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Good Omens

Good Omens season 2

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay
Emily Tsiao

TV Series Review

The Bible is full of signs and portents regarding the end of the world (as we know it): Four Horsemen, seven seals, the falling star called Wormwood, etc.

But to my knowledge, it never mentions a handbasket.

Perhaps it’s only fitting that the Antichrist would be delivered via handbasket, what with the infernal cliché and all. But given the cargo, you’d think some precautions would’ve been in order to, y’know, make sure the diabolical baby made it to the right set of parents.

Be-Switched

That’s exactly what didn’t happen in Season One, when the demon Crowley (the same dude who tempted Eve into plucking a certain fruit off a certain tree) dropped the child off at an abbey filled with satanic nuns. Tasked with slipping the baby to an unsuspecting U.S. ambassador on his wife, the infant Antichrist was instead shuffled off to a middle-class pair of Brits without anyone knowing it.

That was a problem for all concerned, really. For the agents of heaven and hell, it meant they’d lost the kid meant to kickstart the events of Revelation, giving them the war they’d all been dreaming of for millennia. But for Crowley and his angelic counterpart, Aziraphale, it meant their bosses might discover their conspiring to stop Armageddon.

Well, long story short, Crowley and Aziraphale succeeded. They stopped the apocalypse, saved their own skins from the lethal fires of hell and holy waters of heaven, and settled back down on Earth to continue their comfortable existences on the planet they both love so dearly.

But as Season Two opens, the pair are forced to conspire again when the Archangel Gabriel (Aziraphale’s old boss) disappears from heaven, shows up in the buff on Aziraphale’s doorstep sans memory of who he is and starts spouting about a “terrible something” bound to take place.

Crowley and Aziraphale aren’t eager for the legions of heaven and hell (who are both hunting for Gabriel) to start interfering in their lives again, but they also still don’t want Earth to get destroyed. So they combine powers, tell some lies and set out to save the world … again.

The Coarse Men of the Apocalypse

Amazon’s Good Omens pulled its original story from a 1990 novel of the same name by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (and some elements in both seasons derive from an unwritten sequel). Pratchett, who died in 2015, was famous for his comic fantasies, so of course it’s funny. Neil Gaiman is the man behind such imaginative novels as Coraline and American Gods, so of course it’s creative. And, given its subject matter, of course it’s blasphemous, too.

At its core, the show’s spiritual problems stem from a simple, serious, theological error: The concept that there’s good, there’s evil, and then there’s the muddled middle where most of us live.

Angels here are strict-and-stuffy fun-haters. Demons are wicked, but (at least in Crowley’s case) kind of a kick to be around. And both sides are playing a rather evenly matched game—with human pawns in play.

But in Christian thinking (and remember, Good Omens is at least superficially filled with Christian images, ideas and themes), we’re always on a side. We can either submit to Christ’s authority and follow Him … or not.

For all of its wit, Good Omens feeds into a very wishful, very contemporary and, I think, very humanistic understanding of who we are and why we’re here. The series could certainly foster a bevy of fascinating theological discussions. But it’s a most unreliable narration, especially since it seems to revel in the aforementioned blasphemy, and thus potentially corruptive at its core.

It has superficial problems as well, the most notable being that nearly every character—at least in Season Two—is a member of the LGBT community. Indeed, two main characters share a same-sex kiss. Additionally, sporadic nudity flashes onscreen. Characters utter occasional profanities (though sometimes bad words come in streams rather than trickles). And remember, the show is predicated on a climactic war between heaven and hell, which some characters don’t survive to see. While the violence here is treated in a rather lighthearted manner, that doesn’t stop the occasional witch from being burned at the stake (and, incidentally, exploding to kill all of the onlookers as well).

Good Omens is thought by many to be a good show. But spiritually, this Amazon Prime series seems like it needs to be carted away in its own handbasket.

Episode Reviews

Jul. 28, 2023 – S2, Ep1: “Chapter One: The Arrival”

When Gabriel, a powerful archangel, loses all his memories and disappears from heaven, Aziraphale and Crowley team up to find out what happened to him.

