Martin Carr reviews the third episode of Good Omens…
Key moments in history should not as a rule be used to catch up with old friends. Just as discussing the flaws in an ineffable plan while our Lord God Almighty makes a hash of things is also frowned upon. Especially if you are sitting alongside the aforementioned deity in an administrative capacity, blithely dissecting theological choices with a member of the opposition. From the great flood through to Sixties London Good Omens does just this while paying very specific homage to a certain group of Monty Python moments.
It has become apparent just how pivotal both David Tennant and Michael Sheen are in making this abstract adaptation tick. Crowley is by turns vain, self-deprecating and yet undeniably good while Aziraphale indulges in sinful pursuits, performs minor miracles and inadvertently benefits by accident. Through the Crusades of King Arthur and on through French revolutions you see this devious duo deny their similarities, ignore a burgeoning friendship and watch history carry on around them. It is the combination of Sheen’s slightly bumbling public school persona clashing with Tennant’s innately bad boy bravado which oddly gives Good Omens its moral centre.
Gaiman has imbued his angels and demons with all too apparent human flaws which cut through the religious debates, theological squabbles and awkward incidents. Which grounds his more lofty ideas by giving anything which might cause offence a comedic edge. Ultimately it would seem good and evil are nothing more than subjective notions open to interpretation which is sort of the point here. Whether we are talking divine inspiration and Shakespearean sonnets or the inherent contradiction of crucifying a saviour, Gaiman does well to sidestep contentious judgement calls or sweeping generalisations.
He does this using methods of distraction which include utilising the entire League of Gentlemen cast, whilst mining veins of pitch black humour that make a mockery of restaurateurs. By devoting over one third of the run time to extensive backstory snippets around our shadowy seraphim twins Gaiman achieves two things. Firstly he creates narrative breadth while cementing character arcs then pulls smaller moments into sharp focus between Tadfield residents, adolescent Anti-Christs and certain transatlantic witches. As with everything here the devil is in the detail and paying attention to background bits, verbal flourishes and singular sherbert lemons remains key.