The end of the world is nigh. The son of the Antichrist has just turned eleven years old and is about to come into his powers. Heaven’s angels and Hell’s demons are looking forward to settling things once and for all – or at least, most of them are. The demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale have become quite accustomed to living on Earth, and would rather things continued as they are. But can they really avert the Apocalypse?
It’s been around twenty years since I read Good Omens, and to be honest I don’t remember more than the barest details about it – all I’m left with is a vague impression that I didn’t enjoy it as much as I felt I should. It might of course be that I would absolutely love it if I were to reread it now, but for now I’ve jumped on the bandwagon of watching the Amazon Prime miniseries.
The highlight of Good Omens is not the plot, nor is it even the stellar cast bringing Gaiman and Pratchett’s characters to life – although we’ll touch on both of those aspects later. What makes this series so delightful is the interaction between Aziraphale and Crowley – one the angel set to watch over humanity, the other the serpent who tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Over the centuries, the line between good and evil has blurred for both of them, and they are now essentially an old married couple – they bicker, they’re set in their ways, and they care for each other more than anything else in the world.
David Tennant brings the same manic energy to Crowley that he did to the Tenth Doctor, whilst Michael Sheen’s Aziraphale is uptight, anxious, and in Crowley’s words, “just enough of a bastard to be worth knowing”. In many ways, it doesn’t matter what the surrounding story is – what we’re really here for is the interaction between these two characters. The first half of episode three, which charts Crowley and Aziraphale’s relationship through the ages, is surely the high point of the series.
Accompanying these two are an excellent supporting cast, boasting such names as Jon Hamm, Steve Pemberton, Reece Shearsmith, Nina Sosanya, Miranda Richardson, Michael McKean and Jack Whitehall, to cherry pick a few. The story they bring us weaves together the Pratchett and Gaiman perspective to good effect, presenting us with the bureaucracy of Heaven and Hell, the contemporary Four Horsemen, and a one-man Witchfinder Army, to name a few. My experience with most of Pratchett’s work is that you get a setup and characters that lead to some amusing observations and riffs on life, but that the conclusions always feel a bit lacklustre. I have a sense I felt this way about the book of Good Omens (although I remain open to feeling differently on reread), but as a six episode miniseries the story feels tight and well-paced.
I wasn’t going to watch Good Omens, but ultimately I’m glad I did. Whilst the story itself is solid and entertaining enough, ultimately it’s all about Aziraphale and Crowley, and like so many others, I just can’t get enough of their deep relationship and delightful interactions.