In 1990, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman published Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch. I have not read the book on which this mini-series (of six episodes), which subverts Biblical ideas and plays with the notion of end of times is based, but I have seen the first three episodes, shared in advance for review purposes.
This dark comedy is quintessentially British with its wry sense of humour about the birth of the Antichrist and the unlikely friendship between an angel and a demon.
Douglas Mackinnon directs the series adapted by Gaiman, which stars Martin Sheen and David Tennant as the hereditary enemies angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley whose bond spans 6,000 years during which it transmogrifies from rivalry to bromance.
The series traverses those 6,000 years from the Garden of Eden, where the odd couple first met, to Ancient Rome, the Crucifixion, Second World War and contemporary London. Aziraphale and Crowley (a fallen angel turned demon) are celestial beings making miracles and wreaking havoc (respectively) on Earth. They rather enjoy their comfortable life on Earth. Aziraphale is a foodie who would risk the guillotine for a good soufflé while Crowley is a bit of a rock star — dressed in all black and driving recklessly through England to the soundtrack of Queen’s greatest hits.
Things change when the Antichrist is delivered to Earth as a newborn. Eleven years after the boy’s ‘birth’, the countdown to the end of the world has begun. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are in their saddles as end time is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
Episode three slows down and goes in flashback and fast forward mode. It takes a while to get to through the six days to doomsday. Characters like a curmudgeonly witch-hunter, a wannabe witch and an American ambassador take the narrative down the rabbit hole.
Will Aziraphale and Crowley, who have developed affection for humans, Earth and each other, be able to intervene in time and save the planet from Armageddon? How much of a role do the witch Agnes Nutter’s accurate predictions play? And can good and evil coexist?
Part of the fun are the cameos that pepper the series — some top British and American talents either in acting or voice parts such as Benedict Cumberbatch as the voice of Satan and Josie Lawrence as Agnes Nutter. Frances McDormand is the voice of god and Jon Hamm plays archangel Gabriel.
But what holds the series together is the chemistry between Sheen and Tennant, which is at the centre of the show’s appeal, underlined by wicked humour and fantastical events.
Tennant’s swag and edgy comedy easily compliments Sheen’s bon vivant in a bowtie who has an unshakeable belief in the God’s ‘ineffable’ plan. Hold on to that and worry less about the leisurely storytelling about the race against end of time.
Good Omens is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
(Udita Jhunjhunwala is a leading movie critic whose contributions on cinema and lifestyle appear in leading Indian and international publications.)
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