tennant and Sheen, that turns Good Omens into a precious adaptation of a literary work that defied a traditional adaptation itself. Gaiman smartly sidesteps the narrative's plot thrust in frequent fashion in order to give us hilarious exposition about the various ways the forces of the afterlife work, and mostly doesn't, reminiscent of the guide entries in Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy. The best episode spends more than the first half of its runtime on how Aziraphale and Crowley's friendship developed before the opening credits even begin to roll (I looked it up, this still doesn't count as the longest pre-credits sequence in TV history, but it's up there).
The big question here for Amazon Prime members is if it's worth shelling out all that cold hard cash for a Blu-ray dip? Apart from being able to own this great series, which can leave Amazon at any time that pesky Bezos wishes, and having access to the bountiful extras, the 1080p transfer shows slightly more depth and detail than the streaming version. The show jumps back and forth between multiple timelines and fantastical depictions of the metaphysical world, so we get a bounty of grand and colorful worlds that change wildly in variety. In that sense, the video presentation represents the best possible version of the miniseries' vision.
Prime's lossy surround sound gets a boost here with the DTS-HD 5.1 track. Aside from being able to hear the series' wall-to-wall rocking Queen soundtrack (Tied to a great joke concerning Crowley's damned fate) the way it was intended, Good Omens sports a busy and throbbing sound design thanks to many bombastic sequences about, well, the end of the universe. In that sense, the surround presence is always palpable and strong, the track shows great dynamic range, and the many quirky dialogue scenes show distinct clarity.
The Characters of Good Omens: A very short EPK about, you guessed it, the characters.
The World of Good Omens: Another 1-minute EPK, this time about the story's world building.
Page to Screen: Gaiman summarizes how the adaptation came to be.
Bookshop Tour: Gaiman gives a whimsical tour of Aziraphale's cozy bookshop and points out cute details we might have missed.
Aziraphale's World: Sheen talks about his character's arc.
Crowley's World: Same for Tennant and his character. Even the runtimes are the same.
Deleted Scenes: 10 minutes of excised material. Some good stuff here.
Queen Compilation: Exactly what it sounds like; a cut of all the Queen songs in the series.
FX Reel: 3-minute promotional video showcasing the before-and-after of CG effects.
Commentary: Gaiman and director Douglas Mackinnon provide a loose, humorous, but detailed commentary on all six episodes about the production and the various details and symbolism we might have missed.
We also get a Trailer and Galleries for Concept Art, Storyboards, and Costume Design.
Good Omens is a shockingly faithful and therefore terrific adaptation of this modern classic. The Blu-ray presentation is aces in all aspects. Sure, it's readily available on Prime, but fans should preserve this kind of excellence.