good omens tv show – did it live up to my expectations?

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett is one of my favourite books of all time. I read it when I was around 15, and honestly I haven’t obsessed over a book in the same way since. I wrote (very bad) fanfiction. I made notes in my copy, and made all my friends make notes in it, too. For my 16th birthday, I had a Good Omens cake. (My favourite bit about it were the little snakes. They’ve got sunglasses!)

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So, when I heard that there was going to be a Good Omens TV series, I was both very excited and very nervous. I didn’t really enjoy the American Gods TV adaptation, and, well. Good Omens was a big part of my queer journey. Two of the characters, Aziraphale and Crowley, were so clearly in love with each other that no other interpretation made sense to me. And I wasn’t sure if I was ready to watch the series if it didn’t at least hint at that.

Well. I’ve watched it all (some episodes twice), and here are my thoughts.

For those who haven’t read/watched it yet, the story basically follows an angel, Aziraphale, and a demon, Crowley, as they attempt to avert the apocalypse following the birth of the antichrist. Along the way, there are also witchfinders, witches, the anthropomorphic personifications of War, Death, Famine, and Pollution, and chattering Satanic nuns. It’s wild.

The Casting

First of all, I want to point out how hilarious it is that David Tennant plays the demon Crowley. In my time in the Good Omens fandom, literally every single person would fan-cast him as Crowley. The fact that it actually happened is a weird clashing of worlds for me!

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Secondly, I thought that Michael Sheen, who plays Aziraphale the angel, was absolutely perfect. I think Aziraphale is actually a more complex character than Crowley. Crowley is a demon who is actually a pretty good guy. He looks cool, but he isn’t cool. His idea of demonic behaviour is yelling at houseplants and making Wi-Fi go down. He’s a bit unpredictable, but he’s always on humanity’s side.

Aziraphale, on the other hand, is a bit of a bastard. He’s more self-centred than Crowley, and annoyingly self-righteous, too. He has a complicated relationship with temptation – he knows he shouldn’t give in to the pleasures of food, and material goods, but it feels so delightfully sinful to do so. He can be scary at times, because almost any action can be excused if Heaven says it’s the right thing to do. He is also fastidious and more British than he has any right to be. And I think that Michael Sheen nailed it.

Outside of those two characters, I liked Anathema, the witch whose entire life has been foretold by her prophetic ancestor, as well as Newt, an inept engineer. Adam Young, the antichrist, and the other kids were good, although almost too posh to exist.

 

The Plot

Overall, I think that the plot was actually improved, in comparison to the book. Some of the plot points were made a lot clearer – for example, there’s a slightly complicated bit where three babies are switched, and everyone loses track of which one the antichrist is. In the book, it’s pretty confusing. In the show, it is infinitely less so.

I also think that the ending was vastly improved. I’ve always thought that Neil Gaiman’s endings have been a bit weak, and the Good Omens book is no exception. It was also really great for me, as there was a plot twist that genuinely surprised me as it had not been in the original. I really hadn’t expected that!

 

The Britishness

One of the things that makes the original book so charming is the essential Britishness of the humour. I don’t even know how to describe it. I do think that a little bit of it was lost, particularly because many of the jokes were told via voiceover by Frances McDormand, an American actress. Maybe if she had been British, it would have worked better.

However, in the miniseries we also get a lot more time in the UK throughout the ages. There are pivotal scenes in England in the 60s, as well as during WW2. London (especially Soho), the M25, and Oxfordshire are displayed in a way that I don’t think is quite possible in a book. The countryside of Lower Tadfield (where Adam the antichrist lives) in particular is idyllic in a way that’s almost eerie because of its perfection. I really enjoyed how this differed from the areas of London that Aziraphale and Crowley spend their time in, which is a bit grimy and a lot more lived-in and real.

The Gay

So. If you want to read a great post about why Good Omens is definitively gay, go here. I’m not going to try and convince you because it is just right there. But in my opinion, the miniseries definitely went the distance in terms of the gay content. Michael Sheen literally said to himself every time he played Aziraphale:

“My objective in this scene is to not show you how much I love you and just gaze longingly at you all the time.”

