Hell quite literally arrives in a handbasket in Amazon Prime’s doomsday comedy, “Good Omens,” where the infant antichrist is delivered by a long-haired demon who looks more like a member of REO Speedwagon than a harbinger of End Times.
Armageddon is now imminent — or is it?
The forces of good and evil drag their feet toward the finish line, and toward comical ends, in Neil Gaiman’s bizarre, charming and often bewildering six-part limited series, “Good Omens.”
Satan’s henchman Crowley (David Tennant) and the Almighty’s servant, angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen), knew this day was coming since they first met in the Garden of Eden all those centuries ago.
They’ve been influencing mankind in a proxy tug-of-war between heaven and hell ever since, as ordered by their respective lords, of course. But the two secretly became friends during their missions on Earth and aren’t looking forward to returning to their boring old realms, where they’ll spend eternity apart.
Narrated by God (and who better to provide her voice than Frances McDormand) the series, out Friday, jumps around in time – from Adam and Eve’s first romp in the garden to present-day London, Noah’s Ark, ancient Rome, the French revolution and Christ’s crucifixion.
The duo is there for it all, bringing out the best and worst in man while remaining fashion-conscious in a runway’s worth of turbans, togas or ruffled poet shirts.
But the best part of this series is the bond between the flippant, devil-may-care Crowley and the self-doubting, uber-conscientious Aziraphale. Tennant and Sheen are fabulous together. They embody the deep affection and irritation of a long-term marriage while dancing atop the thrill of a forbidden, clandestine love affair.
By the time we meet the two otherworldly beings, they can finish each other’s sentences, and the line between good and evil is negotiable.
“That’s got to hurt,” Crowley says, cringing as Jesus is nailed to the cross. “What was it he said that got everyone so upset?
“Be kind to each other,” answers Aziraphale.
“Oh yeah, that’ll do it.”
The story itself, based on a collaborative fantasy novel by Gaiman and late author Terry Pratchett, is hard to track. It’s a confusing, feverish tale told via a collage of delightfully funny tidbits and an exasperating number of subplots, or are they the plot? Hard to tell.
Written by Gaiman (“American Gods”) and directed by Douglas Mackinnon (“Doctor Who,” “Sherlock”), the story itself falls apart and reassembles several times per each hour-long episode, but when viewed as a collection of clever sketches by master performers it’s a fun frolic — and with a cast of biblical proportions.
Everyone appears here in a “Where’s Waldo” equivalent of picking out your favorite actors from the show’s colorful parade of witch hunters, occultists, four horsepeople, nuns, Nazis and other notable figures throughout history.
The central roles we can mention without the risk of spoilers: Aziraphale’s boss, Archangel Gabriel, is played by Jon Hamm while Crowley reports to Beelzebub (Anna Maxwell Martin). Miranda Richardson, Michael McKean, Jack Whitehall and Ned Dennehy also show up in key roles.
But it’s the demon and angel tasked with bringing about Armageddon who steal the show.
Crowley, whose name used to be Crawly when he was a snake slithering around forbidden fruit, saunters about like a rock star, wearing dark Lou Reed shades indoors and black leather on the sunniest of days. And he insists he’s not a fallen angel: “I didn’t really fall. I sauntered, vaguely downward.”
Aziraphale still dresses like it’s the 18th century, uses phrases like “tickety-boo” (“Call the Midwife” fans will understand) and listens to classical records on a gramophone. He’s also an avid foodie who dines at small, exclusive bistros, even though he doesn’t technically need to eat to survive.
When asked why he wound up in a French prison awaiting the guillotine, he explains he couldn’t find a good crepe anywhere else in the world. Revolution be damned.
God tells us that this story will end where it began, in the Garden of Eden. The prophecy might terrify if this trip to hell — in a handbasket, no less — wasn’t such a slice of comedic heaven.
Where: Amazon Prime
When: Any time, starting Friday
Rating: Teens (age 13 and older)