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Angel, demon, or somewhere in between?

Good Omens has pretty much taken over my life for the last month. I've watched it probably seven times in total: once when it came out, once before the trip to the Midwest, once on the trip out, once on the trip home, and then random episode viewings during the trip and since we got home. A good fraction of the conversation between me and my husband are about the show or the book (or both), much like Doctor Who has been ever since I first watched "Rose" in 2013.

I haven't abandoned DW; it's just not the fresh new thing right now. GO is, and I'm even considering writing a fanfic or two. We'll see where that goes, but otherwise, I'm still an entrenched DW writer and working on some things for Camp Nanowrimo.

I think the biggest problem right now is that I just have no one other than my husband to talk to about GO. I've gotten most of my friends to watch the show, and while they liked/loved it, no one cares to discuss it more than "Oh, that was a gas!" (Yes, one of my friends literally said that. Dates him, doesn't it?) I'm a member of the Neil Gaiman fan group on FB and it's still the main topic of discussion there (except they've just announced that Netflix made a deal with Gaiman to adapt Sandman and that's the big news now), but they're not interested in discussing themes and things. So I'm stuck blagging (now there's an obscure reference) and clogging the ether with my fangirling.

And the bottom line is that you suffer for it. Muahahaha!

Note: What I write here might be considered sacrilegious. You've been warned.

I think the thing I still wonder, after all of these viewings, is what God's plan actually was. Yes, yes, it's ineffable, but you can't help but wonder what she was trying to accomplish. The angels and demons thought that the Great Plan of creating a world that lasted for six thousand years and ended in fire and flame was the Ineffable Plan, but as Aziraphale pointed out, it couldn't be: whatever God plans must happen, and Armageddon didn't. Not to mention, that plan doesn't make much sense, at least to this human. Crowley said, at least as far as the Great Plan was concerned, God was testing the humans and she shouldn't, in his opinion, test them to destruction, but the Great Plan had nothing to do with the humans. They were only innocent bystanders while the angels and demons went to war with each other. There's the bit that it all hinged on Adam and his choices, but testing one boy isn't much of a fair test of the species.

The real hint, though, is that God, by her own admission, plays an ineffable game of her own devising. No one knows the rules. When this line is said, it's implied that it's the humans who don't understand, but as we see, no one understands, not even the Metatron, who is arguably the closest to God.

Given this, I posit that God's real intention was not to test the humans, but to test the angels and demons. She gives them this Great Plan that she says the world is going to follow, then sits back to see if any of them has a problem with the frankly horrible things that transpire. The angels are supposed to be paragons of good, but do they ever question it when they're told do evil things? Do they stoop to dirtying their hands to help the humans follow the right path? The demons have already fallen, long before the Great Plan was set in motion, and been told they will never be able to make amends, but do any even try?

Yes. Aziraphale and Crowley are the only ones, because unlike the rest of their brethren, they walk among the world created for the Plan and realize there's more at stake than just the battle between the two sides. Their actual decision to try to avert Armageddon is entirely selfish, as neither wants to give up their comfortable lives, but the seeds were planted early - for Aziraphale, in the Garden itself, as his sympathy for the plight of Adam and Eve motivates him to give them his sword. Early in the plan, at the Ark, both the angel and the demon are quietly questioning how drowning a whole civilization could possibly be just. Gabriel wouldn't have cared - if God said to do it, how could it be evil? - and Beelzebub would have enjoyed every minute of it. Aziraphale's and Crowley's time among the humans teaches them that there's more to existence than preparing for war. They grow beyond their functions, and that's what I think God was testing.

The book touches on the concept that angels and demons do not have free will, that they cannot make choices for themselves and deviate from their function, and I'm glad that the show didn't introduce this idea, as it would be hard to reconcile that idea with Aziraphale's and Crowley's agreement, that they would do each other's work to make it easier. It still bothers me a bit that Aziraphale agreed to go tempt the Scottish baron for Crowley, as during the course of the entire show, including the modern era scenes, he was so tetchy about doing anything that might even think about putting a toe over the evil line.

The real question, though, is does this God know what's going to happen? We know she's omniscient, insofar as she knows everything that's happening right now - yes, Aziraphale, she already knew you gave the sword away - but does she have the omniscience that knows the future as well? The answer must be yes - Agnes Nutter could not be more knowledgeable than God. So God must have set this all in motion knowing what everyone's going to do and how it's going to turn out, and if that's the case, then we must also come to the conclusion that God is a shipper. She built a world and created a complex Plan - crafted a six-thousand-year story - to bring Aziraphale and Crowley together, as well as Shadwell and Madame Tracy, and Newt and Anathema.

Love it.

I'm going to end here with one last observation, about how the show subtly depicted the difference between humans and supernatural beings. The legions of angels and demons all had distinguishing characteristics, such as unusual eyes, skin decorations, or, in the case of the demons, animals on their heads. (I absolutely adore Beelzebub's hat. I may have said that before, but it bears repeating.) Aziraphale and Crowley, however, had to fit in among the humans, so they had to look human for the most part, but still exhibit some traits that belie their true nature.

