MAJOR spoiler alerts for Good Omens, Seasons 1 and 2. Most of the ideas here were developed in conversation with Ingrid, and many of them are hers to begin with, including the core analysis.
The problem isn’t that it ends on a cliffhanger. Although it’s true that I don’t like that. Not when the next installment is probably years away and hasn’t even been nailed down yet. I think that’s bad writing, cynical and insecure, a breaking of the social contract between creator and audience. If you want people to watch your next installment, make your world and your characters compelling. Sure, leave some doors open, but provide enough closure to make your story feel like a story. As shitty as he is as a human being, Joss Whedon was really good at that with Buffy the Vampire Slayer: every season could have been the last, and it would have been satisfying. And Good Omens Season 1 did this beautifully. It was a lovely, perfect ending, leaving its audience basking in narrative afterglow — and leaving us in eager anticipation of the next round. Season 2 did the opposite of that, and it sucked.
But the cliffhanger thing isn’t a deal-breaker for me. I make exceptions. I cut slack. And even when I hate it, it doesn’t leave me shaking and seething.
And the problem isn’t that Crowley and Aziraphale don’t end up together. I’m okay with that. I adore them as a couple, and I like that this season brought their obvious coupledom out of the closet. But there are other queer love stories in the season that end more or less happily — Gabriel and Beelzebub (Beelzebub is non-binary), Maggie and Nina. I’d be fine if Crowley and Aziraphale’s story had some other creative, unexpected resolution. I don’t need the season to end with them walking off into the sunset. That’s not the problem.
The problem is that the ending is a betrayal.
It’s a deep betrayal of Aziraphale’s character.
Aziraphale’s character arc — for the entire run of both seasons — has been learning that Heaven is shitty. The people are shitty, the rules are shitty, the institution is shitty. The system is fundamentally broken. And Heaven can’t even begin repairing itself and making amends — because it has no idea it’s broken. It’s smug and self-righteous, convinced of its own goodness and unwilling to question that.
Aziraphale’s arc, for centuries, has been learning this painful truth, struggling against it, grieving over it, accepting it, and deciding what to do about it. Over the centuries, he’s been creating new meaning and purpose and values — in his love for Crowley, and in their shared love of the human world.
Good Omens 2 leans into this hard. The Job sequence alone is devastating: it digs deeply into the idea that Heaven could profoundly traumatize people — including KILLING THEIR CHILDREN — and then think they could fix it by giving their stuff back. And giving them different children. It digs into the appalling idea that you could murder someone’s children to win a bet — and still somehow consider yourself the good guy.* It reminds me of the Noah’s Ark sequence in Season 1 — but it’s longer, and harsher, and the effect it has on Aziraphale is more shattering. Aziraphale has spent centuries, millennia, learning to trust Crowley, humanity, and himself — and learning that Heaven is absolutely not to be trusted.
And in the last few minutes, in the conclusion of the season, Good Omens 2 nukes all of it.
Aziraphale is offered a high position in Heaven by Metatron, the voice of God. And he jumps at it. He doesn’t struggle with it, or question it, or even think about it. (Or if he does, we don’t see it.) He leaps at it, with pride and joy. He’s so overcome with delight, he doesn’t even imagine that Crowley wouldn’t want to go with him, that Crowley wouldn’t be thrilled. And when Crowley flatly disabuses him of this notion, Aziraphale doesn’t take a moment to consider; doesn’t stop to remember all the times over the centuries that Crowley has been right and Heaven has been wrong. In the course of one short conversation with one angelic bigwig, Aziraphale lets himself be yanked back to his moral square one.
It’s a fucking betrayal.
There is a legitimate point to be made here about temptation. Temptation is a major theme throughout Good Omens: the show keeps asking what the differences are between tempting someone, offering them alternatives, and asking them questions. I know that power can be a serious temptation — and for a good person, the power to fix things from the inside can be especially tempting. I know it can be tempting when the people who belittled you suddenly seem like they recognize your value. And there’s a legitimate question to be asked here about broken institutions: when do we try to fix them, when do we dismantle them and build new ones, where’s the continuum between those two choices? (It’s a question regularly asked by every leftist who votes Democratic.)
But the show doesn’t make this point, or ask this question. It just pulls the rug out from under us, and from the character we love. And it does it without respect. It doesn’t treat Aziraphale’s decision as a massive character reversal. It treats it as just another twist ending. Surprise! Want to know what happens next? Tune in next time!
If Aziraphale had spent an episode wrestling with the temptation from Heaven — thinking about it, not wanting to tell Crowley about it, finally telling Crowley about it, being kissed by Crowley and being stunned by that and wrestling with that offer as well — I might not be as angry. I could see it as a character backslide, which is absolutely a thing that happens. I’d still see it as a shitty, unsatisfying cliffhanger ending. But I wouldn’t feel furious and betrayed. My wife Ingrid and I wouldn’t have sat there as the credits rolled, silent, stunned, waiting for some final scene to pop up after the credits and tell us we didn’t really see what we just saw.
Nope. We saw it. We saw Aziraphale walk away from Earth and take the elevator to Heaven. He doesn’t just walk away from Crowley, or from humanity, the two great loves of his life. He walks away from himself. He blows himself up. He does it without hesitation or thought. And Good Omens 2 treats it as just another plot twist.
My headcanon is that Aziraphale was drugged. The show makes a weirdly big deal about Metatron getting a cup of fancy coffee and giving it to Aziraphale — maybe the coffee was drugged, maybe Aziraphale wasn’t himself. That’s my headcanon. That’ll get me through the next few years. That’ll let me think about Season 1 without feeling like it was poisoned, and let me look forward to Season 3 with some degree of trust.
But if Good Omens leaves us basking in narrative afterglow, Good Omens 2 blows up the floor under the bed. It dangles the possibility of a new floor, a new home, which we might get in a few years. It does this without any explanation. And it treats it as a clever, unexpected narrative choice.
* Don’t tell me that God didn’t do the number on Job. He gave the order. The mob boss is every bit as responsible for the murder as the hit man.