Good Omens Reread

Good Omens, Part 9: It’s the End of the World as We Know It, And I Feel Fine

Here we are. The final battle. It all comes down to this. Welcome, my friends, to the end of the world. It’s been my absolute pleasure to be your guide, the Virgil to your Dante, for the last few weeks as we traveled the winding roads of Good Omens that have led us up to this point. This is where it all goes down. It’s finally time to see which side wins. Are you ready? Here we go…

Summary

We begin, inauspiciously, with one of Adam Young’s neighbors. Mr. R.P. Tyler likes everything precise and correct. He has no patience for rambunctious children or untidy neighbors. He frequently writes letters to the editor of the local paper decrying the lack of respect given by the youths, and about the general decay of the country’s moral fiber. Why, back in HIS day…! Anyway, Mr. Tyler is in for a day of annoyances he can not yet comprehend. First, the Horsemen stop him to ask for directions. He then has a run in with the Them. Then, to his astonishment, a very nice lady and a rumpled man on a scooter ask for directions as well. Finally, a smart gent in a burning Bentley stops him for directions to Tadfield. Mr. Tyler has no end of things to write to the editors of the local paper about now. Look at the state of this country! You’d think the world was ending or something!

The Horsemen arrive at the US military base near Tadfield and infiltrate it in disguise. Outside, Newt and Anathema are waiting to find a way into the place. Agnes said it was significant and she hasn’t been wrong yet. The US military base also has Shadwell and Madame Tracy to contend with. Shadwell still believes his hand is a godly weapon, but the US military is rather underwhelmed. Crowley and the remains of the Bentley pull up, to Aziraphale’s immense relief and to the further confusion of the US military. Much to the horror of the US Sargent, the gates to the airbase open and four kids on bikes race through. Aziraphale, who is really having a very rough day, has had it. With a snap of his (well, Madame Tracy’s) fingers, the Sargent disappears. Crowley is deeply impressed by his old friend’s new trick and his mood improves as more people drive up.

Military and tech companies all over the world panic as their machines start to take on minds of their own. Nuclear bombs arm themselves, preparing for the moment they can rocket off into the sky. Doors shut and leave workmen out of important rooms. Chemicals threaten to spill from their containers in vast industrial quantities. There is only one man who can stop this. That man is NOT Newt Pulsifer and, yet, Newt is all we have. He gamely tries to undo some of the electronic chaos as Anathema watches the Horsemen work their magic around the base. It may be too late but they have to try.

The Horsemen realize Adam has arrived and move outside to greet him. Adam is not happy and the Horsemen are not amused. Adam has made a decision. He chooses to not end the world. The Horsemen, Death especially, don’t understand. This is, after all, his purpose. But Adam knows he has more than one purpose and he has his own group of loyal friends. War tries to goad him into acting but Penny steps in, wielding a wooden sword, and shuts War down. Wensleydale faces down Famine with his own set of hastily created scales and bests him. Not to be outdone, Brian hurls his makeshift grass crown at Pollution and wrecks him. Adam stares down Death itself as his friends take out the Horsemen. Death rears back and unfurls his wings, pointing accusingly at Adam, saying that while the end may not come today it will still come at some point. With all the gravitas of an eleven year old, Adam shrugs him off. With Death gone, all the preparations are for naught and around the world everything begins to calm down. Newt, bless him, thinks he’s fixed everything, but just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time.

And that’s it. The world has been saved. Credits roll, everyone is happy. Wait, no. That isn’t what happens at all. Heaven and Hell are both enraged that Adam has rained all over their Armageddon parade. Adam looks over at Crowley, Aziraphale/Madame Tracy, and Shadwell and gives Aziraphale a corporeal form with a snap of his fingers. Anathema and Newt walk over to join the small group as ominous clouds begin to roll in. Crowley knows it’s not over. He can feel it in his bones.

