Good ‘Ol Fashioned Mystery, Shades of Grey, and A Soul-Stirring Love for the Ages
As it was and ever will be when there’s a show that’s already two weeks old, do tread lightly, spoilers abound beyond the line.
White-cheddar-crusted fingers hung halfway towards the bowl of popcorn my sister and I were sharing. Sometimes, while watching a beloved show, you reach a point when it becomes absolutely necessary to stay still. Not one. Single. Move. Afraid that even the slightest eyeball movement will disturb a scene. The last 15 minutes of Episode 6 definitely warranted it.
Good Omens Season 2 is a culmination of a lot of things within the four years of waiting. Of crumbs and snippets. Of interviews and soundbytes. Of loose details and speculation. Of wait-and-sees. Of vibrating excitement, and finally, release.
As we stared at our shocked faces on the screen while the credits were rolling, the sentiments I had flowing out of me over the course of the six episodes were very quickly being replaced by more intense feelings I had no way of channelling. Much like Crowley when he found out about Jim hiding in Aziraphale’s bookshop, deep breathing didn’t seem enough. But unlike him, I can’t exactly let it out through smoke and lightning.
So I sit unmoving, popcorn forgotten. When finally the credits ended and Amazon Prime teased us to watch this rollercoaster again, I could not help but feel — and I’ve luckily watched a few in my short life — that I’ve just seen one of the best written stories.
“You know what it’s like when you don’t know anything at all, and yet you’re totally certain that everything would be better if you were near just one particular person?”
Before the beginning, there was the cosmos: vast and full of potential. A crimson-haired angel whose job is to birth nebulas and stars was hard at work hovering over a canvas waiting to be painted in pinks and blues and oranges. But he needed help, and so called a cherub who happened to fly over his sector to hold the blueprint while he cranked up the engine that could power what would be the Pillars of Creation.
Opening with pre-Fall Crowley meeting Aziraphale in Heaven sets the tone for the trajectory of their relationship throughout the series, I think. This is the context I go back to sometimes when they have a conversation about something as trivial as making humans fall in love, or something a little more reflective like faith, shades of grey, or the moral conundrum involved in body snatching.
These also include conversations that can start out enthusiastic and perhaps end with them agreeing with each other, or with one of them trying to comfort or advise the other after a massive realisation. More than that, seeing the evolution of this dynamic and watching the dial go back and forth is what I appreciate most about it.
So of course the only way to follow that is with the appearance of a very naked and amnesiac Supreme Archangel Gabriel at the bookshop, and with him, a mystery! To top it all off, Aziraphale and Crowley must play matchmaker to humans — record shop owner Maggie and barista Nina — to thwart Heaven and Hell into finding the archangel.
Gaiman described this series as “quiet” and “gentle” (let’s keep that third descriptor for later), and it is despite the long list of things our angel and demon need to do. In fact, picking up not from the Armageddon-That-Wasn’t but by zooming in on what Aziraphale and Crowley have been mostly up to four years after felt like, compared to the energy of the first series, this story is even more focused.
As the audience, I feel more rooted to what’s happening, quite easily following the ebb and flow of the minisodes to the present day, the different narrative threads we’re following, and what the juxtapositions mean.
This is especially comforting not just because there’s no book material to lean on for this series and the next (because there will be one, I’m already sure of it), but also because it felt almost seamless to get back in the Good Omens universe as the audience. It’s like wearing an old, worn-out jacket a dear friend gave you and found that it still fits.
"But what am I?”
“You’re an angel who goes along with Heaven as far as he can”
“That sounds, um…”
“But you said it wasn’t.”
“I’m a demon. I lied.”
What I love most about stories is that they have given me a setting which I can almost physically visit to confront something about myself and the world. A setting whose filters I can control according to what I'm currently comfortable with, where the difficulty system is perpetually on Medium so I can challenge what I know just enough that I don't feel overwhelmed.
Once in a while, however, you encounter a story that forces you to remove the filters and elevate the difficulty level because there's something in the narrative — no matter how real and terrifying those truths can be — that wants and needs to be seen.
Perhaps like many, there are very deep reasons why Good Omens has such a profound impact on me having read it first at eight years old. There really is something to be said about the catharsis one feels when you witness characters go through the same thing you have. It started with being concerned, having an observation, asking questions, and realising that not only have I been wearing rose-tinted glasses, but that underneath those lenses are shades of absolute black on one eye, and absolute white on the other.
Watching the minisodes, especially the one with Job, I couldn’t help but visit a place in my mind where I’ve already confronted these things as a young child, and still find remnants of shame, guilt, and embarrassment that I’ve long tried to completely wash away.
Of course, there are moments of hilarity as well, and these are evidently my favourite places to visit. The 1941 minisode is as much a show of trust between two beings who are supposed to be on opposite sides as a conversation about shades of grey. It’s also such a fun way of exploring it! The scene from Aziraphale practising his magic on Crowley truly forced me to pause the video so my sister and I can wipe the tears from our eyes. But it didn’t take away the poignancy of the last minutes of that minisode, where both representations of absolute good and absolute evil acknowledged and accepted the existence of a moral grey.
