“Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch” was the 1990 novel written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman which served as the basis for the 2019 miniseries, “Good Omens.” That original six-part miniseries starred Michael Sheen (“Tron: Legacy”) as “Aziraphale”, the angel who originally guarded the gates of Eden, and David Tennant (“Doctor Who”) as angel-turned-demon “Crowley,” who was the very serpent who tempted Eve in that very same Eden. The two divine opposites have formed an unlikely relationship since the beginning of spacetime itself—a relationship that’s weathered ideological attacks from their respective sides, including a near-Armageddon involving an AntiChrist.
Now, four years later, and after an almost-Biblical real-life pandemic, Aziraphale and Crowley return in a somewhat scaled-down sequel, “Good Omens 2,” another six-part miniseries written by Neil Gaiman and John Finnemore, filling in for the conspicuous absence of the late Terry Pratchett. With a smaller cast of characters, a less global story, and a more intimate focus, the 2021 shooting of “Good Omens 2” makes clear concussions to COVID, such as a vast army of attacking demons scaled down to a mere handful of Beetlejuice-faced actors wearing sterile masks. These limitations sometimes work in the production’s favor, with a tighter focus on Aziraphale and Crowley, who hold it together very well, even when the storytelling isn’t quite as seamless as it was with the first miniseries.
The new series opens shortly after the beginning of spacetime itself, as we see the genesis (excuse the pun) of the relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley, who are floating out near the Eagle nebula in the constellation of Serpens, aka “the pillars of Creation” (as it’s more poetically known). Aziraphale is content to simply marvel at it all, while Crowley has a notion for such nebulae to become stellar hatcheries of their own. We then cut to present-day London, billions of years later, where exiled angel Aziraphale and his exiled demon mate Crowley are soon to welcome a most unexpected (and starkers) visitor to their corner bookstore…
That visitor is the Archangel Gabriel (Jon Hamm), God’s former right-hand guy, who pushed for Armageddon last we saw him, and was no friend to either Crowley or Aziraphale. However, the being we see now is wandering completely naked through the streets of London with absolutely no memory (or clue) of who he is, or why he’s on Earth. Crowley is content to leave their former foe for himself, but angelic Aziraphale sees this version of Gabriel—whom he’s calling Jim—as an innocent. All “Jim” can remember is that something really really bad is going to happen, and that “Everyday, it’s a getting closer…”; a line from the 1957 Buddy Holly song “Everyday,” which is mysteriously playing in various jukeboxes. To keep their innocent, amnesiac visitor hidden from their respective sides, Aziraphale and Crowley concoct a ‘minor miracle’ to keep Gabriel-Jim incognito to both angelic and demonic visitors (“The Arrival”).
Needless to say, Gabriel’s reemergence in 21st century London does not go unnoticed by the powers-that-be in Heaven, which includes Archangel Michael (Don Mackichan), as well as her deputies Uriel (Gloria Obianyo) and Saraqael (Lizz Carr). Part of their plan is to send a “37th-Level” rookie angel named Muriel (Quelin Sepulveda) to Earth to scope Aziraphale’s bookstore in London. Needless to say, Aziraphale’s former associates in Heaven don’t appreciate their ‘gone native’ angel’s close relationship with a demon (“The Clue”)…
Note: Actress Liz Carr uses a wheelchair user due to arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, and has been an advocate for disabled persons for over 25 years. That her angelic character of Saraqael uses a chair is neither explained nor does it require an explanation—she simply does, and that’s the end of it. Carr also brings nice shadings of sarcasm to the role as well.
Having located Gabriel’s ‘human artifact’ (a matchbox) left behind in Heaven, inexperienced investigator Muriel arrives in London wearing a white police uniform under the alias “Inspector Constable” (two words she associated with police and mistook for a name). Finding the bookstore, the eager angel meets “Jim” but has no idea who he really is, thanks to the ‘miracle’ performed by Crowley and Aziraphale; which effectively mutes Gabriel’s true identity from divine observers. Realizing the good-natured, honest, forthright rookie Muriel is completely harmless, Crowley and Aziraphale make nice with the clueless bobby sent to find Gabriel (“I Know Where I’m Going”).
Note: Actress Quelin Sepulveda does a delightful job as the inexperienced angel sent to locate Gabriel while posing ‘undercover’ as a human. One can very much imagine Aziraphale being a lot like Muriel, millions of years ago…
Gabriel’s reported exile to Earth has also ruffled some feathers in Hell, too. With a new face, but surrounded by the same swarm of flies, Beelzebub (now played by Shelly Conn) receives a report from her ambitious deputy Shax (Miranda Richardson, returning to the series in a new role). Distrust of Heaven stirs paranoia in Shax, who pushes Beelzebub for an all-out attack on Aziraphale’s bookstore on Earth. However, Beelzebub—Satan’s equivalent of an Archangel—seems reluctant to launch another all-out war on Earth, given their misfortunes from the last attempted armageddon. Shax seems frustrated by her boss’s inexplicable reluctance (“The Hitchhiker”).