A bolt of lightning crashes into the ground and Heaven’s representative, the Metatron, appears. With bubbling flames and melting concrete, Beelzebub appears from below, taking a moment to growl at Crowley before facing the matter at hand. Adam stands in the way of their very carefully planned apocalypse, and neither Heaven or Hell appreciate that very much. Adam, despite being glared at by two Biblical titans, is utterly unbothered. He tells them he has no interest in letting the world end and both factions would grow bored with winning anyway. He thinks Heaven and Hell have gone about this all wrong. Why go to the trouble to create humanity if all you do is mess with them? He doesn’t want to rule over humanity either. It’s too much like cleaning up other people’s bedrooms for them. The Metatron and Beelzebub are utterly flummoxed by Adam and rendered almost speechless. This isn’t how this is supposed to go.

Adam is tired of all their questions and flags a bit under the onslaught of “but it’s the grand plan!” speeches from both sides. Thankfully, Aziraphale and Crowley are there to pick up the slack. Aziraphale digs at the Metatron, asking persistently about the “ineffable plan” while Crowley joins in, saying things change and can be re-written. Beelzebub and the Metatron finally give in and retreat, promising retribution from each faction for their parts in this failure.

Adam has the hang of his powers know and knows that with great power comes great responsibility. It’s better if everyone mostly forgot what happened so they could continue on with their lives. Anathema presses him, asking why not use his powers for good, like bring back the whales? He shrugs. It wouldn’t stop people killing whales, now would it? For an eleven year old, Adam’s reasoning is flawless and no one can think of any other way to convince him. It’s not that Adam knows what’s best, he just knows what ISN’T best. It’s over.

Except, well, not over for everyone. Lucifer himself is pissed off enough to show up in person and to demand what his son is doing. Crowley and Aziraphale ready for battle and Shadwell joins them. Angel and demon both let their wings out, readying themselves for what will surely be the ends of their own worlds, but then Adam moves. He changes everything. He stops Lucifer from coming by summoning his own human father instead. Everyone goes home, except Crowley and Aziraphale who sit down on the military air strip and get drunk on wine. They helpfully sign for the collection of the crown, sword, and scales when a man comes to claim them. They take a Jeep and drive back to London.

Sunday is a day that should not exist and yet, impossibly, it does. It dawns like nothing ever happened. Newt has spent the night again with Anathema, who is besides herself now that the end of the world didn’t come to pass. There are no more prophecies from dear old Agnes. What will she do now? A delivery to the cottage holds the answer. Newt’s memory is a bit spotty—he seems to be unable to remember most of Saturday, but he does know that Agnes’ book was unfortunately burned. The delivery of a new book, held by a law firm for over three hundred years, is met with shock and a chilling realization. That’s Agnes’ style, all right. It’s the manuscript of Agnes’ sequel and it leaves Anathema with a very big decision to make.

Crowley and Aziraphale stroll through the park, taking stock. They remember what happened. They know the aftermath. Adam has tried to set things right, as best he can. Crowley’s Bentley is back, as if it was never damaged at all. Aziraphale’s bookshop is back, too, though the books are now all expensive children’s books. Crowley worries at the idea of the Plan and Ineffability as if it was something stuck in his teeth. He can’t shake the feeling that the end of the world not happening was somehow planned as well.

Shadwell also doesn’t exactly remember what happened. He does know things are different. For one thing, instead of leaving out Sunday lunch for him, Madame Tracy has invited him into her apartment, sat him down in a comfy armchair, and eaten lunch with him instead. With dawning realization and horror, Shadwell realizes he’s happy there with her. Madame Tracy talks about maybe having a cottage somewhere in the country and, with that, Witchfinder Sargent Shadwell (retired) is all hers.

Adam is grounded. Some reward for not causing the end of the world. The Them stop by to inform him a circus is setting up outside town, but he can’t join them. He has to stay in the backyard. The backyard is boring, though, and he could always use Dog as an excuse… Adam nudges the world gently and changes a hedge, so Dog can run through it and he’ll have to chase him. He steals a few apples and runs home, happy.

Commentary

I can’t believe we’re here already. The end! Good Omens is such an amazing book and it ends on such a wonderful, bittersweet note. It also leaves us with questions. Let’s dig into it.