And here comes the ‘romantic' part from Gaiman’s description.
Good Omens also has a number of kilig moments, where one feels excitement that they can’t explain, mostly incited by a romantic experience. There are so many between Aziraphale and Crowley, but for this I’d like to put focus first on Gabriel and Beelzebub.
Unlike the other two, Gabriel and Beelzebub didn’t have a series-long worth of context to their relationship. Nevertheless, they’re even more interesting to me when I think about the implications of the short montage of their relationship which proved to be enough to show us the backbone of their romance.
I’ve always believed that Hell’s relationship with Heaven can’t simply be described as ‘adversarial;’ it’s much more complex than that. The endless tug between the opposing sides creates a balance that most haven’t fully discerned. It's like a symbiotic relationship. Good cannot be defined without the contrast of evil. How can you say this is good whiskey, when you haven't even tasted a stale one? That’s why it would make sense that every few hundred years, they would meet, aligning and maintaining that balance.
And while the montage didn’t really say anything about them meeting before the Armageddon-That-Wasn’t, I did giggle when they started to do so after.
Anyway, back to the romance.
How interesting to see mirrors of Aziraphale and Crowley’s relationship in Gabriel and Beelzebub, except for one key difference: they immediately got it.
Whether they were aware of it or not, they have been acting on their desire to be with each other. It was strong enough that even Gabriel was ready to fall just to be with Beelzebub. There were no other considerations to think about, no sides to appease, all they know is that they are each other’s Heaven and Hell (affectionate).
I can’t help but think there’s a level of privilege here, though. Just like what Crowley pointed out about Espeth and wee Morag, their situation has forced them to do whatever it takes to survive living on the streets, they don’t have the luxury of thinking about what’s moral. People who are comfortable don’t have to think about when the next meal is going to come or if they’ll have a roof over them tomorrow — they’re free to be themselves and to enjoy life.
Gabriel and Beelzebub didn’t have to be afraid of being found out mostly, I think, because they’re in a position of power. They’ve probably had the luxury of time to think about the consequences of acquainting with each other, which mind you, wasn’t largely hindered by making sure the other is safe from prying eyes.
In short, they didn’t have to skirt around each other because they didn’t have to fear for the other.
This doesn’t remove from their relationship the fact that they immediately know they like one another, though. But it does demonstrate the difference between them and Aziraphale and Crowley.
"We’ve known each other a long time. We’ve been on this planet for a long time, I mean, you and me… I could always rely on you. You could always rely on me. We’re a team - a group! Group of the two of us. And we’ve spent our existence pretending that we aren’t."
There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Aziraphale and Crowley’s relationship, especially since we’ve been following the beats of what could potentially, finally be a union until the last 15 minutes happened in episode six.
Some of these discussion points can be reserved for theorising with friends, maybe rant a little, maybe go through all five stages together while we’re dipping crisps in pints of ice cream.
I do want to talk about what Aziraphale’s choice meant to him and to Crowley.
Crowley from the beginning of the series has always been himself. Someone you can’t put in a box — Angel is just something he’s made to be, Demon is something he’s become, but ultimately, he is just himself. And so hearing Aziraphale agree to the terms of the Metatron was not only heartbreaking given what he was about to tell him, but also a breach of faith. Crowley has believed they’ve moved past sides, in fact Aziraphale has always referred to them as an “our” and “us” until that conversation with the Metatron.
Aziraphale on the other hand has been reeled in once again by what I believe to be the promise of being able to make Crowley full angelic again, not so much the offer of being Commander of the Heavenly Host replacing Gabriel. Because perhaps there’s still a part of him who believes that Crowley is nice precisely due to his angelic nature and not because he really is just kind and compassionate. Or because he thought Crowley would be happy if he can be among the stars again. Or indeed because he's in mind to sacrifice his freedom to make change not just for the system as a whole, but for Crowley, so they can stop fearing for one another. This is his way of connecting with him, but also protecting him. If he can put both of them on the same side, then they could be together forever. But he doesn’t realise that having sides is a farce — Hell didn’t even exist before the Beginning.
Of course, there’s also the need to appease the Metatron in this case. He is the voice of God after all and appealing to him means his words might reach God Themself. Again, it’s really not the case as we know from series 1, and it might not be presently. To use what I’ve said about a book I’ve read, the lure of the oppressor is a very real thing and if you haven’t experienced it, it may not mean anything to you. This is something Aziraphale needs to work on realising as well.
Another mirror of this need to work on the self is Nina and Maggie, who didn’t end up together even after all Aziraphale and Crowley’s efforts in playing cupid. And this is because Nina has just gotten out of a toxic relationship, and to pursue one with Maggie might not end well with both of them, although evidently feelings were mutually shared.
