Welcome to Bae Watch Wednesday, where I tell you all about the fictional
characters you ought to be crushing on. This week’s bae is a real angel:
Who Is Aziraphale?
Aziraphale is one of the primary characters of Amazon’s miniseries
Good Omens, based on the book of the
same name by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Aziraphale is a Principality, a
lesser order of angel. In the beginning, he was assigned to the eastern gate of
the Garden of Eden. Wielding a flaming sword, he was a symbol of God’s
strength. Unfortunately, Aziraphale goes a little – just a very little – bit rogue
when Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden. Rather than display the wrath
of God, Aziraphale gives Adam his sword to protect himself and Eve from the
dangers of the world at large.
This early display of compassion shows Aziraphale’s true
nature – kindness. It also attracts the attention of the demon Crawley, the
snake who tempted Eve. Crawley takes on a human form and joins Aziraphale on
the wall of Eden, and they watch Adam and Eve venture forth together. They
start up a conversation on their actions that day, wondering about the ramifications.
Crawley wonders if he did what God wanted, pushing Adam and Eve out of the
Garden, pointing out that Aziraphale’s kindness might have been against God’s
wishes. In the end, they agree that the plan is ineffable, and move on.
For millennia, Aziraphale is assigned to Earth to perform blessings and do God’s work. He continually finds himself running into Crawley, who takes on the name Crowley to distance himself from his reptilian roots. Crowley is Aziraphale’s counter, performing temptations. The two tend to cancel each other out – one’s good versus one’s bad equaling a net outcome of zero. This leads to Crowley proposing an arrangement – instead of wasting all this time doing essentially nothing, they will work together to create the appearance of faithful duty.
A. Z. Fell
Though he is at first hesitant to go against his orders, Aziraphale’s love of food and comfort outweigh his innate loyalty – at least a little. He and Crowley have continued meeting up over the centuries, and will occasionally trade off work to keep up appearances of doing their jobs. Over time, their meet ups become less coincidence, as a fledgling friendship springs up between angel and demon, though the angel is really rather very hesitant about saying so out loud. It’s undeniable, though, that the two have a much better relationship than they ought to.
Crowley even saves Aziraphale’s life on a few occasions,
despite that being a death sentence if hell finds out what he’s done. In France
during the Reign of Terror, Aziraphale is caught by revolutionaries for his
fine dress. They assume he is an aristo, and sentence him to death. Luckily for
him, Crowley is also in France (having instigated the revolution) and is able
to save him. Though Crowley mocks Aziraphale, rightfully pointing out that it
was quite a bad time to “pop over” to France for some crepes, he doesn’t
hesitate to save his friend.
We see this come up again in the second World War. Aziraphale has by this point in time established a rare bookstore in London, with quite an extensive collection. When some Nazis try to purchase extremely rare books of prophecy, he thinks he is setting them up for capture, only to be double-crossed. Luckily (again), Crowley is nearby and saves the day with a well-placed German bomb. He even saves Aziraphale’s cherished books, a gesture that does not go unnoticed. Although Aziraphale is still hesitant to call them friends, they have a good thing going. Neither wants to see it end, which leads them to the apocalypse.
Eventually, Aziraphale’s easy life of books and food is
disrupted by The Plan – the apocalypse, in which the armies of heaven and hell
will do final battle… destroying the Earth in the process, of course. It’s been
in the works since the beginning, and most of the angels and demons are eagerly
awaiting to see who will win, once and for all. But only most, because both Aziraphale and Crowley are not enthusiastic
about the coming apocalypse. When Crowley is instructed to deliver the
antichrist to Earth, he and Aziraphale decide to do what they can to stop the
apocalypse from coming.
Their plan is simple: to raise the antichrist to be as
normal as possible. Crowley will provide demonly guidance, but he’ll be – as always
– cancelled out by Aziraphale’s angelic goodness. Everything seems to go
according to plan, and young Warlock is raised to be a normal preteen boy. The
only problem is that Warlock is not the
antichrist. Crowley misplaced the baby, and now the two of them have only days
to find the real antichrist and stop apocalypse.
Things, naturally, go all kinds of wrong. Aziraphale is accidentally discorporated, leaving Crowley to mourn his presumed dead best friend. Aziraphale is able to “hitch a ride” with a local psychic, and he and Crowley head out to Tadfield, where Adam, the real antichrist, is about to start Armageddon. Despite all Crowley and Aziraphale’s efforts, they’ve utterly failed to stop the antichrist. But, luckily, Adam is a good kid and ends the plan all on his own. Aziraphale gets his body back, and he and Crowley are left alone after a little sleight of hand leaves heaven and hell wary of their “powers.”
They return to their normal, pleasant Earth lives, friendship stronger than ever.
Why Is Aziraphale Bae?
