Review: Good Omens (Amazon Mini-series)

This weekend the wife and I finished up watching the new Amazon Prime mini-series Good Omens. This is a series based on a book written by (the late) Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Due to Pratchett’s passing, Gaiman took the helm in writing this adaptation of the book. In doing so, he created a work that very closely aligns with the book, which is a rare thing in entertainment.

I’ll keep this review spoiler free, but the basic premise of the series is that armageddon is coming soon, and an angel and a demon, who have been stationed on Earth for 6000 years, decide they don’t like the idea of humanity getting wiped out. The pair end up in the middle of a cosmic fight that is bigger than the two of them, yet seems to completely center on their unlikely (and unsanctioned) friendship.

One of the absolute biggest strengths of the series is David Tennant and Michael Sheen who pay the demon Crowley and angel Aziraphale respectively. Whenever these two are on screen the chemistry is magic, and the banter is as witty as it gets from authors like Pratchett and Gaiman. Between Tennant’s swagger, as he channel’s his inner Bill Nighy, and Sheen’s soft-spoken demeanor, we get an odd couple pairing for the ages. The series thankfully delves into the backstory of their relationship, and you get to see how they became truly great friends.

This strength is also the one weakness that I found with the series. Other reviews have noted that the supporting cast wasn’t as good as it could be, and I would tend to agree. In general, the secondary characters are just that… secondary. They are brought in to the story to fulfill a specific purpose, but we get very little beyond their caricature. This should be a familiar paradigm for fans of this genre of books. Characters are often introduced in the pages of these comedies, given an important role to play, and then disappear. Many of the supporting cast simply are there to do one or two things, and they’re not really meant to have depth. That’s not typical for most modern TV, and so it can throw people off who aren’t expecting it.

Beyond this little nitpick, I thoroughly enjoyed the series. It’s a wonderful story, and Tennant and Sheen tell is beautifully. The fact that it’s only 6 episodes long is great as well. It makes it easily digest-able for folks who have a lot of other TV vying for their eyes. It’s well work the investment in Good Omens.

Quick Review: The Expanse

A few weeks ago the wife decided to start watching a new series. At first I wasn’t interested, but eventually I decided I wanted to check it out. The Expanse is a sci-fi series that originally launched on the SyFy network, but after three seasons was cancelled. Amazon has agreed to pick up Season 4, and so all the previous seasons are not available on Prime.

The premise is that in the future, humanity has colonized the solar system, and there is an uneasy truce between Mars and Earth. Caught in the middle of this struggle are the Belters, who inhabit the moons and asteroid belt of the outer planets. These Belters are often seen as commodity labor, working to provide resources to the two giant warring factions.

The story begins with a rebellious daughter of a corporate CEO going missing. Through the entire first season we follow the journey of two different groups that are trying to find her, that eventually come together. Throughout the story you learn more about the world that these people inhabit, and a large portion of the show is about the political dealings of the major factions. Although there are action scenes, this is really a noir-style sci-fi show, that deals with the gritty reality of a solar system on the brink of war.

We’re part way through the second season, and so far I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen. On the positive side, there are a lot of great storylines that are woven together throughout, and I loved how they come together. The political drama is pretty typical, but Shohreh Aghdashloo delivers the goods when it comes to playing the high-stakes game of brinksmanship. For me, she is the absolute best part of the show. She presents a visage of dignity and calm, but can get her hands dirty with the best of them.

On the negative side, some of the acting is a bit wooden, which is often typical for shows of this caliber. Similar to shows like Arrow, once you invest in a main character, you’re pretty much stuck with them, even if they don’t grow as an actor as much as you hope. I am still optimistic that the main character, James Holden (played by Steven Strait), will eventually develop more depth beyond righteous do-gooder with family issues.

I’m looking forward to finishing out the first three seasons, and then see what Amazon will do with it going forward. If you’re in the mood for something sci-fi, that’s not just guns and ship battles, The Expanse is a worthwhile watch.

Black Mirror: USS Callister

Black Mirror is a science fiction show on Netflix that explores the darker side of technology and science. Many of the plot lines are dark and disturbing, with unsettling endings. One recent episode has been called out for being a fun homage to Star Trek, and so last night we sat down and watched it.

** SPOILERS BELOW **

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Watching Brooklyn 99

My wife is much more versed in the world of modern TV shows, and so many times she sees shows long before I do. One of them that she’s really enjoyed lately has been Brooklyn 99. She’s been encouraging me to watch it, and since she was right about Parks & Rec, I decided to give it a try.

The past few weeks we’ve been blowing through the first 4 seasons and are getting close to being caught up with the broadcast. Being a 22 minute show, it’s really easy to just cram a bunch of episodes into an evening while we’re doing nothing. It’s a nice mindless show that you don’t need to invest too much intellect in to enjoy.

The plot of the show follows a rag tag group of detectives from the 99th precinct as they solve crimes around New York. It’s setup as a sit-com and and is genuinely funny most of the time. The lead detective, Jake, is quirky and messy, but he’s also brilliant, solving crimes and arresting bad guys like crazy. However, one of the best characters on the show is Raymond Holt. The dry, non-nonsense captain of the precinct with deadpan humor expressions and delivery. He is often one of the most hilarious characters in an episode.

One of the cool things about binging a show that’s taken years to make is how you see the characters grow. Seeing the actors really develop their characters into more than caricatures of themselves. Seeing Holt develop into a real person with a personality, and seeing Jake grow up, has been a really fun thing to see. And, you only really see that type of thing when you’re watching it in such a compressed format.

If you’re looking for something fun to watch, that doesn’t take much brain power, check out Brooklyn 99.

Stranger Things 2

Last year, everyone I know was enthralled by Stranger Things. I know I personally loved the wonderful 80’s geeky vibe, and the weird mix of sci-fi with a Goonies/Stand By Me vibe. It was a beautiful series with all the right touches to make you feel like you were right there in the 1980s again trying to figure out problems without the benefit of more recent technology. With a show as successful as this, you have to expect that there will be a sequel.

To be honest I was worried. I loved the mystique of the first series so much that I didn’t want to risk anything ruining it for me. I knew at some point I was going to need to just do it though, and so last weekend the wife and I binged all 9 episodes. Before I drop into spoiler territory (below the fold) let me give the tl;dr: I enjoyed Stranger Things 2, and if you enjoyed the first one, you probably will to.

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