In a flashback, Crowley (who at this point is still an angel of heaven) helps create the universe. He’s excited by the potential of the growing universe. But when Aziraphale informs him that God is planning to destroy the whole thing in just a few thousand years (before, in Crowley’s opinion, the whole place even has a chance to hit its stride), Crowley decides he’s going to take it upon himself to ask God if He’s really thought that through. Thus setting in motion his eventual fall from heaven.

Job 41:19 is written out on a matchbox. We see some stereotypical angels with white robes and wings. A prince of hell sports a very demonic appearance with open sores on its face, rotten teeth and the constant presence of flies. This same demon uses the flies to teleport Crowley from Earth to hell. Crowley uses his powers to change a traffic light and restore electricity to a building. He and Aziraphale each perform a “half miracle” simultaneously to hide Gabriel from the agents of heaven and hell.

Gabriel walks down a busy street with no clothes (we see his bare rear and a box he carries hides critical anatomy) while people gawk and film the incident. He hugs Aziraphale, who is clearly disturbed by the lack of clothing (though Gabriel remains unaware) and two women joke that the man might be an exotic dancer. A woman is disappointed to learn that her female crush is already in a relationship with another woman. There are some hints that Aziraphale and Crowley are attracted to each other. Angels talk about “breeding” humans.

The angels threaten to erase the name of anyone involved in Gabriel’s disappearance from the Book of Life—meaning they wouldn’t just die but would never have existed. We hear that Gabriel once tried to kill Aziraphale with hellfire. When Crowley gets angry, he begins emanating smoke before causing electric shocks to take out power on a whole street. Crowley drives recklessly.

A woman drinks wine when she’s stressed. A demon notes that creating misery is quite easy since every time she comes up with a diabolical plan, humans seem to enact an even worse scenario all on their own. Crowley criticizes some humans for feeding bread to ducks (since it’s very unhealthy for them). A woman’s romantic partner sends many volatile texts to her during a power outage. Characters lie and manipulate each other. Some people are rude to others. Archangels compete pettily for Gabriel’s job as “supreme archangel.”

We hear two uses of the s-word. “H—,” is used as a swear in a text message. An angel utters, “Good lord.”

Aziraphale says that forgiveness is one of his favorite things, and he forgives quite generously. An angel uses one of his wings to shield a fellow angel from a meteor shower.

May 31, 2019 – S1, Ep5: “The Doomsday Option”

Arizaphale and Crowley’s plan to prevent Armageddon has hit a snag or two. Arizaphale’s bookstore has burned down, for one thing, and his body has de-incorporated—necessitating a quick semi-possession of another body (after a quick, dispiriting visit to Heaven). Meanwhile, the Four Horsemen, the witch Anathema Device, her new boyfriend (Newton Pulsifer) and the boy Adam—aka the Antichrist—head to England’s Tadfield Airbase, where the end of the world is scheduled.

Adam glories in his newfound evil power at first, hovering above his childhood pals (with glowing red eyes), freezing them in place and wiping away their mouths so they can’t contradict him. But after he lets them loose and they tell Adam that he’s being a real jerk, he seems to reconsider—opting to try to fix things rather than destroy the world.

Meanwhile, Arizaphale’s possessed body belongs to the medium Madame Tracy, who’s holding a séance when she’s taken over. Arizaphale allows one of Tracy’s clients to talk with her dead husband (who tells her to just “shut up”) as lightning flashes outside. He/she then teams up with Shadwell, the last member of the Witchfinder Army, who brags about his index finger (which he says has the ability to exorcise demons). Shadwell detects Arizaphale in Tracy’s body and calls him a “Southern pansy.” (He makes several dated, crude remarks about women elsewhere as well.) A demon pours through a call center speakerphone as an avalanche of maggots, skeletonizing all the call-center employees. (That demon is later immolated himself in the burning M-25 freeway.)

