Most useless protagonists (a discussion of Good Omens)

So I finished watching Good Omens over the weekend, and I was struck by how utterly useless to the plot the protagonists are.

Looking back on the show I honestly can't think of a single thing that the two main characters did that actually affected the primary plot of the show other than Crowley getting Eve to eat the apple in the garden of eden in the first scene.

The only good part of the show is the buddy comedy going on between Crowley and Aziraphale, and yet nothing they do actually progresses the plot. I don't think I've ever seen the protagonists of any work of fiction have so little affect on the outcome of a story despite being the focus. The show gives them so much to do, so much time on screen, and yet it all amounts to literally nothing. It actually makes me hate the show because the two main characters could be completely excluded and the plot would not change an iota.

For those who have seen the show how do you feel about it? It has really good ratings, but I can't help but absolutely hate it. For those who have read the Neil Gaiman book is it any better or does the show follow it pretty closely?

Can you think of any other protagonists in any other media who are as completely pointless?

They did do stuff but not a whole heap. I thought the Witch and Hunter were even worse in this regard. Or the Sarge and the Medium.

I don't know how this is that much different from a normal show with a ensemble cast. You tend to need to spread the to do list out.

Way too many shows spin wheels through episodes. In recent memory, the last half of Discovery was against one enemy that they went in and out of engagements. Same with Jessia Jones. Doctor Who's problems are fixed by talking to someone or waving a magic wand. Which is still a lot better than most show, which end in boss battle. This talking exit to a problem is how Good Omens ended and thus no boss battle. It's why people hated the Captain Marvel ending, none of those were bosses. But the drone battle in Far From Home was... lacklustre.

I don't know man. I found it adequate but then I don't find many shows reaching above that point.

trunkage:
They did do stuff but not a whole heap.

They do stuff, but everything they do is completely irrelevant to the plot, which is a problem when they are literally the main characters.

Seriously, name one thing that they do that actually affects the end of the world plot.

Crowley hands the baby over to the nuns, but the nuns are the ones who screw up and give the anti-christ to the wrong parents. If Crowley wasn't in the scene the plot would not be affected.

Crowley and Aziraphale attempt to prevent the anti-christ from growing up to destroy the world, but they have the wrong child. Plot unaffected.

Crowley and Aziraphale try to conceal the anti-christ from Heaven and Hell, but if they don't know where the anti-christ is anyway, so the plot is unaffected.

Crowley and Aziraphale figure out where the anti-christ is and race over there. Aziraphale brings the sex worker and the old witch hunter to kill the boy. They arrive and no one kills the boy so there's really no point to them even being there. Plot unaffected.

Children confront the four horsemen and the witch hunter and the girl with the unpronounceable name stop the nuclear launch. Crowley and Aziraphale stand there.

Anti-christ confronts Satan, Crowley and Aziraphale stand there and do nothing. Aziraphale has a flaming sword in his hand, strikes a pose and doesn't do anything with it.

Plot ends.

If the main characters were written out of every scene literally nothing would change in the story. All of the main actions are performed by Adam, the children, Pulsifer, and Anathema and they aren't the main characters of the show.

Dirty Hipsters:
Crowley and Aziraphale attempt to prevent the anti-christ from growing up to destroy the world, but they have the wrong child. Plot unaffected.

I think "plot unaffected" is the wrong term to use, when those two screwing up and letting Adam grow up free of any divine or diabolical influence is kind of the point and why Adam grows up the way he is. Its like saying Harry Potter's parents don't effect the plot, when their death and how they aren't there to do things is what kicks things off.

You also seem very focused on everything needing to be directly involved with what's physically going on with Adam...but why? Adam can solve pretty much any problem he wants in moments with just a thought, why does it need to be some grand battle with every character? Why can there not be a second primary plot about these two trying to hold their own against forces trying to kill them?

Palindromemordnilap:

Dirty Hipsters:
Crowley and Aziraphale attempt to prevent the anti-christ from growing up to destroy the world, but they have the wrong child. Plot unaffected.

I think "plot unaffected" is the wrong term to use, when those two screwing up and letting Adam grow up free of any divine or diabolical influence is kind of the point and why Adam grows up the way he is. Its like saying Harry Potter's parents don't effect the plot, when their death and how they aren't there to do things is what kicks things off.

Plot unaffected is very much the correct term. If you wrote the characters out of the plot nothing would change and Adam would still grow up the same way. If they have no impact on the plot then they are irrelevant to the plot, and if they're irrelevant to the plot then why are they there?

