So what’s everybody’s favorite Jane Austen–inspired piece of comedy this summer? Is it episode two of this season’s The Afterparty, Depression Barbie from Barbie, or this episode of Good Omens? No wrong answers! Something that I think all three get at is how a Regency romance allows masc characters to express their feelings. Not just feel them but articulate them to their beloved. To be in a Regency romance requires people to be able to eventually communicate their feelings. That’s basically the whole plot of Persuasion when you think about it. Crowley and Aziraphale have been so blind to their own/each other’s feelings; of course it takes the most articulate romance genre to tee everyone up for a big finale.
And boy howdy, everything is really teed up in “The Ball.” It couldn’t be more penultimate in vibe if Aziraphale suddenly found out he was getting a job in Paris. The first flashback-less episode in ages and things really chug along. Stakes! Humans dying! Jon Hamm in an Elton John cosplay! Let’s get into it.
Shax has finally gotten their wish, and they’re going to assault London with 10,000 demons. Except that — just like on Earth — nobody wants to work anymore! The most demons Furfur can spare is 70. And when Shax flames one out of existence, they’re left with 69 (nice). Still, that’s more demons than usual on that block of London.
Let’s talk about this little, fictional block of London a little bit. Isn’t it cute? It reminds me of fake New York in Eyes Wide Shut. And also fake Hogsmeade at Universal Studios. The businesses that occupy Wickbur Street are quaint to a T. Organ/piano shop, magic shop (at first, I was like, “How did that magic shop survive its owner getting eaten in 1941?” But then I remembered Aziraphale is the planet’s only non-parasitic landlord and he loooooves magic.), record shop, coffeeshop, pub, and even a real throwback of a bordello. It all harkens to an England that probably doesn’t exist anymore, so it makes perfect sense they all get subsumed into Aziraphale’s fantasy of an England that definitely hasn’t been around for centuries.
Aziraphale lays the miracles on pretty thick for this affair. Is it because he ships Maggie and Nina that strongly, or is he convinced Hell is coming for Crowley and he wants to have one last hurrah? Either way, he is pulling out all the stops: brainwashing, redecorating, and even giving away books. Aziraphale hates selling the books in his bookshop, let alone giving them away for free. It speaks to his commitment to this bit that he’s willing to part with even a Doctor Who annual.
Everyone is letting their feelings poke out, because Crowley lets Jimriel have it for trying to destroy Aziraphale last season. Sure, he calls him a “friend,” but c’mon. He tells Jimriel to jump out the window, which Jimriel is willing to do. Thankfully, Crowley’s better angels win out (lmao), and he doesn’t let the archangel off himself. He does force Gabriel to think more on what he may or may not know about his current state. Jim says he feels like an empty house, and he knows where the furniture used to go. Apparently, Gabriel’s memory was in the matchbox, but now it’s “everywhere,” and that “If it happens again, makes it seem like an institutional problem.” If what happens again? Another apocalypse? Another angel and demon “arrangement”? We don’t know yet because, again, penultimate.
While making sure Nina and Maggie attend the ball/meeting, Crowley’s spidey senses go off as he notices the street filling up with demons. (Some in face masks, not the best optics in 2023 unforch.) Az isn’t bothered because he’s still in his Pride and Prejudice era. First, the lovers must dance. Both Maggie/Nina and the Ineffable Husbands. And there will be no talk of demonic invasions during the ball. Or of sex work, apparently. I appreciate that this show is essentially doing the joke I immediately got tired of on The Good Place and finding better ways to do it. Nobody could double entendre like Terry Pratchett, and the whole scene feels in tribute to him. More on that in the Apocrypha, btw.
Aziraphale is convinced his bookshop is still an embassy, but those mean very little when the country abandons it. Shax demands they give up Gabriel, or they’re going to start killing humans. Despite Aziraphale’s objections, Jimriel gives himself up. Conjuring a gorgeous white coat out of nothing, Gabriel tries to hand himself to the demons. But Az and Crowley’s miracle is still holding, and no one recognizes him. So the demons are still planning to kill all the humans. Thankfully, Hell is still a needlessly complicated bureaucracy, and Crowley is able to make up an infernal subsection that says humans need to be cleared from any official Heaven v. Hell battlefield.
Maggie and Nina stay in the bookshop with Aziraphale and Jimriel, Maggie because it’s the right thing to do and Nina because she wants to know what the fuck is going on. Meanwhile, Crowley is going up to Heaven with Muriel. What’s he planning? I don’t know, and neither does Aziraphale, but the one thing he does know: for Crowley, saving Aziraphale is his kink. All the players are in place for things to get Ultimate in the finale.
• Gay-O-Meter is still at DEFCON 2: FAST PACE. Everyone is almost aware that they love each other. We are very nearly on the brink. Plus, whatever Gabriel has going on the side. I think he’s in love, too.
• When Az invited Nina to the meeting and said it was “with no hidden agenda of any kind,” I LOL’d.
• I also LOL’d when that male Karen got merked as he was calling the police. ACABEIC: All Cops Are Bastards Except Inspector Constable.
• So fitting that the pub holds the elevator to both Heaven and Hell.
• Stray thought from the magic shop scene: seeing the Tenth Doctor in a fez is weird.
• The “seamstress” joke is straight out of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, where the Seamstresses’ Guild in Ankh-Morpork are, in fact, sex workers. Many a girl with a steady hand at needlepoint has gone to the guild seeking her fortune and, well, found it. Just not how she’d expected it.