Whew. That was a close one. Good Omens walked us all the way up to the edge of the apocalypse, then blinked before going all the way. It was always going to end this way, of course. It’s hard to imagine a series with such a light touch and such obvious affection for humanity pushing the button and blowing it all up. But, true to form, the fundamentally optimistic Good Omens makes the decision to veer away from the End of Days a meaningful one. It’s not just about our heroes rushing in and turning off the missiles before they can launch — though that’s certainly part of it — it’s about Adam making a choice and the cosmos having to abide by that choice and being the better for it.
Having ended its fifth episode seemingly just before the beginning of a nuclear war, Good Omens doesn’t pick up with its sixth episode exactly where we might expect. Instead, we’re taken beyond the averted apocalypse to watch Crowley stand trial in Hell for betraying his Satanic master. Presided over by the nasty-looking Beelezebub (Anna Maxwell), the trial does not look like it will go well for Crowley. And having just seen his Bentley get blown up, this appears to be an extension of a long streak of bad luck.
The exploding Bentley brings us back to the Air Force base and back to the moment when it looks as if Aziraphale and Crowley are going to have to kill Adam to stop him from Antichrist-ing all over the place. It’s a variation on the classic “Would you kill baby Hitler?” thought problem and plays out tellingly. Both Crowley and Aziraphale scarcely hesitate, while Shadwell and Madame Tracy (still sharing her body with Aziraphale) can’t imagine committing the act. For all their elective affinities with humanity, Crowley and Aziraphale ultimately remain apart from it. (The Thunder Gun, which has been waiting to go off since the second episode, finally gets called into action, sort of.)
While Pulsifer discovers that his inability to use computers can serve as a gift as well as a curse, the Them square off against the Four Horsemen and discover they’re not mounters so much as ideas, and ideas can be fought against. So, down go War, Pollution, and Famine thanks to youthful idealism (there’s that optimism again), leaving only Death standing. He’s not going away, but Adam soon has bigger problems anyway. Arriving in tandem, Gabriel and Beelzebub are not happy about recent developments. They cite the Great Plan, but the argument falls apart when they’re asked if the Great Plan is the same as God’s ineffable plan. No answer, though Gabriel does offer this rebuttal: “God does not play games with the universe.” Crowley’s response: “Where have you been?”
The final boss, however, has yet to show his face. When Satan does show up, said face looks like the stuff of metal album covers and he sounds like Benedict Cumberbatch, both choices that fit into the series’ aesthetic quite well. But Adam’s ready for it. After an extra-dimensional confab with Aziraphale and Crowley where they both agree that he’s neither godly nor Satanic, just human, and that that’s a good thing, Adam gives Satan what for and waits for his dad — not his genetic dad, but his real dad as far as he’s concerned — to show up.
Then we’re done. Or at least the threat of ending the Earth has abated. Our protagonists, however, have a bit more ahead of them. Pulsifer and Anathema make a go of it as a couple and, after receiving another book of prophecies from Agnes Nutter, decide to cast it aside and make their own way. Shadwell and Madame Tracy similarly find a connection, now that he can classify her as a “retired Jezebel.” So it’s happy endings all around, except for Aziraphale and Crowley, who are sentenced to death in, respectively, Heaven and Hell.
Or they would be, were it not for a clever switch inspired by Agnes’s last prophecy. Looking at a future where they’re likely to be left alone by their respective home teams, Aziraphale and Crowley leave the park to enjoy a fancy dinner together. It’s a nice bit of parallelism to what’s going on in Adam’s neck of England. Confined to a garden as punishment, he decides to leave it anyway, grabbing an apple on the way out. As God puts it: “There never was an apple, in Adam’s opinion, that wasn’t worth the trouble you got into for eating it.” In the end, we’ve come full circle and ended up where we started, even if the otherworldly forces would have it otherwise.
Fun stuff, right? While I would love to have seen what Terry Gilliam might have done with this story when he attempted it years ago, I think the book needed the space of a miniseries to work this well. It also benefits from Neil Gaiman’s direct involvement. The series captures from start to finish the spirit of the book he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett, and where another writer might have treated some of the digressions as indulgent, Gaiman gets that they give Good Omens its heart. Take away the weird asides, overstocked cast, and absurdly intricate cosmologies and it’s a story in which nothing happens. It takes the long way but ultimately leaves everything — Aziraphale’s bookshop, the relationship between Heaven and Hell, etc. — more or less as it was. If it weren’t so clever and full of delightful characters, it might feel like a waste of time. Instead, it makes the end of the world seem weirdly life-affirming.
Welcome to the End Times
Ah, so that’s where the flaming sword ended up. It has a checkered legacy, doesn’t it? Hopefully it’ll be put to better use, or no use at all, back in Heaven.
We finally learn why Pulsifer’s car is called “Dick Turpin.” It’s not worth repeating.
“Both sides are going to use this a breathing space before the big one.” That’s an ominous suggestion, but it also raises the possibility of a sequel. Gaiman and Pratchett made some stabs at one, to be called 668: The Neighbor of the Beast, but seem not to have gotten very far. Gabriel, delightfully played here by Jon Hamm, would have figured into it. (He’s merely referenced in the original novel.)