You also seem very focused on everything needing to be directly involved with what's physically going on with Adam...but why? Adam can solve pretty much any problem he wants in moments with just a thought, why does it need to be some grand battle with every character?

It doesn't need to be some grand battle. What it needs is for the characters to actually be involved. If the characters are not involved with the plot then why are they part of the plot? Why is there any focus on them if they don't actually do anything? If you can write them out of every scene that they're in without any effect on the plot then why are they the main characters?

Why can there not be a second primary plot about these two trying to hold their own against forces trying to kill them?

Why can't that be the only plot of the show and not even have anything about the end of the world? The only good part of the show is Crowley and Azeraphile hanging out, why does the end of the world have to factor in at all if the main characters actually have no impact on it? The show would be a hell of a lot better if the end of the world was just the backdrop of the show and not the plot of it.

That's the point? The plot happening through what seems like complete random chance, the main characters having no hand in it. But being seen as being specifically involved as they're prophesied to do exactly what they have done (so says Agnes Nutter) to the end result is sort of the reason for the way it's written (and so the show). You're putting to much thought into the why they was there, and I don't think that matters, Everything happened. Some of which happened just because. Who did what to cause that? Doesn't matter.

Please read the book.

Oh, Umbrella Academy. The characters pretty much do nothing. It's just a bunch of interpersonal issues

Edit: Geralt from Witcher 3. Finding Ciri doesn't affect whether the world is saved. It's even worse than Good Omens, as they have the antichrist a pep talk

Pratchett was all about inverting/satirising tropes BEFORE they were a common and easy frame of reference on the internet.

Think of it as an exploration of a bizarre, comedy setting and the protagonists don't need to achieve anything.

The whole plot was about the divine plan and how it couldn't be avoided.

It couldn't be, therefore it wasn't, no matter what anyone did.

Had Crowley not screwed up at the beginning and given the correct child to the correct parents then everything would have turned out differently and the devil would have "won". But Crowley was, from the start, not exactly a "bad guy", due to his angelic friend's influence and relationship. Everyone was where they were meant to be, to say what needed to be said, to distract the other pieces on the board, so that Adam could make up his own mind and deny the devil without duress.

trunkage:
Geralt from Witcher 3. Finding Ciri doesn't affect whether the world is saved.

The Witcher 3 plot is not about saving the world. It's about finding Ciri and then deciding her faith as well as Geralt's. Saving the world is mostly there as a tool for Ciri's character development.

As for Good Omens, I don't really care and it doesn't matter.

While that criticism is true of Good Omens, such a reductionist view on plot is... misguided? If you wanted to strip down plots to what was only absolutely essential, media would be rather drab.

I think a truer criticism is that Aziraphale and Crowley are the best and most fun characters in the show, and the humans, especially the kids, are kinda just there. And the show pretty much writes out the two fun characters in the last third to focus on the more dull humans. The book has that problem too. It's not really so much that A&C don't do enough important things, as they stand out so far ahead from the rest of the cast, which certainly makes me resent when the focus is shifted off of them.

Armadox:

Please read the book.

I think I liked the show better than the book. The show doesn't manage to fit in all the little jokes and asides Pratchett loves to write, but it more than makes up for it with how stylized the visual aesthetics are (it's as close to a live action show having a cartoon look without feeling sacharrine as I've ever seen), and with how much it expands the demon and angel factions (especially in that there's an angel faction at all; the Mad Men guy was an inspired casting choice for the Archangel Gabriel). It is otherwise a very faithful and complete adaptation.

SupahEwok:
I think a truer criticism is that Aziraphale and Crowley are the best and most fun characters in the show, and the humans, especially the kids, are kinda just there.

Pretty much, we only cared about the relationship between the protagonists and their amazing chemistry.

Amazon could just do a series of them tromping through history, Black Adder style, and it'd be brilliant.

Dirty Hipsters:
Plot unaffected is very much the correct term. If you wrote the characters out of the plot nothing would change and Adam would still grow up the same way. If they have no impact on the plot then they are irrelevant to the plot, and if they're irrelevant to the plot then why are they there?

Dirty Hipsters:
If the characters are not involved with the plot then why are they part of the plot? Why is there any focus on them if they don't actually do anything? If you can write them out of every scene that they're in without any effect on the plot then why are they the main characters?

Dirty Hipsters:
Why can't that be the only plot of the show and not even have anything about the end of the world? The only good part of the show is Crowley and Azeraphile hanging out, why does the end of the world have to factor in at all if the main characters actually have no impact on it? The show would be a hell of a lot better if the end of the world was just the backdrop of the show and not the plot of it.

