“Hard Times” gives us the chance to get to know the characters at the heart of Good Omens and provides us a welcome break from the propulsive storytelling of the first two episodes whilst deepening the story.
This Good Omens episode 3 recap for the episode titled “Hard Times” contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
An episode of two halves. The first part of Hard Times focuses on the history of the relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley giving us a much more rounded perspective on the central pair and crucially gives us the chance to see Tennant and Sheen get some more character work. The second half of the episode picks up where we left off and advances the story at our now customary pace.
The opening sequences give us the chance to see how the relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley has evolved over the history of humanity, providing us with a quick run through of some of the Bible’s and human history’s greatest hits. We start with the Garden of Eden, then to Noah’s Arc, the Crucifixion, right the way through to the 1960s.
Throughout their long history together there have been some consistent themes, mainly Crowley pointing out that his efforts to tempt people into sin an Aziraphale’s mission to save souls tend to cancel each other out. Eventually, they land upon an agreement whereby they share the labor. One of them will go and perform a miracle and a temptation at the same time, the net effect will be the same, but they won’t both have to work too hard. Over time they come to a shared understanding, Crowley is not as evil as his position implies and Aziraphale is very fond of the decadent aspects of humanity both of them are quite attached to Earth. Although one is an Angel and the other a Demon, they are in fact both flawed and slightly cynical about the teams to which they belong. Hard Times indeed.
Crucially, during the Blitz in London Aziraphale has an exchange with some Nazi officers, who have asked him to procure Agnes Nutter’s Prophecies. Of course, we know from episode two that Aziraphale never had his hands on the book. Also, we learn that he was a spy working for British intelligence, or so he thought until he is double-crossed by his handler. It looks like it’s curtains for our good friend Aziraphale until he is rescued by Crowley.
During 1960’s Soho, whilst Crowley is organizing the robbery of a church, we get to meet a young Shadwell who is in the crew as the lock pick. At that time, he was a Lance Corporal of the witchfinder army (nice touch). Crowley’s efforts have all hinged on the desire to get his hands on some Holy Water, presumably to be used as a sort of cyanide pill in case his many transgressions and bent rules are discovered. Aziraphale after much protestation eventually hands him a thermos full of it.
This first half of “Hard Times” gives plenty of opportunities for us to see Tennant and Sheen really enjoying their roles and each other. The production team has done a wonderful job of coming up with some amazing set design and fantastic costumes. Much of this episode centers on the development of the characters of Aziraphale and Crowley and after such a quick paced first couple of episodes, it is nice to get the chance to catch our breath and get to know them better and get a better feel for their relationship.
The second half of the episode picks up where “The Book” left off, with Aziraphale having just discovered Adam. The newer, smaller form of Dog the hell hound had rendered him not quite as powerful as he once was, which is why no-one has spotted him yet.
Adam and Dog are out for a walk where they stumble upon Anathema who is distraught at having lost Agnes Nutter’s book. Adam consoles her and heads into Anathema’s cottage with her. Over the door to the cottage, however, is a horseshoe, which protects the inhabitants from evil. When Dog enters the cottage on Adam’s command it seems there will be serious ramifications for hell.
Adam and Anathema have lemonade in the cottage, where she fills him in on the world of the occult among other things, including global warming, climate change and crucially, nuclear power. At one stage she tells Adam she can see auras. He asks her to look at his but for some reason, she can’t see it… (probably because he’s the anti-Christ).
Newt is busy inspecting Shadwell’s digs and whilst doing so he learns more about the Witchfinder army. Which is largely a paper organization comprising solely of Shadwell. Where is Shadwell anyway? He’s meeting with Crowley in a café. Shadwell appears to be one of Crowley’s operatives and he commands him off to Tadfield to find Adam.
Aziraphale activates one of his agents and you guessed it, it’s Shadwell! So, we know that he has no operatives other than young Newt and he is working for both the Demons and the Angels, both of whom have commissioned his head to Tadfield. As Shadwell makes his way back to HQ, Newt announces that he has noticed an odd meteorological event. There is a village in Oxfordshire that always has the perfect weather for the time of year, snow on Christmas eve, beautiful Summers etc. Suspicious eh? Do you think it might be worth me making a trip? Go on then, but you’ll need to swing by the morning, so we can fit you in your armor… Pardon?
It’s been a while since we met one of the Horsemen, hasn’t it? Time to meet Famine. A successful businessman behind the phenomenon of tiny meals in very expensive and exclusive restaurants. He has a plan to roll out a new kind of restaurant that features no food at all. Our friend the delivery man hands him a package containing a pair of mystical measuring scales. It’s game on for famine it would seem.
Aziraphale and Crowley meet up to compare notes. ‘Any idea where the kid is?’ ‘Erm, no?’ says Aziraphale (not very angel-y is it, lying?). They have a row where Aziraphale is a bit of a dick to Crowley who just wants to run away to another planet together but Aziraphale insists that actually they are on opposite sides. It all gets a little bit heated and Crowley storms off to do something demonic, presumably. This is actually a really well-played exchange and pays off the work laid down in the first half of the episode where we get to see how they have had each other’s backs for centuries.
Adam has been reading some of the material Anathema gave him and now he’s full to the brim with conspiracy theories. He learns about Nuclear power, he’s horrified by it and then goes off to sleep. Meanwhile, his now growing supernatural powers have a strange effect on a nearby nuclear reactor…