We learn that the M-25 around London actually was designed by Crowley as a diabolical prayer that translates into “Hail the Great Beast devourer of worlds.” The low-grade anger expressed on the freeway is said to be like “water on a prayer wheel.” That freeway later bursts into flames (apparently killing everyone stuck in traffic there). Anathema and Newton get dressed after their sexual dalliance in the previous episode. (We don’t see anything critical here, though Newton does mention that it was his “first time.”) The Four Horsemen (one has been switched from “conquest” to “pollution”) take over Tadfield and prepare to launch automatic missiles and weapons all over the world.

Crowley gets drunk via a couple of bottles of liquor. Characters say “b–tard,” “d–n,” “h—” and the British profanities of “b-gger” and “bloody.” God’s name is misused once.

May 31, 2019 – S1, Ep1: “In the Beginning”

Crowley is charged with delivering the infant Antichrist to the Chattering Order of St. Beryl, where evil nuns (their sanctuary festooned with an upside-down cross) will give the baby to an unsuspecting ambassador and his wife. But when another expectant couple arrives as well, the babies get switched and the Antichrist (now named Adam) spends 11 years with the wrong family. Meanwhile, Crowley and Aziraphale seek out the real Antichrist and plot how to keep the world from ending.

In flashback, we see Crowley (in the guise of a serpent) tempt Eve into biting a forbidden apple in the Garden of Eden several days after creation (which, we’re told, occurred at exactly 9:13 a.m. on Oct. 21, 4004 B.C.) We see a fully nude Eve from behind and, later, both she and Adam are clothed in a smattering of leaves (still exposing quite a bit of their bodies). After the humans are kicked out of Eden, Aziraphale gives them his flaming sword to help protect them. While Aziraphale frets about whether he did the right thing, Crowley (now in humanish form) wonders what’s so bad about knowing the difference between good and evil. “A demon can get into a lot of trouble for doing the right thing,” he says. “Be funny if we both got it wrong, eh?”

It’s really just the beginning of a whole host of spiritually dubious plot points and themes—so many of them, in fact, that we can’t even dig into them all here. Here’s just one example: Crowley points out that hell has all the best composers (name-checking “all of the Bachs,” despite that classical musician’s reported piety), and he says that heaven’s not “big on wine” (never mind that Paul suggests a little wine can be good for one’s digestion). Heaven gets only The Sound of Music, which God allegedly loves and the angels quote frequently. One more example: Oscar-winner Frances McDormand is listed as “God” in the credits (though early on, she seems to act as more of a Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy-style narrator), and she describes existence as “like playing poker in a pitch-dark room for infinite stakes with a dealer who won’t tell you the rules and who smiles all the time.”

Crowley and Aziraphale get wildly drunk. Once they decide to sober up, Crowley strains and somehow psychically expels the wine back into its bottles. Later, one of them drinks a glass of brandy.

Crowley disguises himself as a Mary Poppins-like nanny (complete with dress and falsetto voice) to teach the boy whom he thinks is the Antichrist a lot of nefarious lessons. (Aziraphale disguises himself as a gardener to feed the boy countering lessons.) Crowley suggests to Aziraphale that if their plans to normalize the boy go awry, Aziraphale should just kill him. (Aziraphale is very uncomfortable with that notion and is noncommittal.) A demon kills a nun and burns/explodes an abbey to the ground. A “hellhound” devours either a minor demon or wandering soul in hell before bounding off to Earth to watch over the Antichrist.

Demons brag about tempting a priest into lust (with a “girl”) as well as tempting a politician into accepting a bribe. There’s a suggestion that a “spare baby” was dispatched, though the voice of God suggests that maybe the nuns found a good home for the baby and that he “probably wins prizes for his tropical fish.” Children throw food at a magician who’s attempting to entertain them.

We see a sculpture of a nude Hercules wrestling with snakes though it’s meant to have a more Scriptural, metaphorical connotation in context. We hear a reference to the Earth’s horoscope. (It’s a Libra, apparently.) Crowley lets loose a string of nearly 10 consecutive s-words. We also hear “b–tard,” “d–n,” “h—”, “p-ss” and the British vulgarity “bugger.” God’s name is used with the word “d–n” twice. A boy scrawls a crass word on a plaque.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.

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