Do you see how your point shifts there, dude? You go from "these guys are pointless! They don't affect the plot" to "I love these guys, their plot is great" within the space of three short paragraphs. Can't help but feel like you're moving goalposts here just to look like the cool edgy dude who doesn't like the current popular thing

trunkage:
Oh, Umbrella Academy. The characters pretty much do nothing. It's just a bunch of interpersonal issues

Edit: Geralt from Witcher 3. Finding Ciri doesn't affect whether the world is saved. It's even worse than Good Omens, as they have the antichrist a pep talk

The Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy doing nothing would have the same outcome for the Nazis.

Abomination:
The whole plot was about the divine plan and how it couldn't be avoided.

It couldn't be, therefore it wasn't, no matter what anyone did.

Had Crowley not screwed up at the beginning and given the correct child to the correct parents then everything would have turned out differently and the devil would have "won". But Crowley was, from the start, not exactly a "bad guy", due to his angelic friend's influence and relationship. Everyone was where they were meant to be, to say what needed to be said, to distract the other pieces on the board, so that Adam could make up his own mind and deny the devil without duress.

Except that's not what happened. Crowley didn't screw anything up, he wasn't the one who gave the child to the wrong parents. He gave the baby to the nuns, like he was supposed to, and the nuns gave the baby to the wrong parents. Crowley being lazy about his job and not really being a "bad guy" doesn't factor into this at all. Crowley not being there wouldn't have changed the outcome in the slightest. Had he been written out of the story and a different "competent" demon been given the task instead nothing about the main plot would have changed.

Palindromemordnilap:

Dirty Hipsters:
Plot unaffected is very much the correct term. If you wrote the characters out of the plot nothing would change and Adam would still grow up the same way. If they have no impact on the plot then they are irrelevant to the plot, and if they're irrelevant to the plot then why are they there?

Dirty Hipsters:
If the characters are not involved with the plot then why are they part of the plot? Why is there any focus on them if they don't actually do anything? If you can write them out of every scene that they're in without any effect on the plot then why are they the main characters?

Dirty Hipsters:
Why can't that be the only plot of the show and not even have anything about the end of the world? The only good part of the show is Crowley and Azeraphile hanging out, why does the end of the world have to factor in at all if the main characters actually have no impact on it? The show would be a hell of a lot better if the end of the world was just the backdrop of the show and not the plot of it.

Do you see how your point shifts there, dude? You go from "these guys are pointless! They don't affect the plot" to "I love these guys, their plot is great" within the space of three short paragraphs. Can't help but feel like you're moving goalposts here just to look like the cool edgy dude who doesn't like the current popular thing

The point doesn't shift at all, I specifically pointed out that if you completely wrote them out of the story the plot actually wouldn't change at all because their involvement is completely unnecessary and never pushes the plot forward and they are therefore useless. I don't love their plot, I like their character interactions. Do you actually know what a plot is?

Dirty Hipsters:

Abomination:
The whole plot was about the divine plan and how it couldn't be avoided.

It couldn't be, therefore it wasn't, no matter what anyone did.

Had Crowley not screwed up at the beginning and given the correct child to the correct parents then everything would have turned out differently and the devil would have "won". But Crowley was, from the start, not exactly a "bad guy", due to his angelic friend's influence and relationship. Everyone was where they were meant to be, to say what needed to be said, to distract the other pieces on the board, so that Adam could make up his own mind and deny the devil without duress.

Except that's not what happened. Crowley didn't screw anything up, he wasn't the one who gave the child to the wrong parents. He gave the baby to the nuns, like he was supposed to, and the nuns gave the baby to the wrong parents. Crowley being lazy about his job and not really being a "bad guy" doesn't factor into this at all. Crowley not being there wouldn't have changed the outcome in the slightest. Had he been written out of the story and a different "competent" demon been given the task instead nothing about the main plot would have changed.

I disagree. Crowley's and Aziraphale's actions around the wrong child was what gave Adam the cover he needed in order to grow up "without interference" from either side. To me, that seems fairly integral to the plot. Take them out of the picture, and that is changed. Also, it was their interference in the events at the airfield that tipped the balance and created to outcome that occurred.

Perhaps it is a matter of perception from the viewer, but that stands out for me at least.

davidmc1158:

Dirty Hipsters:

Abomination:
The whole plot was about the divine plan and how it couldn't be avoided.

It couldn't be, therefore it wasn't, no matter what anyone did.