With this, I was thinking of Crowley, who wasn’t really coping as well as the angel after the Armageddon-That-Wasn’t and needed a companion perhaps to process it all. He may have been aware of the playing up of sides of Heaven and Hell, but internally he’s in need of someone to talk to mainly because he and the angel haven’t been doing much of that after. They’re simply not used to it, and Crowley’s not used to not looking over his shoulder, which makes sense given that they haven’t really moved on from old habits: Crowley proposing to run away to keep them safe, and Aziraphale staying so he could confront the system. I thought it interesting that Crowley started opening up to someone who wasn’t Aziraphale when his present day scene started — depressed and codependent and sharing his thoughts to Shax of all people. But maybe, like Nina who opened up a little to Crowley about other people’s relationship being more straightforward than theirs, he needs to process away from what could be part of the source of his anxieties, to find purpose outside of his and Aziraphale’s relationship. Maybe he needs friends.
I was determined not to read any of the theories surrounding Aziraphale’s decision, but a few did get through the semipermeable membrane, one of which is about mind manipulation. It could well be true; however, I do want for this to be something Aziraphale did actually make. He needs to work on a few things about himself and his relationship with Heaven, something that Crowley was able to do on himself already, before taking that step into their relationship. By taking or excusing away that learning opportunity from Aziraphale feels unfair to the angel. Furthermore, is it not an Aziraphale decision to use this promotion to want to enact change? The angel has always been brave, albeit he was taking it at a pace that allows him to reflect on what he has just learnt about Heaven, Hell, and the farcical bureaucracy that be. Putting aside the offer to Crowley, I see this decision to be a leap in bravery on Aziraphale’s end, putting himself in a toxic environment but in a capacity that will allow him to finally dispel it. I feel that to be in character, to be honest.
For years a lot of us have been consuming and creating fix-its and analyses and what-have-yous surrounding the relationship of these two. We basically did the introspection work for them. And so to expect canon to have reached the same trauma healing our fanfiction has, well, is also a little unfair not just to the characters but to the creatives involved in bringing canon to life.
Additionally, as the audience, wouldn’t it be more satisfying to disrupt the systems that lead them to this? As pointed out by this incredible post about endings by veganinenden, a lot has happened within that time frame. Most of us were already experiencing social injustices in our homes, and had that amplified by a global pandemic where we’re made mostly powerless by protest sanctions, lockdowns, and so on — all of which tend to shift one’s worldview.
Whether Aziraphale is able to do it from Heaven is still up in the air, but what’s incredibly clear is there’ll be a time to finally retire the “you’re bad people” and “your side” entirely. And that’s just a few of the things to look forward to for series 3.
“Stories you read when you're the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you'll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.”
You’ll notice that unlike other essays, a lot of them reviewed how effective a story Good Omens series 2 is, with most dishing out their ratings. You might have even read ones deeply analysing every line uttered, every micro expression, every inflection of a word. While I on the other hand just gushed about the show, to be honest, inflicted my opinions on you (because if you’ve reached this point, assume I’m just happy somebody is reading this).
I’d like mine to be more of an argument.
Many might think that the strength of the show relied solely on the relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley. I heartily disagree. Its strength is using the core of its messaging — unconditional love — and showing us the many ways in which it can be expressed. Whether it’s the very real romance between characters, a flirtatious tip-toeing to it, or friends having each other’s backs when it counts.
To end, what better way to express my love for Good Omens — if I haven’t done enough of it yet — than by joining the clamour for liveable wages and workers rights.
So this is an argument not just to convince you to watch the show, but to think of why we love stories. I implore you to look back on your own posts about stories you’ve loved and understand why there’s nothing that can connect us more than ones created through human intuition and creativity.
With labour strikes happening all across the globe, among them creatives who just want a fair contract and not be threatened by technologies like AI, it’s important to provide support by celebrating their work anyway we can.
If it means rewatching shows like Good Omens hundreds of times to get a renewal and for studios to see how much we crave human-made stories, then so be it. If it means dressing up to see both Oppenheimer and Barbie, then by all means do so with your group of friends.
If you’re also able, do send over donations in this list of organisations collecting resources for actors and writers affected by the strike.
Exploitation is a systemic issue, and whatever happens to our storytellers and skilled workers will affect all of us in ways we can’t imagine.
"Why do we tell stories?" Game Master Brennan Lee Mulligan says to his players as the calamity unfolds in Critical Role's Exandria Unlimited. "To try to make sense of a world that can be terrifying and enormous."
Just like how I was able to make sense of the worldviews I’ve created as a young child when I read Good Omens, and indeed now that I’ve watched it as a series and my perspective has been shaped with age, I consume stories because I want to understand this terrifying and enormous and beautiful world we live in, and the things man is capable of in making this a good place for everyone.
I’d love to honour Good Omens in this way.