I low-key love R. P. Tyler. He is hilarious. Everyone has a neighbor like him. We call our neighborhood’s busybody “The Mayor”, and he’s always out walking his dog and capturing you in twenty minute long conversations about why the mail delivery happens so late in the day now, and why people should not use certain kinds of Christmas lights. Mr. Tyler’s section also has the best footnote in the entire book, in my honest opinion. He draws himself up to his full height and the footnote happily tells you that height is 5’6’’. It makes me laugh every time.

It’s amazing how Adam pulls the Them together to defeat the Horsemen and how each child is a perfect opponent. Of course Pepper and War would fight each other. It only makes sense. The Horsemen are no match for the Them. The only one not defeated is Death, which is fair enough. Beelzebub and the Metatron appear and try to make Adam start the apocalypse, which also doesn’t work at all. With no outside interference, Adam has simply grown up human and neither of them can make him do anything he doesn’t want to. After being cowed by their respective representatives, Crowley and Aziraphale do an amazing job of tearing their logic to shreds and sending them packing.

Now here’s where I start to lose the thread, because I can read certain events in multiple different ways. I’d love to know your interpretations. For one thing, Adam stops Lucifer from showing up. I’ve never been able to decide if Adam simply banishes him back from whence he came or if, somehow, he transforms Lucifer into his father? His father does seem to just blink into existence, right where Lucifer was beginning to appear. I’ve always wondered about that.

Newt and Anathema getting together makes me happy. I can see them as a couple. I think, with added confidence, Newt would make a good partner. He certainly handles the lawyer with Agnes’ manuscript well enough. I love all the details in this scene. The inevitability of what’s going to happen, Newt’s growing dread, his utter lack of surprise. It’s all done so well. I like how it doesn’t tell us what she does with the book, too. Later, Adam is running past their cottage and sees a plume of smoke from the chimney that becomes, for a moment, Agnes. I never knew if that meant they burn her manuscript, or if it’s just a little stylistic flourish since Adam can see so much more than normal people. I like that it’s left up to us to fill in what happened. Personally, I can’t see Anathema burning the manuscript. What do you think?

I am so glad the Bentley returns! That poor car! Crowley seems pleased about it, too. I hope it keeps turning cassettes into the Best of Queen as well. It’s oddly sad when they drive away from the military base and the cassette in the Jeep isn’t Queen. I don’t know why that chokes me up a little, but it does. For his part, Aziraphale seems glad his bookstop is back, even if Adam stocked it with children’s books. Sure, expensive children’s books, but Aziraphale had a book collection amassed over centuries. It’s not the same. Adam did his best, though. I also appreciate Crowley’s dive into philosophy here. He’s giving voice to things that I was certainly left thinking after the final showdown. Without answers they both shrug and go to lunch. Sometimes that’s the most sensible thing to do. I do enjoy the little aside that War’s sword used to belong to Aziraphale. What the hell kind of angel was he that his sword became the weapon of a Horseman?

I would love to know what Madame Tracy sees in Shadwell. Since they’ve known each other for so long, I wonder if it’s one of those relationships that blossom through daily monotony. They’ve gotten used to each other. They have a routine. Shadwell seems surprised to realize he’s all right being with her. A friendly nudge from Adam left in his dreams also helps, I imagine. Either way, I think they’d be very happy. I don’t know why, but I can easily see them both having a long life together.

Adam really did his best to put everything back together or make certain things just a touch better. Even Warlock and Greasy Johnson get a little bump from Adam. He still remembers everything, and the Them know that something went down, they just don’t recall the specifics. I’m amazed Adam retained his powers as well as the knowledge from them. Or does he? Maybe I’m reading too much into it but the apple tree he finds at the end, with the old man guarding it, strikes me as perhaps a manifestation of the Tree of Knowledge and, perhaps, of God. This has always bothered me, somewhat. It’s meant to be important, I just know it, but how? Is it a way for God to trick him and take away his knowledge? Does it show that Adam can still see things on a special magical level because of his powers? Is it just an old dude and an apple tree? I have read this book dozens of times since I was a teenager, and this part still trips me up.