Michael Sheen is truly delightful as Aziraphale. He brings the angel to life as a flawed but ultimately good-natured person who has to decide what is really important. Sheen is heavenly in soft colors and feathery white hair, looking pretty much exactly how you’d expect an angel with a food and book obsession to look. Although Sheen will always be tinged with Twilight to me, he really inhabits Aziraphale so fully that it’s hard to separate an actor from character.
Aziraphale is beyond relatable because, at heart, he’s a
book nerd who just wants to be left alone to live his life. Which, big mood.
While Crowley lives in a sparse, utilitarian apartment that is only decorated
with surprisingly verdant house plants, Aziraphale’s combination
bookstore/living quarters is truly a delight. The store itself is crowded, full
of stacks upon stacks of rare volumes that Aziraphale has collected over the
centuries (and which are often inscribed first editions, of which he is
un-angelically proud). It’s the kind of homey bookstore that you could spend
hours lost in, happily.
We see how much Aziraphale truly loves his books in the
series. This is most clear in the Nazi incident in episode three, “Hard Times.”
Aziraphale’s books are the bait in a trap he thinks he’s laid for some Nazis,
who are interested in his rare volumes of prophecy. He would never give them up
willingly, but is happy to use them to try and trap the bad guys.
Unfortunately, he is double crossed, and faces both discorporation and the loss
of his precious books. Luckily, Crowley steps in and saves his life, but
Aziraphale is heartbroken to think of the books he’s lost – only for Crowley to
reveal he saved them, too.
It’s the moment that, for me, most clearly shows the deep relationship between angel and demon (whether you read it romantically or not). Crowley knows that Aziraphale’s books are more important to him than anything, so he saves them. Aziraphale realizes that Crowley not only knows him well, but cares enough to do something kind. Although Crowley teases that he doesn’t read books – to Aziraphale’s horror – he recognizes and supports his friend’s love. For his part, Aziraphale is happy to live with his books forever, regardless of apocalypse.
Good – But Not Too Good
Being an angel, it makes sense that Aziraphale embodies
goodness. After all, he is a representation of heaven. But he’s far better than
the other angels, who are snobbish about humans and hungry for war, regardless
of the consequences. The archangel Gabriel is a constant source of stress as
Aziraphale’s boss. Gabriel could not care less about humanity, and looks down
on Aziraphale’s affection for them. He particularly disagrees with Aziraphale’s
love of food, as angels have no need to consume sustenance. He fails to realize
that food is enjoyable, or that angels can feel such joy.
In contrast to the other angels, Aziraphale’s innate
goodness really stands out, from the first moment when he gives Adam (of Eden,
not Armageddon) his flaming sword. He knows that Adam and Eve will struggle to
survive outside the safe confines of the Garden, especially given that Eve is
pregnant. His desire to keep the humans safe from harm outweighs, at least
temporarily, his stated orders. Compassion is his driving force, not rote
obedience. Although Aziraphale does want to follow God’s plan, he is the only
angel to wonder if they can ever truly understand the plan, which lets him
think outside the box.
That’s not to say that Aziraphale is perfect, despite being
an angel. He’s almost a glutton with his love of food, and he prizes comfort
and materiality far more than a heavenly being ought. He’s also got a petty
side, though he often gets Crowley to handle the dirty work rather than do
anything outright bad himself. Aziraphale’s actions in France reveal his
biggest weakness – an inability to think things through. But despite all that,
Aziraphale remains, at heart, the best angel in heaven. Because, at heart, he
just wants to be good and kind and happy.
What’s Not To Love?
Good Omens is some of the best television I’ve seen in a while (and I’m heartbroken that we likely will not see any further canon content). So much of that comes down to the utter likeability of the two main characters (and their relationship with each other). Aziraphale and Crowley are flawed, and completely useless in preventing the apocalypse. They played almost no part in subverting the Plan; things turned out okay through no effort on their part. It’s rare to see two main characters have such little impact on the plot as a whole, particularly not when the plot is world-ending destruction that must be averted.
But despite their ineffectiveness, it’s undeniable that the
success of Good Omens comes down to
these two amazing characters. Aziraphale is a reflection of something better,
when most angels are warmongers and God is unreachable. Through him, we see
hope and love, things we expect from the heavenly host. Aziraphale’s kindness,
which prompts his willingness to bend the rules, elevates him above his peers,
as perhaps the only one who understands the truth – that things are ineffable,
and all he can do is his best.
More than being angelic, Aziraphale is perhaps, ironically,
the most human of the characters as well. His time among humans has changed
him, made him unrecognizable to the other angels who’ve kept themselves apart.
Aziraphale’s something different, now – but it’s something better. He’s petty
and kind in equal turn, naïve and ruthless. He loves books and fancy food and
comfort. He’s willing to go to France in the middle of a revolution just to get
his favorite food. He doesn’t want to see things end, and does his best to
prevent that. Who cares if he failed? He tried, and that’s what’s really