Note: Some casting changes with this miniseries. Beelzebub is no longer being played by Anna Maxwell Martin, who played her in the first miniseries. They (the character is genderless) are now played by actress Shelly Conn. The reason for the casting change is never made clear, though I wonder if this slightly more ‘glamorous’ version of the character was in anticipation of a plot twist involving Gabriel, played by the ridiculously handsome Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”). Miranda Richardson returns to the show, though she is no longer playing the lovable, semi-bogus psychic Madame Tracy, who became romantically involved with puritanical witch-hunter Sergeant Shadwell (Michael McKean, of “This is Spinal Tap,” “Better Call Saul”) at the end of the first series. Richardson’s new character of Shax is an about face from the lovable Madame Tracy, and Richardson clearly relishes the chance to vamp it up.
As with the previous miniseries, we see flashbacks to various events in the pasts of Aziraphale and Crowley, including the Almighty’s testing of the god-fearing human Job (Peter Davison). We learn that God allowed Crowley to kill Job’s livestock and children—a task Crowley didn’t quite deliver on, much to his friend Aziraphale’s relief (“The Clue”). We then see 19th-century Scottish gravediggers trying to survive by delivering corpses to researchers for money, which raises an interesting ethical dilemma between Crowley and Aziraphale (“I Know Where I’m Going”). The flashbacks also depict the Blitz over 1941 London as German bombs rained from the sky. Three traitorous Londoners (Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, Niamh Walsh) die in an attack and are comically resurrected as zombies by Shax to spy on Aziraphale as he attempts to fill in for a magician to entertain American troops (“The Hitchhiker”). The subplots tie-in with present-day events of the second series, though not quite as effectively as those in the original miniseries.
Note: “Doctor Who” in-jokes and Easter eggs are sprinkled throughout “Good Omens 2,“ including 5th Doctor Peter Davison’s guest-starring role as Job. Davison is also the father of Tennant’s real-life wife, Georgia Tennant (nee: Moffett), making him the father-in-law of 10th/14th Doctor David Tennant. One of the London Blitz zombies is also played by writer/actor/producer Mark Gatiss, who has been both a writer and guest-star in “Doctor Who.” Gatiss memorably played Sherlock Holmes’ ‘smarter brother’ Mycroft, in the 2010-2014 BBC adaptation “Sherlock” (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman). Gatiss was also “Harmony” in the first “Good Omens” miniseries, as well.
Another subplot sees Aziraphale playing matchmaker for two very different shop owners from his street; lonely record store owner Maggie (Maggie Service) and coffee shop owner Nina (Nina Sosanya), who’s in a verbally abusive relationship with her current partner (“The Arrival”). Ever the optimist, Aziraphale enlists Crowley’s help in hosting the local shopkeepers’ annual meeting at his bookstore, where “Jim” is serving hors d’oeuvres (hiding in plain sight) as Aziraphale plays dance music (as you do at any shopkeepers’ meeting…). Outside the bookstore, the ambitious Shax risks a war with Heaven by amassing a small army of demons outside to capture Gabriel. However, instead of the thousands of demons Shax requested for the attack, she is granted only a few handfuls of lazy, do-nothing recruits—several of which she vaporizes out of sheer frustration. The attack on the bookstore unifies the shopkeepers in Aziraphale’s defense, while also bringing Maggie and Nina closer together. Aziraphale and Crowley do what they can to hold the demons at bay, until the humans at the shopkeepers meeting can be safely evacuated (“The Ball”).
Note: To be honest, the Maggie-Nina matchmaking subplot is one of the weaker story elements of this miniseries. The same first-named actresses, Maggie Service (“Maggie”) and Nina Sosanya (“Nina”), are just fine, but their function in the story seems superfluous, as it only serves to echo the opposites-attract pairing of Aziraphale and Crowley.
The final episode (“Everyday”) see Crowley sneaking into Heaven with Muriel’s help, where he learns the reasons why Gabriel was exiled to Earth with his memory blocked—Gabriel opposed a plan by Heaven’s leadership for a second armageddon on Earth. The reasons for the previously war-mongering Gabriel’s change of heart become clear when they find his lost memory stored inside of a fly, held inside of the matchbox Gabriel left behind in Heaven—the fly contains Gabriel’s lost memories. Once restored, we learn that Gabriel himself was in a secret relationship with none other than Beelzebub—mirroring the relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley. Beelzebub gave Gabriel the fly as a failsafe—a mental flash drive—just in case Heaven did what they eventually did.