Had Crowley not screwed up at the beginning and given the correct child to the correct parents then everything would have turned out differently and the devil would have "won". But Crowley was, from the start, not exactly a "bad guy", due to his angelic friend's influence and relationship. Everyone was where they were meant to be, to say what needed to be said, to distract the other pieces on the board, so that Adam could make up his own mind and deny the devil without duress.

Except that's not what happened. Crowley didn't screw anything up, he wasn't the one who gave the child to the wrong parents. He gave the baby to the nuns, like he was supposed to, and the nuns gave the baby to the wrong parents. Crowley being lazy about his job and not really being a "bad guy" doesn't factor into this at all. Crowley not being there wouldn't have changed the outcome in the slightest. Had he been written out of the story and a different "competent" demon been given the task instead nothing about the main plot would have changed.

I disagree. Crowley's and Aziraphale's actions around the wrong child was what gave Adam the cover he needed in order to grow up "without interference" from either side. To me, that seems fairly integral to the plot. Take them out of the picture, and that is changed. Also, it was their interference in the events at the airfield that tipped the balance and created to outcome that occurred.

Perhaps it is a matter of perception from the viewer, but that stands out for me at least.

Crowley's and Aziraphale's actions around the wrong child didn't do anything for Adam. Heaven wasn't going to interfere with the child regardless, and they kept telling Aziraphale that what he was doing was pointless because the child can't be swayed toward good, and Hell wouldn't have known that the child was the wrong child until his birthday anyway, so the 12 years they spent dicking around with the wrong child were completely pointless either way. They didn't give Adam the cover to grow up normal because no one would have been looking for him regardless.

And once again, Crowley and Aziraphale didn't actually do anything on the airfield. They don't even really give Adam a pep-talk or explain to Adam what he's supposed to do because Adam is already fully aware that he can change the fabric of reality by that point in the plot. Crowley just stops time for a second so he and Aziraphale can look cool with their wings and the sword, tell Adam that they're with him...and then pose there and do nothing while the plot ends anti-climatically.

MrCalavera:

trunkage:
Oh, Umbrella Academy. The characters pretty much do nothing. It's just a bunch of interpersonal issues

Edit: Geralt from Witcher 3. Finding Ciri doesn't affect whether the world is saved. It's even worse than Good Omens, as they have the antichrist a pep talk

The Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy doing nothing would have the same outcome for the Nazis.

One could make the argument that without Indy the Nazis wouldn't have found the Ark because they were digging in the wrong place. Other than that, yeah, he doesn't have much of an influence on the outcome of the plot.

Dirty Hipsters:
Except that's not what happened. Crowley didn't screw anything up, he wasn't the one who gave the child to the wrong parents. He gave the baby to the nuns, like he was supposed to, and the nuns gave the baby to the wrong parents. Crowley being lazy about his job and not really being a "bad guy" doesn't factor into this at all. Crowley not being there wouldn't have changed the outcome in the slightest. Had he been written out of the story and a different "competent" demon been given the task instead nothing about the main plot would have changed.

Crowley did not engage in ANY fact checking or confirmation. He was the one who convinced the nuns that the baby needed to go to the different room, the room that he established by speaking with the British guy outside the convent.

Crowley screwed up. He showed up, didn't really care, assumed the British guy was the diplomat, and told the nun to take the baby to the wrong room. The nuns followed his orders, his orders were wrong, Adam got put with the wrong family, and then Crowley became the nanny to the RIGHT family and didn't recognize that the diplomat looked different to the person he spoke with outside the convent.

It's a comedy of errors and the child was raised without influence from either side, foiling the plans of the devil and the angels. The angels didn't get the big fight they wanted, the devils didn't get their antichrist, and humanity survived on its own merits.

You know what? I agree they didn't really do much when I think about it besides give the antichrist a pep talk. You're 100% right but I also don't care, I loved it and that doesn't ruin it for me.

My main problem was just that Aziraphael was so sodding useless; Crowley at least sort of gets stuff done. There's only so long you can watch a character be a bumbling fool who fails to take substantial action.

Dirty Hipsters:

Palindromemordnilap:

Dirty Hipsters:
Plot unaffected is very much the correct term. If you wrote the characters out of the plot nothing would change and Adam would still grow up the same way. If they have no impact on the plot then they are irrelevant to the plot, and if they're irrelevant to the plot then why are they there?

Dirty Hipsters:
If the characters are not involved with the plot then why are they part of the plot? Why is there any focus on them if they don't actually do anything? If you can write them out of every scene that they're in without any effect on the plot then why are they the main characters?

