“Hard Times,” the third episode of Amazon’s adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens, is unique among the miniseries’ six, tightly-packed episodes because it slows down for a breath to take a look back at Aziraphale and Crowley’s curiously long-lived friendship. It’s one that dates back to their early days as two of the first beings to visit the Garden of Eden.
In their shared inability to understand some of the reasoning behind God’s wrath–and by extension her ineffable plan for the future where the show’s present is set—Aziraphale and Crowley are able to find a small chunk of common ground that grows over the ages as they come to appreciate the world for all it has to offer. But what “Hard Times” really does, more than giving Michael Sheen and David Tennant a reason to go through a variety of period-specific costume changes, is provide a meaningful context for Aziraphale and Crowley’s relationship. It highlights how, despite all of the earthly things they’re both working to save from the fated apocalypse, what they’re most concerned about in the end times is one another, because they’re more than “just friends.”
While Aziraphale and Crowley’s deeper-than-platonic feelings are never explicitly spelled out in the text of the show or the novel, both Tennant and Sheen have acknowledged that it’s a vibe audiences have picked up on, and Sheen’s gone on in an interview with Bustle to explain that, from his perspective, Aziraphale does love Crowley, in a way:
For Sheen, Aziraphale’s feelings toward Crowley are all based in character. He figures angels are all about sensing and celebrating love, wherever they find it. “And I thought, what happens if you’re someone who just loves things, if you spend all your time with your supposed enemy. How does that work? And then eventually I just found myself, as Aziraphale, kind of falling in love with Crowley. And then that became kind of interesting to explore that beast.”
Soon after Aziraphale and Crowley have been tasked by their respective sides in the great divide to sow good and evil in the world, the pair of ancient beings realize they both have a difficult time being certain of whether they’re doing their jobs correctly because they’ve only been given but so much explicit direction. Being an angel and a demon, everything they do is (in theory) respectively good and evil by definition. Because they both enjoy relatively large degrees of free will, though, their thoughts, feelings, and actions are theirs, which gives them the ability to come to their shared conclusions about being agents of Armageddon: it sucks, they’d much rather the world not end, and it’s perfectly fine if they do everything they can to prevent the Antichrist’s prophecized ascension.
In this instance, “everything they can” means Crowley and Aziphrale taking advantage of Heaven and Hell’s fondness for bureaucracy in order to make sure that neither side gains the upper hand. Crowley and Aziraphale are one another’s equal and opposite; so long as they can convince their bosses that they’re actually going out into the field to foment a little chaos and discord the way they’re meant to, they can conveniently claim that no matter what they do, their actions simply keep canceling each another out.
At first, their arrangement is mostly one of convenience, as neither Aziraphale nor Crowley is particularly interested in spending multiple millennia performing unfulfilling miracles for a “greater good” they can’t grasp. But as time goes on, the angel and demon find that the companionship they provide one another is one of the brighter spots of their little arrangement because they understand and appreciate one another in ways that none of their peers ever could.
Crowley and Aziraphale’s shared propensity for questioning the nature of things is what drew them together inside the existential vacuum of the Garden of Eden. Once the two began inserting themselves into human society, however, their connection grew that much stronger because of the exciting, new things—like shellfish and rock music—they delighted in sharing during their regular hangouts. Whether Aziraphale and Crowley ever genuinely enjoyed each other’s personal hobbies is unclear, but what’s blindingly obvious is how fascinated they were by the ways that being on Earth changed them both.
In each of their illicit meetups, the two muse about how generally nonplussed they are about humanity’s latest developments, which they see as quite predictable in the grand scheme. But things like Crowley’s decision to change his name or Aziraphale taking up practical magic are different because they’re reflections of how they’re both in the ongoing process of becoming new people. They’ve seen each other go through dozens, if not hundreds, of reinventions, but no matter how drastically Aziraphale and Crowley change, they always slip right back into a comfortable pattern that often comes across as decidedly flirtatious.
There are a number of different ways to interpret Aziraphale insisting that Crowley try oysters for the first time or when he grinningly commands “get thee behind me, foul fiend,” as they enter his bookshop, but they all lead back to the idea that the pair are comfortable poking fun at the nature and circumstances of their relationship. Deep down, they’re into the thrill of it all, taboos and consequences be damned.
When the Antichrist is inevitably born in modern times, Aziraphale and Crowley’s ultimate plan to avoid the apocalypse is to move in and out of his life in various guises to act as equal, oppositional influences on the boy in the hopes that he ends up being neutral. Even though their plan ends up being a waste of time because the child they think is the Antichrist is not, the interesting thing is that the two were essentially ready to raise a kid together. One could argue that it’s something they only would have considered because of the situation at hand, but you could just as well go with the idea that after a lifetime of watching one another get involved in all manner of biblically hellish hijinks, Aziraphale and Crowley were ready to shift gears and spend some time being downright domestic with one another.
It might be technically inaccurate to call the pair a “gay couple” in the traditional sense of the phrase, as it’s not explicit in the text and we don’t know how Good Omens’ otherworldly beings identify in terms of their gender or sexuality. But when you look at the queerness of how Aziraphale and Crowley are presented in Good Omens—two very confirmed bachelors of a certain age who are happiest when they’re together—it’s difficult not to see them as a picture of what spending a lifetime with one’s soulmate might be like.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our new Instagram @io9dotcom.