(As an aside, it's interesting that Crowley is able to shift his form but cannot mask his eyes. I wonder what the reason for that is. The script notes that in the graveyard, both Hastur and Ligur have reptilian eyes and this hints why Crowley wears sunglasses, so perhaps that's the one thing that demons cannot control, perhaps as part of their punishment. I don't remember if Hastur at Megiddo had reptilian eyes while meeting Warlock.)

It was only after having a picture of Crowley as my desktop background for a few days that I realized one of the things they did to give him an otherworldly air. His skin is absolutely perfect. DT is a freckly thing with a permanent five o'clock shadow. The makeup artists for GO hid all of that and smoothed out his crow's feet with a preternatural glowing bronze finish that just isn't quite normal. Aziraphale isn't much different - he also glows, as does Gabriel. It's a perfect, understated way of communicating that these people just don't belong here on earth.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 2nd, 2019 09:36 pm (UTC)
Creating the Earth only to destroy it just doesn't make sense, I have to agree. What do the humans have to do with any of this war between angels and demons anyway? Aziraphale finally standing up to his head office and noting that the "Ineffable Plan" was by definition unknowable to any except G-d, so how can any being, angel, demon or human, know what G-d's actual plan is.

Actually, funny you mention about bringing people together. In Jewish tradition, G-d created the world and everything in it in 6 days and rested on the 7th. So what has G-d been doing since? Making matches, which is eternally difficult!

As for omniscience vs free will, supposedly quantum theory and the idea of a multiverse explains that a bit. G-d knows the consequence of every action taken. Different actions can be taken at the same time, each one setting off a different universe, as it were.

I noticed that bronze "glow" given to Crowley's skin, along with the eyes, immediately...along with the slightly "unreal" cast to Aziraphale and Gabriel.
Jul. 8th, 2019 11:26 pm (UTC)
I don't know much about Jewish tradition - I only have Christian tradition to work off of (and it's largely loosely remembered from Lutheran middle school), and it's amazingly different from Jewish tradition despite being based on a lot of the same history. I like the concept that G-d has been spending her time encouraging love.

In that vein, I am trying to temper the amount of real theology I apply to the show, because I feel that GO establishes its own version of the cosmology that agrees with a large part of the Jewish and Christian traditions but also differs with a lot of it. It's fun trying to figure out how the world of GO actually works.

It seemed to me that the angels' and demons' lack of free will was expressed in the show by the bureaucratic structure of both sides. Each side told their minions what to do and they couldn't choose not to do it, but they could choose how they did it. Crowley and Aziraphale grew away from that as they began to do each others' jobs for their Agreement, and in turn began to think for themselves. Though, Crowley's remark that he'd never be forgiven, that he was unforgivable, is another aspect of that lack of free will.

I had noticed the perfection of Crowley's skin early on, but it had seemed at the time a symptom of hyper-sharp cinematography of the type that you see in modern, "edgy" sci-fi shows. (I saw a similar style in "Time Heist".) It was only much later that I realized that the "styie" I thought I saw was really only limited to the angels and Crowley, and then I figured out what it meant.

Edited at 2019-07-08 11:27 pm (UTC)
Jul. 9th, 2019 01:43 am (UTC)
In Jewish tradition G-d has a name that actually embodies what we call the feminine aspect, Shechina. For every child conceived there are 3 partners: male, female and the Shechina. So that's the other thing G-d is occupied with besides matchmaking.

Yes, free will is uniquely meant to be a human characteristic. Angels are not supposed to have free will.
Jul. 9th, 2019 03:54 pm (UTC)
Now that's fascinating! Thanks!
Jul. 9th, 2019 04:21 pm (UTC)
No problem! G-d is difficult to define because most languages are not gender-neutral. This includes Hebrew, the original language of what some people call the "Old Testament." Therefore, while G-d is mostly referred to as male in the text, it's nice to see that the commentaries refer to an actual feminine facet in recognition of that.

I think Leonard Nimoy, in his later years, did some artwork regarding the Shechina.

Jul. 3rd, 2019 02:06 am (UTC)
Re the question of the Agreement and temptations, I don't think Aziraphale did tempt anyone, any more than that Crowley blessed anyone. I think all they did was simply tell their own sides that it had been done (and maybe make the journey for a bit of verisimilitude - and perhaps sightseeing or buying snacks or something). Given that all that seemed to matter to heaven and hell was that there was a report of something being done (and perhaps the sense that things had changed a bit), it doesn't seem like they ever looked for any proof. Otherwise they would have spotted that Crowley was not actually to blame for any of the things he did, nor perhaps Aziraphale for the credit one presumes he received. Otherwise they would have known much earlier that the two were in regular communication - but that only comes when the relevant authorities become suspicious.

The book does touch on free will, but also talks about how much both Aziraphale and Crowley have been influenced by their time on earth. I think we are meant to assume that they have developed free will themselves, hence the emphasis on the Agreement.

