We’re an uncertain number of days into a lockdown (or unlock as they are calling it now) that feels like it has already lasted an eternity. It seems perfectly likely that the End of the World is near, if it isn’t here already. In other words, it’s the perfect time to watch Good Omens.
Now, at the start, I will clarify that the television show is not as good as the book of the same name. That isn’t to say the show is bad – the book is simply too good not to be read. Terry Pratchett (RIP) and Neil Gaiman working together was a literary dream team, and no television show will ever be as good as the words on paper.
But Good Omens on Amazon Prime comes a pretty close second, with some great chemistry between the actors and the cleverest use of songs by Queen that you ever heard. The Antichrist is on earth and will soon bring about the Armageddon. This is rather bad news for Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) an angel and Crowley (David Tennant) a devil, who have both lived on earth for thousands of years and now, rather like it. The two celestial beings decide to work together to convince the Antichrist to delay Armageddon for as long as they can. Meanwhile, the Antichrist baby has changed places with another child and has ended up not in the American embassy, but in a family who live in a quaint English village called Lower Tadfield. A few unfortunate events later, the Armageddon is well on its way, with the four riders of the Apocalypse, War, Famine, Pollution (Pestilence retired after the invention of antibiotics – and you can’t blame Pratchett and Gaiman for not predicting Covid-19) and Death, riding down to Lower Tadfield to meet the Antichrist, leaving Crowley and Aziraphale to do their best to stop it. Meanwhile, Anathema Device, a descendant of a seventeenth-century witch, Agnes Nutter, has found her way to Lower Tadfield to fulfil a prophecy in the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, and her paths cross with Newton Pulsifer, a man on a secret mission for the Witchfinder Army.
The best part of Good Omens is easily the bromance between the angel and the devil. David Tennant plays the devil with utmost glee, all red hair, sunglasses, and withering glances, and somehow devastatingly handsome even when he’s playing a Scottish nanny. Michael Sheen is just as fun to watch on screen as the sushi-loving, bookshop-owning, bumbling angel Aziraphale, with an uncomfortable relationship with the now streamlined, corporatised Heaven. It’s hard not to root for our heroes as they become friends over their many years on earth, deal with their bosses in Hell and Heaven, get stuck in a traffic jam on the M25 highway, all to stop the Apocalypse. Miranda Richardson – Queen Elizabeth from Blackadder – sparkles as Madame Tracey, the medium and woman of the night. Almost as good are the sequences featuring Josie Lawrence as Agnes Nutter, the witch who decides to use her own execution as an opportunity for some fireworks.
If the show does have a flaw, it is that the final episode is nowhere as good as the others. The four children’s speeches seem twee and moralistic and completely out of place after all the dark humour in the five episodes before it. But that said, Good Omens has enough warmth, laughter, hope, and Freddie Mercury vocals for everyone. It’s just what we need right now.