IN THE BEGINNING God explained that the earth was created in the year 4004 BC on October the 21st at 9:15 in the morning. (“Which makes the earth a Libra.”) And that the dinosaurs are a joke that paleontologists haven’t discovered yet. And the audience hears that the voice of God is Frances McDormand and that it is good.
Ok I can’t maintain that for the whole recap, but I tried! Good Omens, the mini-series adaptation of the beloved Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett novel, is here and I have the daunting task of recapping episode one, “In The Beginning.” So buckle up and pop in your Queen cassette tape, because we are in for a wild and apocalyptic ride!
After God explains the creation of the world and that we are about to witness the end of days (“In accordance with the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch”), we follow Eve as she walks, naked, towards the Tree of Knowledge and witness the serpent convincing her to take a bite. Later, as Adam and Eve are cast out of paradise, we see the angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) watching them from atop the wall that surrounds the Garden of Eden. The serpent slithers up beside him and transforms into the demon Crowley (well, at the time he went by Crawley. Played by David Tennant.)
They discuss God’s decision to kick Adam and Eve out of the garden. (“Bit of an overreaction if you ask me,” retorts Crowley.) Aziraphale says that God’s “Divine Plan” must be obeyed and Crowley points out that maybe, by putting a big tree full of delicious apples in the middle of a garden with a large “Do Not Touch” sign on it, God wanted Adam and Eve to learn the difference between right and wrong and that that is actually a part of the Divine Plan. Otherwise, God would have put the tree on the moon or some other impossible to reach place.
He then points out that Aziraphale used to have a flaming sword, and now it is mysteriously missing. Aziraphale confesses (as they watch Adam use the flaming sword to fight off a lion) that he gave the sword to Adam to help them survive in the wilderness, because Eve is already pregnant. He asks nervously if he made the right choice. Laughing, Crowley suggests that it would be funny if he, the demon, did the right thing, and Aziraphale, the angel, did the wrong thing. Aziraphale pales at the thought.
As the world’s first rain storm lets loose, Aziraphale lifts his wing to shelter Crowley, and the world’s oldest friendship begins.
Flash forward thousands of years — to eleven years before the end of the world to be precise — and we come upon the demons Hastur and Ligur lurking (“They are pacing themselves and can lurk all night if necessary”) in a graveyard. They complain about Crowley being late and that they don’t trust him (“It’d be a funny old world if demons went around trusting each other…”), because he’s been up on Earth too long and he wears his sunglasses indoors and at night. He’s gone native.
Crowley arrives in his Rolls Royce, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” blasting. They “recount their deeds of the day.” Translation: the steps they have taken to acquire souls for their master. Hastur talks about planting the seeds of doubt in a priest. (“In ten years, we shall have him!”) Ligur mentions that he persuaded a politician that accepting a small bribe was okay. (“Within a year, we shall have him!”) Crowley, on the other hand, took down an entire cell phone network for several hours. When they question him on the efficacy of this strategy, he replies “Think about it! 15 million pissed off people that take it out on each other.” Hastur and Ligur grumble about craftsmanship, but Crowley is unbothered, because “Head office don’t seem to mind. They love me down there.”
That settled, they get down to business. They hand him a basket with a crying baby inside and tell him he is to deliver it to the convent of the Chattering Order of St Beryl. That baby is the son of Satan. The Antichrist. Crowley is dismayed for two reasons. One, he doesn’t want the responsibility of transporting the big boss’s son and making sure the hand off to the proper parents goes smoothly. And two, the appearance of the Antichrist means that the end of the world is at hand, and well, he rather likes the world, it turns out. But he takes the baby because orders are orders, especially when they come from the Devil himself.
Meanwhile, Aziraphale is in a restaurant (where the chef knows him by name) eating sushi, when the Archangel Gabriel (Jon Hamm) pops in. He marvels, with disgust, at Aziraphale’s willingness to sully his “celestial temple” with “gross matter” (a.k.a. food). He does enjoy the clothing though. He tasks Aziraphale with keeping an eye on Crowley, because Heaven has gotten word that Hell is making major moves and Crowley is suspected to be involved. They believe that Armageddon is finally starting. Aziraphale is, like Crowley, quite dismayed.
At the convent, the Satanic nuns go over the plan to receive the Antichrist from Crowley and swap him with the baby being born to the wife of the American diplomat Thaddeus Dowling (Nick Offerman). All are assigned their tasks, except for Sister Mary Loquacious (Nina Sosanya). When she asks her duty, the Reverend Mother asks her to go get some biscuits (“the kind with the pink icing on top”). However, things begin to go awry when another couple, the Youngs, arrive because Mrs. Young has gone into labor early.
They hurriedly put her in room three and usher Mr. Young outside to a waiting area. Crowley, unaware that there are now two couples giving birth at the convent instead of one, pulls up and sees Mr. Young smoking outside. He grabs the basket and, thinking Mr. Young is Dowling, asks him what room his wife is in. And Mr. Young, thinking he’s the doctor, tells him room three.
At this point God explains that what we are about to witness is similar to that card trick with three cards where you have to try and follow where they go. In this case the cards are: “Baby A, Baby B, and The Adversary: Destroyer of Worlds.”