It’s so sad for it to be over. I always feel a bit down once I close the book again for good. Good Omens is such a wonderful novel and I’m always sad to leave Tadfield and all the bizarre, beautiful characters behind.

Pun Corner

Can you believe it? The last Pun Corner. I’ll be sad to see it go. It was one of my favorite parts of this entire reread. I hope it was one of your favorite parts, too! Without further ado, I give you the final puns.

Aziraphale patted Crowley on the back. “We seem to have survived,” he said. “Just imagine how terrible it might have been if we’d been at all competent.”

I mean, he’s not wrong. The only reason any of this happens is because everyone was just the worst at all the jobs they had been given. The nuns lost track of the babies, Crowley and Aziraphale didn’t succeed in their childhood influence campaign. Thankfully for everyone, Adam was allowed to grow up all by himself and be a human. Phew, that was a close one.

[Aziraphale, preparing for battle] “I’d just like to say,” he said, “if we don’t get out of this then… I’ll have known, deep down inside, that there was a spark of goodness in you.”

[Crowley] “Just remember I’ll have known that, deep down inside, you were just enough of a bastard to be worth liking.”

I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying.

[Adam, on his grounding] “Not for years an’ years. Years an’ years an’ years. I’ll be an old man by the time they let me out,” said Adam.

“How about tomorrow?” asked Wensleydale.

Adam brightened. “Oh, tomorrow’ll be all right,” he pronounced. “They’ll have forgotten about it by then. You’ll see. They always do.”

I love this. It perfectly encapsulates childhood thinking and approach to time. I remember thinking like that when I was younger, too. Good god, these children were so well written.

Gosh, Are They On TV?

Good Omens is an incredible book. It’s heartfelt, hilarious, and harrowing in equal measures. It has truly surpassed the test of time and become a fan favorite for good reason. It’s one of my favorite books. Every time I pick it up, it’s like dropping in on an old friend to see how they are. I know that’s trite to say, but it’s true. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman created something special here. I’m deeply excited to see it come to life on screen as well, especially after shepherding everyone through this reread.

I know the actors will do an amazing job, especially David Tennant and Michael Sheen. I can think of no one better to play Crowley than Tennant! The teaser trailer we had a few months ago already showed him slithering into the role perfectly. I have more concerns about other roles, like Jack Whitehall as Newt, for example. I love Jack Whitehall, I think he’s hilarious, especially as a TV show host (his episode of Never Mind The Buzzcocks is hysterical) and a stand up comedian. But he doesn’t have the kind of sad, down on his luck, boring “aw shucks” feel that I always thought Newt had. I’m curious to see how he’ll make it work.

I’m also very curious to see how the Them are. Child actors are always kind of a big question mark. A lot is going to rest on the shoulders of the actor playing Adam. I have every confidence in them, and in the casting director. It’s going to be exciting to watch how everything comes together.

The show has a lot of different ways it could be presented and we still don’t know too much about the time period they’ve gone for. I’ve said before that setting it in 2019 loses some of the bigger set pieces, and wrecks Crowley’s escape plan from Hastur. Then again, maybe they have come up with something even better! If there’s one thing I know in this world, it’s not to underestimate Neil Gaiman. I have a feeling whatever they do is going to work, we just have to be patient to see what they’ve decided to go for. I can not wait to watch the show when it premiers. We still don’t know who is going to be Death, for example! There are still so many mysteries left!

I can’t believe the reread is over. I hope you’ve enjoyed the past several weeks just as much as I have. It’s been a delight having you along for the ride as we traveled together into the world of Good Omens. We have cornered all the puns, dug deep into the characters and plots, and survived the end of the world. Who could ask for more?

I, and my now heavily annotated copy of Good Omens, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. You have all been absolutely wonderful. See you all for the next apocalypse!

Meghan Ball is an avid reader, writer, and lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy. When she isn’t losing to a video game or playing the guitar badly, she’s writing short fiction and spending way too much time on Twitter. You can find her there @EldritchGirl. She currently lives in a weird part of New Jersey.

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