Dirty Hipsters:
Why can't that be the only plot of the show and not even have anything about the end of the world? The only good part of the show is Crowley and Azeraphile hanging out, why does the end of the world have to factor in at all if the main characters actually have no impact on it? The show would be a hell of a lot better if the end of the world was just the backdrop of the show and not the plot of it.

Do you see how your point shifts there, dude? You go from "these guys are pointless! They don't affect the plot" to "I love these guys, their plot is great" within the space of three short paragraphs. Can't help but feel like you're moving goalposts here just to look like the cool edgy dude who doesn't like the current popular thing

The point doesn't shift at all, I specifically pointed out that if you completely wrote them out of the story the plot actually wouldn't change at all because their involvement is completely unnecessary and never pushes the plot forward and they are therefore useless. I don't love their plot, I like their character interactions. Do you actually know what a plot is?

Then I'm going to ask you the same thing I asked you in my first post: So? So they don't interact much with the Adam plot, which you apparently didn't care much for anyway, why does that matter? They have their own plot running alongside where they try to cover their mistakes and friendship, coerce their coworkers through various means and avoid being outright killed. Why does it matter that it only occasionally intertwines with Adam's plotline?

My biggest problem with the show was mainly that it wasn't funny. It was obviously trying to be quirky and funny and nail that Pratchett tone, but it just didn't work for me. I don't think I laughed once. I thought the acting was pretty flat from most characters and the writing didn't do anything for me. Things just sort of happened and then resolved without any real conscious effort by anyone involved. For some reason the witch hunter and the witch had to have sex during the end of the world because it was written down and I don't get what that had to do with anything, but I suspect I'm supposed to find it humorous or maybe arousing? I don't know so much of it just came across as "lol so random!" to me. I'm struggling to think of a single character I enjoyed, but they were either complete nonentities or just awkward. The effects were pretty good and I quite like the intro animation, though Crowley's eyes kind of bugged me through the whole show.

I'm curious if the book might appeal to me more. I'm a pretty big fan of about 80% of the Discworld series (though anything Pratchett wrote with a female protagonist is kind of lousy. For some reason he couldn't write a woman who wasn't a nearly perfect busy body Mary Poppins ripoff)

Also like, who the heck was the delivery guy? This is the most dedicated delivery guy in the history of the world and I don't understand why. Why would he kill himself because the customer requested it. How much does he actually know? He doesn't make any sense to me, and it takes me out of the story.

Dirty Hipsters:
The show would be a hell of a lot better if the end of the world was just the backdrop of the show and not the plot of it.

That actually would have been pretty great. A show that just incidentally involves the end of the world, but doesn't really concern itself with it.

Dirty Hipsters:
For those who have read the Neil Gaiman book is it any better or does the show follow it pretty closely?

I just finished reading the book. It follows the show pretty closely if I remember correctly. The show added some jokes, the other angels, and that bit at the end where Crowley and Aziraphale do the whole switcharoo to avoid punishment (probably just to give those two a bit of success to their names). Honestly, I liked the book better mainly because I didn't find the humour as cringey in written form. It still wasn't super funny, but I found it unpleasant.

One part that really stuck out to me was the bit where Hastur comes out of the phone as maggots and there's a really graphic description of tunneling under all the telemarketers flesh and multiplying and killing them all horribly that was really out of place in an otherwise lighthearted and extremely silly story. It was really quite gross.

All in all, it's really not so much a story but a series of jokes and humorous digressions that form the rough appearance of a plot. Nobody really matters except Adam, and anything anybody else ended up doing could have been accomplished more easily by Adam anyway. The only thing that mattered was that the nuns screwed up, and that Adam's friends were there so he remembered what he wanted to be. Crowley and Aziraphale were there for exposition, really. Just to give a viewpoint from individuals that actually know why all the crazy stuff is happening and how the metaphysics of the whole system work. I don't think they are presented as much of the main characters in the book though. I would estimate only around a third of the page count is focused on their activities. Although they may still get more than any other character, so who knows. There are a lot of meaningless digressions.

All in all not the best Pratchett book I've read, but not the worst either. I've never read any of Gaiman's stuff so I don't know how it measures up in that respect.

Dirty Hipsters:

Can you think of any other protagonists in any other media who are as completely pointless?

This happens in any type of religious fiction (which Good Omens kinda is and is kinda not).

If you ever read the Left Behind series (which you should not do), the characters are all passive observers for what they know is just divine theater.

 

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