Good Omens has been a funny old series, but unfortunately not in a “Funny ha ha” kind of way, or at least not often enough. As mentioned in the review of the first episode the book is beautifully hilarious but the tv show often concentrated far too much on the plot at the expense of the laughs, and that especially applies with this final episode. It had a lot to pack in, it’s true, but it also had a lot of filler towards the end of the episode where it tied up loose ends and showed us how the characters ended up, and it’s a shame there wasn’t less of that and more of an opportunity to give the jokes time to land.
Another issue is that the book relies on some truly impressive phrasing, the descriptions of events are quirkily told in a fantastically witty manner, but that is mostly missing here. Yes, we get the narration from God, but that was strangely smug and irritating at times, and to be honest that frustrated too, God tell us what’s happening but without actually giving anything away about her character, or even coming close to answering many of the questions posed, like was this part of her big plan? Or just the work of an angel and a demon who shouldn’t be friends but due to unusual circumstances are? Without her narration there’d be no need to ask such questions but as she is present it feels odd that such things are ignored and not even hinted at.
This final episode itself was strangely paced as well, beginning with the trial of Crowley in Hell before rewinding back to the cliffhanger at the end of the last episode. Adam’s thankfully now good (or at least not just evil) and he along with the rest of the cast finally meet up at the US air based where Death and the other three horsemen / women of the apocalypse were waiting for him. It’s pretty exciting and tensely directed, but then it’s over within a few minutes, Adam’s three friends defeat three of the horsemen with ease, Death sods off, and even when Satan (poorly voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, without a hint of menace) himself bursts through the ground Adam’s able to defeat him almost without thinking about it. Sure he gets some advice from Crowley and Aziraphale and told some guff about how amazing humans are but given how much this final confrontation has been built up over the past five episodes it’s enormously disappointing that it ends with not a bang but just a young kid having a minor moan.
There was still a good twenty minutes left at this point and within this amount of time it felt like opportunities were missed as we learnt that Adam had rebooted reality, that people who had been dead were now alive, things which had been broken was miraculously restored, and there had also been the odd change. But when it came to the latter bar a collection of Richmal Crompton books in Aziraphale’s book shop there was no real evidence of such a thing, and Gaiman could have had a lot of fun playing around with this altered reality, at least for a couple of minutes. Due to the cold open we knew that Crowley would end up in hell on trial for his life, and it was soon revealed that the same applied to Aziraphale as well bar that he was in Heaven, though it was more of a death sentence rather than any attempt at finding out whether he was guilty of anything or not. The twist as to how they escaped was a cute one and did appeal, but yet again it was dealt with too quickly, there was no particular sense of menace, no real feeling that this could be the end for our beloved lead duo.
After this the rest of the episode was vaguely fine as we got to see how everyone’s lives continued, but I wanted it to be more interesting than that, and though there was the occasional scene which made me smile I didn’t laugh once. Again, this wouldn’t be a problem if it wasn’t based on a very, very funny novel, but it was, and for the humour to be so lacking in this episode led to disappointment. A few elements felt a little contrived too, it made sense for Michael McKean’s Shadwell to get together with Miranda Richardson’s Madam Tracy as she had clearly lusted after him from afar for quite a while, and he was a pretty lonely old man, but why Anathema suddenly fell head over heals in love with the rather wet and drippy Newton Pulsifer is never explained, and seemed more than a little forced so that everyone could get their happy ending.
I imagine anyone hasn’t read the book will have enjoyed this a lot more than I did, as it was undoubtedly a rollicking ride with a fantastic cast, with Sheen and Tennant absolutely superb, and even Jack Whitehall was good for once. Plus it had an engaging selection of characters, some jokes worked and there were some thrilling scenes – Crowley’s bursting through the fire filled barrier between London and the rest of the country was gorgeously constructed for instance, while Satan looked suitably demented, even if he was onscreen for far too short a time. But considering just how much the book made me laugh and that this was only intermittently amusing makes me feel that it was only a partially successful adaptation, one which I enjoyed at certain points but when analysed further didn’t always stand up to scrutiny. Gaiman set up a potential sequel towards the end with a mention of a future war between the humans and those of the afterlife but if a second season does happen I really hope he brings on a co-writer, someone who is adept at fantastical humour and who knows that sometimes plot should come second to laughter, at least if they truly want to honour the memory of Sir Terry Pratchett.