Warning: Spoilers for Amazon Prime’s Good Omens Season 2
With the premiere of the second season of good omens On July 28, writer Neil Gaiman has officially (and rather devastatingly) put an end to any accusations of queerbaiting. Leaving very little room for interpretation, Crowley and Aziraphale, the respectively demonic and angelic main characters of the Amazon fantasy comedy series, emotionally harrowedly kissed during the final moments of this season finale, thus ending more than 30 years of speculation about the nature of their relationship. The fight is over. The Chargers have won.
Well, no fair the Chargers
I’ll provide some context for those of you who aren’t constantly online: “shipping” refers to the act of endorsing a romantic or sexual relationship between two real or fictional characters. The term comes from X-files fandom in the ’90s, which was generally divided into “relationists” and “Noromo” fans who…well, I think you can guess their feelings on the central couple of Mulder and Scully. Over time, “relationshipper” was shortened to “shipper” and other fandoms adopted the term when discussing their own favorite fandom couples.
Ineffable Husbands, the trade name for Crowely and Aziraphale, arose after good omens was released in 2019, but some fans have endorsed a relationship between the two since the original novel written by Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett debuted in 1990. The characters are frequently described (both in the book and in the series) as beings cosmic sexless that you don’t need to understand silly human concepts like gender or sexuality. But there’s an obvious inclination to see them as coded by men, especially with David Tennant and Michael Sheen’s respective portrayals of Crowley and Aziraphale.
An overwhelming majority of the intimate interactions depicted in season two were visibly, undeniably queer. It wasn’t just that core relationship between these two heavenly beings. There is a side story that focuses on a lesbian love story, along with additional romantic portrayal for other LGBTQ and/or non-binary characters. Furthermore, the vast majority of these interactions take place in London’s Soho district, the beating heart of the city’s queer community, which has lost several of its once-iconic LGBTQ+ spaces to redevelopments and gentrification over the years. Even this small detail felt like an act of defiance.
I went into this season with the anticipation that I would be disappointed because it seems like the fantasy media hates being direct about non-straight romance. And when you do include them, the show is usually canceled right after. But while good omens It hasn’t been officially renewed, that seems to be a quirk of the strike, with planning more involved for a third season. This show isn’t likely to be cut to its knees all of a sudden. Then, by the time Crowley’s lips canonically I crashed into Aziraphale’s, screaming, sobbing, and calling every other queer friend I had to demand they add the series to their watch list. It’s been years since a show made me feel so validated.
During a press conference before the show’s premiere (which took place before the SAG-AFTRA strike officially began), I spoke with David Tennant and Michael Sheen about the new direction their characters are taking this season.
Even before the first series came out, the book already had a massive following online where people interpreted the relationship between the two main characters as being closer than was already implied. Did that influence how you portrayed the characters?
David Tenant: I think you just have to play the characters as they are. And you have to let people decide what they may or may not think that means or implies, you know. The subtext has to be read by the audience, right? And I don’t think you play anything specifically because you’re aware that certain people expect the relationship to play out a certain way.
michael sheen: And I think Neil had always been very clear that these are not human and therefore human labels don’t apply in the same way. But I was always very interested, from the beginning, in playing a character who is a kind of (compound) of love, and how that could manifest itself in a very particular relationship with another being. So I found it interesting to see how Aziraphale is most comfortable living on Earth and being among humans and among human things, how he might express himself through it and in terms of this relationship.
I found that very interesting to explore in what we were doing. But as I say, you have to resist putting certain labels on it that have nothing to do with these supernatural beings. They are multifaceted with many different aspects. And while Neil played with in Sandman also with that character (Dream), they could manifest at different times, such as different genders, different sexes, and different ages. There is no end to the possibilities for them. So there is also no end to the possibilities of what your relationship can be.
Did any of you have any thoughts on how your characters would develop in Season 2 now that we’ve moved away from the source material?
MS: Well, only to a certain extent, I guess, in how the relationship played out on camera, how we interpreted the scenes and inhabited the characters. I think Neil is incredibly open. He is as much a fan of the story and the characters as anyone. And I think watching us play those characters probably suggested certain things to him within the parameters of what he and Terry had already worked out. We brought some of the ideas they had for what could happen after the book in season 1. So his ideas for where the story could go, we haven’t finished them yet. But in terms of suggesting things, I mean, Neil tends to handle those kinds of things better.
DT: He’s pretty good at all of those things, isn’t he? So you just want to leave him. The last thing you want to do is try to limit his imagination.
MS: (joking) “Gaiman, shut up! This is what has to happen, friend!”
DT: Yeah, we just sit back and let the scripts flow.
None of this is to say that good omens is the only television series that sets a new standard for queer representation. The swashbuckling pirate comedy Our flag means death has made similar waves (sorry) for directly representing relationships across the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Coming-of-age stories like the ones on Netflix stopshearts they also excel at portraying queer romance. Genre shows like Invasion, warrior nunand the wheel of time they include major romances centered on two women, but the romances, particularly in the fantasy genre, rarely center on queer male characters.
With its second season, good omens has managed to create a wonderfully diverse world in an environment where, in theory, anything is possible. And he does it unapologetically and affirmatively — a large number of characters verbally identify as queer or non-gender, which is a breath of fresh air compared to shows that leave these things open to interpretation, preventing viewers from seeing themselves officially represented. Similarly, this season there are several visibly disabled characters, and no one tries to use those physical differences as a plot device. In fact, none of the other characters even mention the differences between them.
The portrayal of disability is something the broader fantasy genre struggles with as well. When creator and disability consultant mark thompson created the “Combat Wheelchair” for the Dungeons and Dragons tabletop RPG, some players argued which was unnecessary because the magic in the game would have eradicated all the disabilities in the D&D universe. However, it is grossly offensive to suggest that a game known for offering unimaginably limitless gameplay possibilities should prevent its players from representing themselves in that universe.
I spoke with actress, comedian, and disability rights activist Liz Carr about her portrayal of Saraqael, an archangel in Season 2 of good omens who, frankly, seems to be the only heavenly employee who’s good at his job. “I really loved the casting options,” he said. “The character was not written for a wheelchair user, so they cast someone known for being very sarcastic, which is to say, the right person for the role.”
“They pulled me up and Neil said, ‘In the sky, you’ll be flying. As a wheelchair user, your chair will fly, and on Earth, you will be able to form miracles where anything inaccessible becomes accessible. Choose me or a disabled person, and it brings such fun and such wealth, such an opportunity. And for people to look and say, ‘I’ve never seen that. I have never seen myself’… Heaven is perfect bodies, healed beings. then to No Whatever it is, I think that’s a lot of fun.”
Other angels are also depicted with disabilities this season. During the episode 2 flashback, the choir of angels sent to reward Job and his wife for his commitment to God includes people with Down syndrome and limb differences. These actors are uncredited, but their inclusion means that Saraqael is not a token inclusion: in the world of Gaiman and Pratchett, anyone can be an angel.
The suspense at the end of the final episode of good omens season 2 suggests that the show’s diversity and inclusivity won’t slow down in later episodes. Season 3 hasn’t gotten the green light yet (and probably won’t anytime soon due to ongoing writer and actor strikes), but Gaiman says it’s already he has it all planned if approved. If all goes well, fans of the books may be able to see the long mocked retirement home on the south downs of the uk.