The Lord really does work in mysterious ways in “Good Omens,” which – given the recent abundance of apocalyptic series – is surprisingly good, and even when it lags, considerable fun. Neil Gaiman adapts his own 1990 novel, yielding a show that thematically falls somewhere between the prolific writer’s impenetrable “American Gods” and TBS’ end-of-the-world comedy “Miracle Workers.”
Most of the show’s charm hinges on the unlikely camaraderie between an Angel and a Demon, played, with considerable gusto, by Michael Sheen and David Tennant.
Sheen’s Aziraphale and Tennant’s Crowley have been through a lot together, stationed as they are on Earth, where high-class lunches seem to be their favorite pastime. Both are taken aback to see events spiraling toward the brink of Armageddon, with the birth of the Antichrist and forces above and below seemingly bent on the planet’s destruction.
Basically, think of them as two middle-level employees of rival companies, each dealing with the bureaucracy and questionable edicts from their respective management.
Beyond the perfectly matched leads, “Good Omens” is populated by an impressive cast, including Jon Hamm as the Angel Gabriel (a typically officious boss), Miranda Richardson and Michael McKean as two mortals in way over their heads, Mireille Enos as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and Frances McDormand as the voice of the Almighty. Benedict Cumberbatch and Brian Cox also drop in, unrecognizably, as Satan and Death, respectively.
The high stakes notwithstanding, the story unfolds with a sense of unhurried whimsy. While it risks being too precious at first, the show gets better as the hours proceed, including a later episode (there are only six) that follows Aziraphale and Crowley’s interactions through thousands of years of human history.
Gaiman (who shared credit on the novel with Terry Pratchett) wrote all the episodes, which manage to freshen up what is admittedly pretty well-worn territory. “Fancy me holding the Antichrist,” a Satanic nun gushes, cradling the baby.
“Good Omens” would benefit from a bit more forward momentum during its midsection, but its underlying appeal relies upon making even the biggest issues somehow mundane. The fire and brimstone notwithstanding, the show is really about friendship, however inconvenient it might be.
“Makes you wonder what God’s really planning,” the demon asks almost teasingly in the early going, to which the angel responds, “It’s ineffable.”
The Devil here really is in the details, but thanks to Sheen and Tennant, the reasons for watching “Good Omens” prove less of a mystery.
“Good Omens” premieres May 31 on Amazon.