Smart, sharp and funny. Good Omens captures the mood and tone of the novel with outstanding performances from Tennant and Sheen.
This Good Omens review is spoiler free. You can check out our full, spoilerific thoughts on each episode, beginning by clicking these words.
A few years ago, my late Mother in Law handed me a well-read copy of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s novel Good Omens. At the time I had not actually read anything from either author and Catherine enthusiastically assured me that this would be a good place to start. She was right too, I loved the book for its wit, its confidence and most of all for its caustic sense of humor. The fact that this book about heaven and hell was beloved by my Mother in Law, who was incidentally a vicar, somehow put the cherry on top for me. It was then with some hesitation that I approached the Amazon adaptation of Good Omens. Fortunately, I was rewarded with one of my favorite shows of the year so far.
For those of you not familiar with the story, Good Omens tells the tale of two Angels, one good, one fallen, and how they work together to prevent a seemingly inevitable war between good and evil that will end the world. In this version, the central roles are played by David Tennant (Dr. Who, Jessica Jones) as Crowley the Demon, and Michael Sheen (The Damned United, Frost/Nixon) as Aziraphale, the Angel.
Both Sheen and Tennant tackle their roles with gusto, they both get to play larger than life characters and both get the chance to preen and strut their way through scenes. The fact they both share so much screen time without suffocating one another is remarkable and a testament to the actors. Their on-screen chemistry is a big part of what makes this work. As the show progresses you also get a deeper feeling and understanding to the characters that then make the more dramatic moments towards the end feel more earned than they could have done.
Sheen and Tennant are far from the only big names here. Good Omens boasts a spectacular cast including Frances McDormand, Daniel Mays, Miranda Richardson, Michael McKean, Jack Whitehall, Brian Cox and many other familiar faces that pop up for cameos. All concerned seem to get the tone that Director Douglas Mackinnon (Sherlock, Line of Duty) is going for. Whimsical, arch and yet grounded.
If I have a criticism it is that there are so many supporting characters dropping in and out for a quick burst of exposition that very few of them get much development. Instead, the audience is asked to use its knowledge of the actors playing the supporting roles as a proxy. For example, Miranda Richardson is great but doesn’t get much to do other than be the Miranda Richardson we know and love.
The pace of the show is breakneck and each of the 6 episodes is quite plot heavy, there is a lot to get through in each episode and one feels it could have been extended to an 8-episode run. This is the sort of show where you will want to give it your full attention in order to be able to fully grasp what is happening. It is for that reason that you might also find this is best suited to a one at a time approach rather than a binge watch. There is so much to enjoy in each episode that you sometimes want things to slow down so you can enjoy the scenery. I can see myself coming back to this show again soon just so I can pick up on some of the things I may have missed.
In summary, Good Omens does a brilliant job of keeping the tone and world-building of the novel. The central performances are excellent and most of the writing is outstanding. I would have perhaps preferred a couple more episodes so we could slow down the narrative a bit to focus more on the smaller details of the story and bring some of the supporting characters more to life.
Andy joined the Ready Steady Cut team in October 2018. A Graduate of Exeter University, he writes mainly about films and TV.