Both women have given birth to healthy, blond-haired boys. (Even if Mrs. Dowling is furious that Mr. Dowling teleconferenced in for the birth.) On his way, Crowley bumps into Sister Mary. She coos at the baby and remarks on his lack of “hoofiwoofikins.” Crowley, eager to be rid of this responsibility, hands her the basket and tells her to take it to room three.
Sister Mary puts the Antichrist into one of the convent’s baby carriers and is chattering at both babies softly in room three when Mr. Young comes in. At first he is upset at the thought of his wife having twins, but Sister Mary quickly points at the Antichrist and insists that one is his baby and she is just looking after the other temporarily. She tries to make small talk with Mr. Young, but thinking he is the American Diplomat, her comments and questions mostly confuse him.
The Reverend Mother’s second in command comes in looking for Sister Mary and the Antichrist, because they have been waiting outside Harriet Dowling’s room to make the swap. Not wanting to speak openly in front of outsiders, they attempt to communicate via winking. However the result is that Sister Mary gives the Youngs’ baby to her instead of the Antichrist — leaving it to be raised by them instead. This means that their baby is given to the Dowlings and the Dowlings’ baby — well maybe the Sisters had him adopted and he grew up to be a perfectly well adjusted man who wins prizes for his tropical fish. Yes, let’s assume that’s what happened.
In each room, the sisters press for the couples to name their babies. Both couples dismiss the name “Damien.” However, the Reverend Mother convinces Harriet Dowling to name her baby “Warlock,” and Sister Mary convinces Mr. Young to name their baby (the Antichrist) “Adam.”
The next day, Crowley and Aziraphale meet to discuss the end of the world and what to do about it. They decide that what they must do is get very, very drunk. While drunk, Crowley bemoans the fate of all of the other intelligent life on the planet (“Dolphins have brains the size, of, well, bloody big brains. And whales? Brain city, whales!”) when the apocalypse starts. He also, to Aziraphale’s distress, reminds him that after the apocalypse comes ETERNITY. And even if heaven wins, that means an eternity without all of the best musicians.
He then reminds Aziraphale how fond God is of “The Sound of Music.” Aziraphale pales at the thought of having to watch that movie for the rest of time. The problem is, how do they stop the end of the world? Neither of them can disobey their direct orders or sabotage their own sides. However, they realize that they can safely attempt to “thwart” each other, specifically in how they influence the Antichrist as it grows up, thereby neutralizing it. They hope that if the Antichrist is raised with equal amounts good and evil, maybe they will cancel each other out and he will end up a normal human boy.
Flash forward five years, and Crowley appears at the Dowlings in the disguise of Warlock’s nanny and Aziraphale as their humble gardener. Aziraphale attempts to teach the boy respect for all living creatures (like “brother slug” and “sister snail.”), while Crowley sings him to sleep with bloodthirsty lullabies (“Go to sleep and dream of pain. Doom and darkness, blood and brains”). Aziraphale updates Gabriel, Michael, and other angels on his progress. They congratulate him but also tell him that they will understand when he inevitably fails. They remind him that the point is not to stop the coming war, but to win it. They want Armageddon to happen just as much as Hell does.
Flash forward another six years to the present day (and the beginning of the end of the world). Crowley and Aziraphale have some concerns that Warlock might be too normal (as they watch him write dirty words on a plaque at a dinosaur exhibit) but ultimately hope that this just means they are doing a good job cancelling each other out. Hell sends Crowley a message via his car radio that they are sending the Antichrist a “Hell Hound” for his eleventh birthday. When the child names the beast, he will come fully into his powers, and this will trigger the official start of the apocalypse.
Crowley and Aziraphale decide they have to stop the hound from reaching the child. (And if they fail, they have to hope their influence worked and that the boy will send the dog away unnamed.) They try to head the hound off at Warlock’s birthday party — Crowley disguised as a caterer, and Aziraphale unfortunately insisting on being the party’s entertainment, as a magician. (He insists on doing sleight of hand instead of using his actual magic.) His performance goes terribly, and the kids start a food fight instead. After the chaos, they realize that the Hell Hound never arrived. Crowley checks in with “downstairs” who insist that the Hound was released on schedule and should be with the boy by now.
This means one thing, Crowley realizes: they’ve been with the wrong child this entire time.
Meanwhile, in Tadfield, Adam Young (the real Antichrist) and his gang “the Them” (consisting of Pepper, Brian, and Wensleydale) are playing in their fort in the woods. By all accounts, he seems a well adjusted and normal child. They are talking about his birthday and what he hopes to get. He, naturally, really wants a dog. Pepper warns him that parents never get you what you really want for your birthday. She asked her parents for a bike with a razor blade saddle and twelve gears but they gave her a girl’s bike with a basket instead. (“But you are a girl,” says Wensleydale. “That’s just sexist,” retorts Pepper.)
However, Adam remains confident that he will get a dog. At this moment, as the Them ask Adam what sort of dog he wants, the Hell Hound (a massive, red eyed, Great Dane looking beast with a mouth full of teeth and drool) approaches. He stops, listening to what his master wants. Except Adam declares that he doesn’t want a big scary dog. He wants a small, playful, “brilliantly intelligent” dog that can learn tricks and go down rabbit holes. They ask him what he will name it and he confidently tells them that he will name his dog………Dog. At this, the Hell Hound transforms (poof!), and the countdown to Armageddon has officially begun!
Good Omens is available for streaming on Amazon Prime, and stay tuned for our recap of episode two, “The Book”!