Note: Jon Hamm is absolutely hilarious as the less uptight version of Gabriel. The archangel is less war-mongering once he gets to know Beelzebub, who, it turns out, isn’t so bad after all. I’ve been a fan of actor Jon Hamm ever since AMC’s “Mad Men” (2007-2015), one of the best drama TV series of this century (and I don’t say that lightly).
Through the flashbacks of his restored memory, we see Gabriel and Beelzebub sneaking clandestine drinks together, just as we saw Aziraphale and Crowley’s relationship build over many centuries as well. Realizing they no longer have a place in their respective realms, the two lovers choose exile to Alpha Centauri together, allowing the ambitious Shax to take Beelzebub’s place in Hell.
Note: The secret relationship of Beelzebub and Gabriel is, of course, a direct mirror of Crowley and Aziraphale. However, Gabriel and Beelzebub quickly realized their attraction for each other and found the courage to pursue their relationship at all costs. The message of the series; opposites attract, and that love can bring together even the staunchest of opposing forces (even angels and demons). A more timely message for these increasingly divisive and polarizing times I can’t imagine.
The Metatron (Derek Jacobi), the angel who speaks directly for God, arrives on Earth in person with an offer for Aziraphale from You-Know-Who to fill the vacancy in Heaven left by Gabriel’s absence. Aziraphale is both flattered and overwhelmed by the offer, wondering if he can help to reverse some of the corruption he sees within Heaven’s elite class.
Note: Derek Jacobi (“I, Claudius”) is a legend among the great pool of British acting talent. And like David Tennant, Peter Davison and Mark Gatiss, Jacobi too, has a history with the “Doctor Who” franchise, having played the Doctor’s nemesis, “the Master,” in the 2007 Doctor Who episode “Utopia.” In that episode, the Master was seen living as a kindly old amnesiac. Once his memories are restored, the Master quickly regenerates into an evil, younger version of himself (John Simm) who soon chooses the alias of ‘John Saxon.’
Newly minted couple Nina and Maggie convince Crowley to confess his own deep feelings for his Aziraphale, who returns to tell Crowley of his job offer from Heaven. Crowley is stunned to learn that the being he’s loved for centuries will soon be leaving. Aziraphale assures Crowley he can make a place for both of them in Heaven, but Crowley wants them to find their own way in the universe—just like Gabriel and Beelzebub. Desperate to change Aziraphale’s mind, Crowley grabs him in a long, passionate kiss. Tearful but resolute, Aziraphale is ready to take his new place in Heaven…where he learns that his first task will be to usher in the Second Coming (!). We then see Crowley driving off angrily in his Bentley.
Note: I’m glad the series had the courage to make canonical what the audience has long known; Aziraphale and Crowley love each other. In fact, actors David Tennant and Michael Sheen play one of the most accurate married couples I’ve ever seen, and I say this as someone who’s been happily married for nearly a quarter century (squabbling and bickering included).
Summing It Up
The absence of the late Terry Pratchett is felt in this second miniseries, which lacks the clockwork plotting and elegant alignments of the original book and miniseries. The COVID pandemic clearly took a bite out of the newer production’s scope as well, which it smartly observes in the scene where Shax’s “demon army” is whittled down from hundreds of thousands to a few handfuls. The rampaging demons are also seen wearing masks on the foggy London streets. Some of these unavoidable limitations worked in favor of the production, as they forced writers Neil Gaiman and John Finnemore to craft a more intimate story this time around.
Note: Having just recovered from a nearly two-week bout of COVID recently, I can vouch that it’s no joke.
The surprise love connection between Gabriel and Beelzebub provides strong motivation for the two lovers to sabotage a second armageddon between their respective sides. Beefing up Jon Hamm’s comedic presence for this smaller-scale sequel was a smart move, as it gave the talented actor a great opportunity to flex his funny chops. Gabriel and Beelzebub’s secret relationship also serves to reinforce the show’s opposites-attract theme. If only Nina and Maggie’s pairing had a bit more of that oomph to it. Sadly, the subplot of Aziraphale playing matchmaker for Nina and Maggie ultimately feels extraneous, as the two shopkeepers lack the dynamic chemistry we see with Crowley and Aziraphale.
At the end of the day, this second series of “Good Omens” may lack the scope or gravitas of its predecessor, but it does give fans a lot more of Crowley and Aziraphale, which is one of the best and most accurate depictions of a longtime married couple I’ve yet seen in TV or film. The constant bickering, the anticipation of the other’s quirks and foibles, and that feeling that no matter how different they may seem from one another? Life apart would be an intolerable Hell for both.
Despite the cliffhanger ending, I have no doubt we’ll see Crowley and Aziraphael together in the end, even if it takes an eternity or two…
Where To Watch
“Good Omens 2” can currently be seen exclusively on Amazon PrimeVideo, included with Prime membership. UK audiences may see the series syndicated for the BBC, if the sequel series follows the example of its predecessor.