I believe God knows what the angels and demons would do, but not what humanity would do, and that's what she was really testing. Her checks and questions simply ensured that things were going the way she expected them to go (perhaps in preparation for 'the big one' in the future). Alternatively it was a test to keep heaven and hell in check, and point out that, despite their own beliefs, they are not actually the ones in charge. She is. Take your pick on that front. (If it's the latter, maybe the 'big one' will be angels and demons against humanity and God. THAT would be interesting.)

IMO what God has that Agnes Nutter doesn't is an understanding of what things are and will be, which Agnes can only guess at based on her glimpses of the future through the prism of her own experiences. God, on the other hand, does know what things were, are and will be, and thus how they can be used.

Or something. This sort of stuff can be debated forever.
Jul. 8th, 2019 11:39 pm (UTC)
Actually, it's made quite clear in the show that the two were doing each others' jobs. I just watched the first episode with a friend and it is mentioned there (though I don't remember the exact phrasing), but more importantly, it's explicitly spelled out in the Globe scene. Aziraphale says to Crowley, "You don't mean one of us goes up to Edinburgh and does both the blessing and the tempting?" Then they flip the coin, and Crowley says, "Tails. You're going to Edinburgh," then he saunters off after agreeing to do the miracle of bringing an audience to "Hamlet" as a favor. If they'd intended to do nothing and report that they'd succeeded to their home offices, Aziraphale wouldn't have had to go to Edinburgh. Thus, we have to conclude that he did both as they had agreed.

I agree that Crowley and Aziraphale developed free will themselves. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that lack of free will was expressed in this show as the heavenly and hellish bureaucracy, that the angels and demons could not disobey or question their orders - or, more likely, they didn't know that they could. And thus, the show is really about Aziraphale (and Crowley to a lesser extent) realizing that there are more than one definition of good and evil and that he can question and disagree without being evil.

I loved the explanation of Agnes' precognition in the book, though I totally get that it was difficult to express in the show and am glad they didn't try.
Jul. 3rd, 2019 05:56 am (UTC)
I reeallllyyy need to read and then watch, lol! Time and it's fickleness thwart me!
Jul. 3rd, 2019 03:27 pm (UTC)
There is so much to discuss within your mkissive above, and when I have more time, I'd love to reflect more on it, but I had to say one thing.

Regarding whether God "know(s) what's going to happen? We know she's omniscient, insofar as she knows everything that's happening right now - yes, Aziraphale, she already knew you gave the sword away - but does she have the omniscience that knows the future as well?"

It is my understanding (as a cradle Catholic) that time is a human construct. For God there is no past and future, only NOW. In addition to being omniscient, she is omnipresent. She knows what is, what was, and what will be (sort of like a Time Lord!). She knows the choices you made, are making and will make, but she gives you the freedom to make the choices. God does not "let things happen". God know you will make the choice that allows something to happen, but let's you make it anyway.

And I also think The Great Plan INCLUDED the demons' fall. If they hadn't, where would "The Plan" (ineffable or not) have been.

I wish you and I COULD talk about this, which I could do ad infinitum and ad nauseum. My friends, other than those here, are getting a bit tired of me asking "Have you watched it all yet???"
Jul. 8th, 2019 11:54 pm (UTC)
Oh man, I wish you were up here! We could talk about GO all day! :) My friends are, too, tired of me asking. At least I have my husband to talk to. He is still enjoying our daily Good Omens philosophy debates.

Though, at the rate I'm going here, I should still be obsessed enough about this at Gally next year. We'll have to set aside a dinner or three to talk...

I really like that idea of God perceiving the universe as one big NOW. That answers a lot of questions, actually. Though, I am trying to keep GO separate from real theology, as I feel that the cosmology that Gaiman and Pratchett created for their story differ from reality enough that I can't draw conclusions about the show from what I might know from the real world. On the other hand, it's an interesting exercise to think about things using real-world theology and then reassess them vs. what we know from the show.
Jul. 9th, 2019 09:34 pm (UTC)
Regarding omniscience, eldest did a talk on that from an engineering/physics eye, since he's an engineer. My comment above explains a little further about that.

Time... you can see how different human calendars divide time up. Some calendars are lunar only, and their holidays travel throughout the year. Others are solar only (the secular calendar), and they use a leap day to balance things out. The Jewish calendar is a combination of both lunar and solar. The months are based on the New Moon, yet the holidays are based on season (Passover in the Spring and Sukkot, the harvest festival, in the Fall). In order to maintain the holidays in their season, we must correlate with the solar calendar by adding a leap month in at various times. It gets complicated, but it works!

As for days, we go with days starting the evening before because of the account in Genesis as it describes creation, "And it was evening and it was morning..."

Time is expressed here in Earth-centric terms, though, so a very human construct. One could, I suppose, translate the original Hebrew from the Bible as "time-unit" instead of "day," because until we set up calendars, there was no set definition...
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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