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It did skip over some of my favourite gay moments, such as this description of Aziraphale:

Many people, meeting Aziraphale for the first time, formed three impressions: that he was English, that he was intelligent, and that he was gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide.

But I think on the whole, it was pretty damn gay. The third episode has a whole thirty-minute segment solely dedicated to Aziraphale and Crowley’s relationship – from when they first meet in the garden of Eden to Roman times to the French revolution. (I’ve read fanfictions that are literally exactly this so I was basically screaming throughout this entire segment.)

I can see why some reviewers are mentioning queerbaiting when talking about Good Omens. There’s no declaration of love, or a kiss. But I’d recommend reading this article by Erin Hart which talks about asexual representation, and how we don’t need an on-screen kiss or anything like that to know that there is an intimate relationship there, whether it is sexual, or not.

Have you watched or read it? What did you think? Let me know!

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5 thoughts on “good omens tv show – did it live up to my expectations?

  1. Holly says:

    Oooh loved reading this post!! That Good Omens cake is the greatest thing I’ve ever seen!! I’m about 2/3 of the way through the audiobook of Good Omens, which I’m trying to read quickly so I can start watching the show. A few friends of mine have highly praised the adaptation, so I’m really excited to start it!

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    • whatthelog says:

      Isn’t it amazing?! And do let me know what you thought about the book/show. (On that note, I really must listen to the audiobook – I’ve never read it like that before.) Like I said in the post, it’s one of my favourite books ever!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. L M Dee says:

    I’m glad the essence of the book shines through, no doubt due to Gaiman’s involvement. Thanks for this good review.
    Re: the ‘gayer than a tree…” is offset by the footnote that angels are sexless unless they really make an effort, though! And these days, as Gaiman has suggested, it would be more acceptably read as non-binary/agende.
    I enjoyed the medium article you linked to. It’s not queerbaiting to have two people who are in love without sex; it’s queerbaiting to me when you have two people are in love and yet that relationship has lots of “no homo!” moments such as having various female love interests inserted between the two characters in a way that wouldn’t be the case if the two people (characters) were male and female. But neither Crowley nor Aziraphale are seen having any other relationships, let alone sexual ones with women! As opposed to say, Sherlock with John/Mary and suggestions of Sherlock/Molly; every buddy cop show where they’re best buds but have lots of not-gay sex to show they’re straight because you can’t be having queer characters as action heroes or something?! (Spartacus did better of course on the gay warrior rep)
    There’s a struggle at the moment with “this show is too politically correct” for having gay or bi main characters or non-white main characters, vs the “this show is queerbaiting” if there’s a nonsexual relationship between 2 people of the same gender, and asexual people are often being hit on both sides, because asexual rep is boring” (thanks Moffat) and politically correct if acknowledged and “desexualising” and “homophobic” if applied to a same sex relationship in particular because for many love/romance *has* to equal sex or it’s not “real”.
    I have a lot of feelings about this and I’ve seen a lot of the discourse around Good Omens, and I’m thankful you gave a balanced view here 🙂

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    • whatthelog says:

      Omg thank you for such a great comment – and sorry for not getting back to you sooner!

      I’m glad that you liked my thoughts – and you’re absolutely right, the end bit of the ‘gayer than a tree’ is really important, and I should have included it. I’m really glad that the show has been updated to reflect society and gender today, and the increasing acceptance of nonbinary/genderless individuals. For example, I thought the scenes of Crowley as a nanny to Warlock were really great, because it took itself absolutely seriously with its depiction of him as female/female-presenting.

      Oh yeah, I was in the Sherlock fandom for a really long time, so I definitely know what you’re talking about in regards to queerbaiting. I think that it’s a term that’s thrown around so much that people aren’t quite sure what it actually entails. I absolutely had to look it up to ensure that I was understanding it correctly.
      And I definitely agree that your examples are queerbaiting, whereas in Good Omens it definitively isn’t. I really hope that through Good Omens people can come to recognise that an asexual relationship is completely valid, and that we don’t need to have kissing/sexual content for it to be ‘real’. I definitely have been guilty of thinking that myself in the past, and through discourse such as Erin Hart’s article I’ve been trying to educate myself more on other queer experiences such as asexuality 🙂

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