The Daily Stream: Good Omens Places Humanity In A Theological War

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Series: Good Omens

Where You Can Stream It: Prime Video

The Pitch: I am eternally fascinated by stories that deconstruct biblical mythology. What I mean by that are narratives that plant their feet firmly on the ground, turn their gaze upwards to the heavens, and dare to dissect the material that had so much influence over my early years. But, and this is where the genre becomes a bit tricky for me, I find myself drawn to escapism over realism. Life is already so very exhausting, so why not approach the heavy stuff with a comforting veneer of fantasy? 

Enter "Good Omens." Based on the 1990 novel of the same name (well, almost the same name. The book also comes with the wordy subtitle "The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch") written by the late Terry Pratchett and the still-quite-living Neil Gaiman, the Prime Video miniseries follows a collection of hilariously inept characters as they attempt to stop judgement day. These characters include, but are not limited to, a professional descendant, a boy and his dog, a technological illiterate, a book shop owner, and a plant hobbyist. Or, well, perhaps this would be a better way to describe them for you: a witch, the antichrist and his hell hound, a witch hunter, an angel, and a demon

Why it's essential viewing

Let's pretend that there's only one rule for any visual reinterpretation to follow if it wishes to earn the fandom's approval. Stop making that face, I said let's pretend. In this beautifully simple playscape that we've created together, the pivotal standard that all adaptations must adhere to is "respect the source material, dammit." For some (I'm sure you can conjure at least five examples on your own without my having to list them), this bar is simply too high to bother with, but not for Prime Video's adapation of "Good Omens." Co-author of the novel Neil Gaiman himself wrote the screenplay — you can read it, if you like — for all six episodes. It doesn't get much closer to respecting the source material than that, now, does it? 

Funneled through Gaiman, Prime Video's adaptation of "Good Omens" maintains the comic, and often poignant, wit that made the original work so powerful. Where additions are found, such as a larger role for the archangel Gabriel (Jon Hamm) in the miniseries than in the book, they are naturally integrated into the story. When an original author is involved, minor tweaks feel more permissible, like a deleted chapter finally coming to life

And that's what the story is all about: life. Specifically, human life, with all its flaws and fragility, yes, but also its fortitude and potential. "Good Omens" is never coy about the message that humanity does its best work when left untainted by occult influences, both of the demonic and the angelic variety. Which reminds me ...

The OG enemies to lovers

I confess there's another reason that I adore "Good Omens," and it has little to do with the deconstruction of Christian faith. Tumblr knows where this is going. Among the ensemble of endearingly dense protagonists are a demon and an angel, Crowley (David Tennant) and Aziraphale (Michael Sheen), respectively, and watching those two oblivious idiots flirt is my definition of therapy. 

For those who are less familiar with "Good Omens," Crowley and Aziraphale are stationed on Earth to take care of miscellaneous temptations/blessings and generally ensure that humanity doesn't veer too far toward the other side's way of doing things. Although functionally rivals, they realize that their miraculous efforts cancel each other out, which leads to them forming an uneasy truce, which, in turn, leads to friendship, which, in its own turn, leads to the longest slow burn romance in human history. They are literally the OG enemies to lovers.

Tennant and Sheen bring so much to these fascinating characters who are both willing to defy their "bosses" to prevent Earth from becoming a battlefield in an all-consuming holy war. Their relationship feels so organic, like the two actors really had been building chemistry for thousands of years. It's not all apocalypses and will-they-won't-they, either. Some of the best moments in "Good Omens" stem from Crowley and Aziraphale bantering about their respective side's extremist views and how they fall short of humanity's better balance. Hey, we found our way back to the deconstruction stuff after all.