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Gabriel (Jon Hamm) standing in front of a bookshelf and pointing like he’s looking for where to put a book Photo: Mark Mainz/Prime Video

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Good Omens season 2’s ending felt a lot like fanfic

Right down to the dangle of Good Omens 3

Season 2 of Good Omens wasn’t really ever supposed to happen. The first season was originally planned as a miniseries, a one-and-done adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s classic 1990 novel. After the first season of Good Omens left the question of Aziraphale and Crowley’s relationship dangling, fans read and wrote fic by the truckload, imagining all the different ways things might play out after the fall of the curtain. But when season 2 was, in fact, greenlit by Amazon, there was always going to be a question of how closely the continuation would hew to the reams of imagined ever-afters from the collective mind of fandom. And the result is… actually remarkably close to what the fanfic thought it might be.

The first season faithfully followed the many interlocking plotlines of the original book. While Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and Crowley (David Tennant) were certainly the stars, Anathema and Newt, Shadwell and Miss Tracy, plus the denizens of heaven and hell also all got a look in, alongside plenty of time spent on the adventures of its ostensible protagonist, Adam Young, and his friends. But while the second season (out now on Prime Video) has an assortment of new secondary characters to support its plot, there really isn’t any pretense that it is supposed anything other than the Aziraphale and Crowley Show.

Part of that might have been down to issues that came with shooting during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Good Omens did. Shrinking the world of the show down to a skeleton cast on a soundstage, reducing the amount of complicated on-location and crowd shots in favor of intimate scenes between main characters, likely eased production pressures and allowed the shoot to proceed smoothly.

But there’s also the fact that at the end of the day, that was the most interesting and in fact obvious direction for the series to go in. After a huge blowout apocalypse plot, of course it makes sense to bring it down to a gentle simmer and focus narrowly on the central relationship which is a, if not the, major draw of the show.

Crowley (David Tennant) stands and looks annoyed at Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) who is looking down at his clipboard Photo: Mark Mainz/Prime Video

Watching season 2 of Good Omens was, I felt strongly, like watching a fanfic come to life. Parts of it were, like much of the fic written in the aftermath of season 1, curtainfic. Centered on domestic tranquility — figuratively “shopping for curtains” together — it’s low stakes and high reward. But as the season went on, it started to seem rather more like a casefic. Casefic is a genre of fanfiction that replicates the structure of a canon (usually a procedural or mystery show) to create a plot-heavy story, which often includes non-canonical elements, like a romance storyline.

All the elements were there. There was the mystery plot to get the characters in motion — how did Gabriel lose his memory, and how can our heroes protect him from heaven and hell? There was the cast of new OCs (original characters, in fandom parlance), including a flirty demon (Reece Shearsmith’s Furfur), an overeager angel (Quelin Sepulveda’s Muriel), and a gender-swapped human reflection of Crowley and Aziraphale (Nina and Maggie, played by Nina Sosanya and Maggie Service). And there was, of course, the fact that all of that stuff matters very little in the face of what we’re all there for: them getting together.

The chemistry between Tennant and Sheen (after spending the interim starring together in three seasons of their BBC two-hander Staged) is unreal. Every glance is loaded, every touch weighted. Crowley has a key to the bookshop; Aziraphale drives the Bentley (“our car,” as he refers to it). Multiple characters refer to them as, or mistake them for, a couple — far more explicitly than the oblique references in the first season. And the banter is, of course, flawless, made even better by co-writer John Finnemore of Cabin Pressure, whose fingerprint can be heard all over the charming, punny exchanges that pepper the scripts.

in the middle of a crowded restaurant, Aziraphale, dressed in lighter colors, and Crowley, dressed in mostly black, have a toast on Good Omens Photo: Chris Raphael/Amazon Studios, BBC Studios
Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) sits in a chair with Crowley (David Tennant) leaning over his shoulder; they are both looking surprised at something Photo: Mark Mainz/Prime

A well-written casefic is a wonderful thing. While all genres of fanfiction have their time and place, from the quick-and-dirty PWP to the sprawling novel-length Slow Burn, a story that makes you feel like it could actually be canon, if the canon were to go so far as to make your ship canon, has an exciting, immersive quality. It’s a five-course meal including dessert.

But does that approach work at all when translated back into its original medium? In the case of Good Omens season 2... well, kind of. Every time I would predict a beat by thinking, What would happen next if I was reading this on AO3, I felt half triumphant, half disappointed. In episode 5, when Aziraphale drags Crowley off to partake in a spot of dancing, I let out a delighted noise — but in the back of my mind I couldn’t help worry about the many plot threads that seemed to have fallen by the wayside.

In a fic, even a casefic, it’s OK if the plot takes a backseat to the love story. In an actual installment of the canon, flimsiness is more difficult to tolerate. After four years of hiatus spent enjoying the best, most creative, most elaborate getting-together plots the fandom could dream up, the actual version the show gives us is not only just all right, but it isn’t even finished (tale as old as time in fandom). The romance beat that usually comes about three-quarters of the way through the story — called “the crisis” or “the dark moment” — instead lands here squarely at the end of the finale. It quite obviously leaves the door open to a final resolution in a presumptive season 3, but in the meantime shippers are stranded in a slough of despond at a seemingly permanent separation between Aziraphale and Crowley. It’s a familiar scenario for long-suffering fanfiction readers who often wait years — or forever — for a multi-chapter story to wrap up. Good Omens got a second season thanks to its adoring fans, and so the season certainly tries its best to give the fans everything they want — but only up to a point.

“We’re real people, you can’t just pair us up for your amusement,” Maggie admonishes Crowley, on her and Nina’s behalf, in the finale. It might be sensible enough in the context of the narrative, but it certainly comes off like a judgmental tsk-tsk to the fans, for believing that after six episodes full of purposeful teasing and blatant hints, they might finally get to see their favorites reach an uncomplicatedly romantic happily-ever-after. I don’t think I’d be as frustrated with a fanfic that proceeded the exact same way as the season did — in fact, I think I’d adore it without reservation. But translated to television, the same meandering approach that a fic reader treasures, lingering on domestic affairs and speeding past plot beats, can feel just a little bit like a letdown.

But the good news is that I know exactly where to go now, and how to resolve these complicated feelings: off to read all the new fanfiction that is currently being written at this very minute.

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