At the start of Good Omens, an angel and a demon are best friends forever… but forever might end before the week is up.
And so begins Amazon’s madcap adaptation of Neil Gaiman (American Gods) and Terry Pratchett’s 1990 novel, Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. The project was in the works in 2015, when Pratchett passed away; his passion for the material drove Gaiman to complete it as writer, executive producer and showrunner.
In a minute, we’ll want to hear your thoughts about “In the Beginning.” But first, a recap:
God (hi, Olive Kitteridge‘s Frances McDormand!) opens the hour with a voiceover about everyone who’s ever been wrong about how the world got started. She goes on to correct those who says that the Divine toys with her creation: “God does not play dice with the universe. I play an ineffable game of my own devising. For everyone else, it’s like playing poker in a pitch-dark room, for infinite stakes, with a dealer who won’t tell you the rules and who smiles all the time.” Great! Now that that’s all cleared up, let’s go to the Garden of Eden — “just after the beginning,” as she notes — to where a large black-and-red snake entices Eve to take that fateful bite of the apple. The action skips ahead to where Adam and Eve, clothed and expecting a baby, break out of the garden to make their way in the desert. Adam is carrying a flaming sword which, we later learn, he got from a friendly angel who’s watching them from the top of the garden’s wall.
The snake slithers up next to the angel and takes human form (hi, Doctor Who‘s David Tennant!), then introduces himself to the heavenly host as Crawly, a demon. The angel (hi, Masters of Sex‘s Michael Sheen!) says his name is Aziraphale and quickly shuts down the demon’s questions about why God put a Tree of Knowledge in the middle of a garden and then told humans they couldn’t touch it. “Best not to speculate,” Aziraphale sniffs, and we can already tell that he plays by the rules and Crawly usually doesn’t.
The action then jumps to 11 years ago, when two demons rise from the forest floor and meet Crawley — who now calls himself Crowley — in order to give him a mission. He’s to deliver a basket to a convent, and it’s very important that he get it right, but the two by-the-book demons are wary. “If you ask me, he’s been up here too long,” one says to the other, and judging by Crowley’s apparent affinity for fashion, fast cars and rock music, they’re probably right.
It seems that Crowley’s demonic actions on Earth are more anger-inducing than hell-raising — designing terrible traffic patterns, bringing down cell networks, etc. But the task related to the basket is a biggie, judging by the fact that there’s a human baby wriggling inside.
Meanwhile, at a London sushi restaurant, Aziraphale is just tucking into his dinner when the angel Gabriel (hi, Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm!) shows up to pooh-pooh Aziraphale’s earthly tastes and to deliver a message: The world is going to end pretty soon, and Crowley is somehow involved. Please note: Though Aziraphale quails at the news, Gabriel doesn’t seem too worried.
Elsewhere, two women deliver babies at a British convent… unaware that it’s run by Satanic nuns who call themselves The Chattering Order of St. Beryl. The nuns are under orders to switch the newborn son of an American diplomat (hi, Parks and Recreation‘s Nick Offerman) and his wife with the child in Crowley’s basket. But the presence of the other baby boy born at the same time, to Mr. and Mrs. Young, gums up the works. Add in a not-too-bright nun at a crucial point in the switcheroo, and the infant Antichrist winds up with the Youngs, while the Youngs’ baby ends up with the Americans. And the third baby? Eh, we’re sure he turned out fine.
Unaware of the mix-up, Crowley lobbies Aziraphale to help him do something about the rise of The Adversary, which is scheduled for 11 years hence. (Side note: It’s clear they’ve gotten to know each other more over the centuries, and they seem to enjoy each other’s company.) They drink a lot, then come upon a plan: If they get close enough to the child to act as “godfathers,” then Crowley’s evil tutelage will cancel out Aziraphale’s benevolent lessons. “If we do it right, he won’t be evil, or good,” they reason. “He’ll just be normal.”
So five years later, they’re both ensconced (in disguise) as household staff at the diplomat’s home. Aziraphale is the gardner, Francis, and Crowley (who is really committed to his drag) is the boy’s nanny. (By the way, the boy’s name is Warlock, thanks to some very convincing nuns at the convent.) And when both of the spiritual agents report to their superiors — Hell is a basement office with flickering fluorescent lights, by the way, while Heaven has a top-floor set-up with windows as far as the eye can see — they’re surprised to hear that neither side wants to avoid the impending war. All the duo’s work, apparently, has been in vain.
Then we skip to present day, which a title card informs us is six days before the end of the world. Warlock is a bratty almost-11-year-old; Crowley notes that Hell will deliver him a hellhound on his birthday, and when the boy names the beast, Armageddon will get underway. So the pair keep tabs on the situation by infiltrating his birthday party — Crowley as a waiter, Aziraphale as a truly terrible magician — and are shocked when the pup never shows up. “Wrong boy,” Aziraphale deduces. “Wrong boy,” Crowley confirms.
Elsewhere, a giant, slobbering mutt makes a beeline for the real Profane and Wicked Prince of Israel — aka Adam, the son the Youngs have raised, thinking he was their own. He’s playing in the forest with some friends when he muses that he’d like a small, agile, canine companion for his upcoming 11th birthday. The dog hears that and instantly transforms into something much cuddlier. And when Adam says that he’d name the dog Dog, his new pal trots to his side.
At Aziraphale’s bookshop in London, Crowley sniffs the air and realizes that the hellhound has met his master. “He’s coming into his power. We’re doomed,” the demon says dejectedly. “Well then,” Aziraphale replies nervously, “welcome to the End Times.”
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