Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jianyu literally made a deal with the devil on this week’s The Good Place.
For the first time in weeks, the series didn’t venture between realities and hop timelines. There was no groundhog day, no one even pressed the reset button.
Instead, Michael confessed everything to the foursome that he vowed to torture and torment for the rest of their lives. There’s a moment where I truly think he’s actually warmed up to the humans and wants to befriend them. They clearly aren’t as stupid as he thought since they’ve continuously figured it out. Plus, he’s always had a penchant for all things human so I’d like to get his backstory and see his motives for building a world with humans. Did he really want to torture them or did he want to be around the foul-smelling creatures because of a secret liking to them?
Then posed the question – will they join his side in the fight against Vicki, the Clam Chowder shop owner threating to out Michael and all of his failed attempts.
Without them, Michael is doomed. But he also knows that they don’t really have a choice; either they pretend to be clueless while keeping their memories or they all burn in hell, literally.
Throughout the episode, Eleanor keeps insisting that they cannot trust Michael because he’s a liar, he’s meticulously planned their demise and reset them 802. Plus as a liar herself, she knows there’s no way he’ll keep his word.
But the viewers know that if Eleanor and team don’t agree, there is no show. So we go through the motions of seeing them grapple with this decision before finally agreeing, on their terms of course. They agree to pretend to believe they’re in the Bad Place only if Michael agrees to join Chidi’s ethics classes.
The hope – if they all learn to become be good people, maybe they can somehow weasel their way into the good plus. This thinking proves that they don’t actually belong in The Good Place and never have but it’s also human nature to attempt anything to save yourself from eternal damnation.
The best moment of the episode is hands down when Tahani, sure that she actually belongs in the Good Places, asks Michael how she died. On Earth, she was a self-centered and insecure person who only did good deeds for the recognition and self-fulfillment. But she could never live up to her sister Kamilah, who everyone simply worshipped. One night, she snuck into Kamilah’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame party and was crushed by an ice sculpture of her sister after she tried to tear it down. fed up with seeing her always in the spotlight, tried to take down an ice sculpture of her.
Literally, she was crushed by her sister in death. It’s kind of poetic. The realization motivates her to be a better Tahani.
The episode served as a sort of buffer for what’s to come. Living in Vicki’s world will be a test on them all. Will they be believable? Will Chidi and Eleanor’s relationship, which we know will definitely blossom, give them away? Will Jianyu aka Jason spill the beans because really, he’s the one I’d be the most skeptical about. And can Michael really keep his promise? Or will he turn on them the minute he gets the credit for building a successful torture world?
The Secret of The Good Place’s Biggest Twist
The Good Place – Pandemonium (3×12)
Eleanor returns to the spotlight in the season finale after a few weeks of giving the most active role to Michael. It’s a clever way to bring Eleanor back to the forefront, having Michael rendered incapable of doing his job by fear. The plot point also pulls double duty by finishing off another arc for Michael.
Michael started the season hustling down to Earth to tinker with the humans. Later he tried to play the “snowplow” in their lives and incessantly tried to maintain the type of control he had in his neighborhood. Now here we are at the end of season three and he has willingly stepped into the background, ceasing control to someone more fit for the current situation.
Season three (the back half especially) pushed Michael to the forefront. He was the only character capable of truly moving the plot forward, but now with the new neighborhood built and his arc seemingly complete, we return to Eleanor.
I think this is a good move for the show. This year meandered a bit in places and lacked the singular focus of the past seasons. There were three distinct phases to the season, first the brain experiment, then the quest to improve other people, and finally the last ditch attempt to change the system. I definitely felt the back half of the season was stronger than the first, but I do feel the show needs to refocus itself in the upcoming fourth season, and placing Eleanor back at the forefront is a good start.
As an episode, though, tonight was quieter and more reserved than previous season finales. It didn’t actually feel too much like a finale to me personally, as this is the first time we will be continuing a story from a previous season instead of starting with a fresh timeline. This isn’t a knock, not every season finale has to be explosive of course, but it does highlight a point I made last week about emotional stakes.
I predicted Eleanor becoming the architect and Simone being one of the new residents, as many fans probably did. What I didn’t predict was Chidi requesting his memory be wiped. This greatly upped what I discussed last week – the emotional stakes.
This makes sense on a plot level and devastates the characters on an emotional one. Michael providing Chidi and Eleanor a look at their memories – ones they don’t even still have – was touching and ironic. It felt a little bit like the show was trying to sell me on their romance, but it still provided a nice showing of Michael’s affection for them. It’s not as if I don’t buy the chemistry between the two; I do. I just don’t feel we got to see their love develop over this season. Fortunately, because of the history of the show, there is more weight to their romance than is provided just by season three, which consequentially provides the proper weight for the tragedy of Chidi losing his memories of Eleanor.
It’s a heartbreaking idea. One lover forgets and the other doesn’t? Brutal. How is Eleanor going to handle this? As interested as I am to see where the experiment goes, I am much more invested in Eleanor and the rest of the gang interacting with the memory wiped Chidi. The emotional stakes provide a strong storyline moving forward.
And yet I have to admit that emotional stakes are not everything, and a series does need to follow through on its plot. The plot went almost nowhere tonight, only telling us the kinds of people the Bad Place has picked for the experiment, which lead us into Chidi’s memory wipe. As I said, not every season finale has to be Earth-shattering, but I do feel like a little momentum was lost with such an introspective episode. The final scene of Eleanor and Janet played like a teaching moment, and while Janet’s response to Eleanor’s question about love is touching, I hope the show has more on its mind for the endgame.
Season three felt like a bridge season. Shawn mentions chess in this episode and it’s an apt callout considering how much of this season was moving pieces into place. This will be fine with me if these moves lead to a spectacular fourth. It’ll be a long wait to find out!
- Disclaimer: My television flashed a flash flood warning to me during the entire sequence Eleanor introduces herself to John, so I missed all of that. I’ll rewatch tomorrow and see if the missed info affects my views on the episode!
- I thought John was a good start to the residents! He made me laugh and will play very well off everyone, and I hope I can see him in a conversation with Jason immediately in season four.
- Tahani has improved so much as a person. Her improvement highlights the tragedy of Chidi’s reset even more.
- We all knew Simone was coming back, right? I’m glad that wasn’t the big twist of the episode.
- Janet doesn’t have all the answers. But she is a friend.
- I love the score to The Good Place, but I really wish this season had mixed up the music with some new cues or stingers. A lot of shows get repetitive with their music going into a third season and it’s a small gripe I have with season three.
I love this show. It was tough for me to review this episode, though, because it was mostly a large set up for what will follow, and a lot of my opinion on this one will depend on how effectively season four capitalizes on what was presented here. The emotional stakes are higher than ever, as are the physical ones with humanity hanging in the balance. Hopefully those two things combined can bring out the best in the series.
The Good Place – Chidi Sees the Time-Knife(3×11)
The Good Place is a show that centered around characters after they had already died. The premise immediately removed what is normally the highest of stakes in any story – death. This could have been a problem as there could have possibly been little tension to the story, but the series created dire stakes in the threat of Eleanor being found out and sent to the Bad Place.
The first season finale took those stakes away by showing us the worst has already happened to our characters, and from that point forward it has been a series about characters who are immediately in a state of crisis at (almost) all times. While the threat of the Bad Place loomed over our characters, the actual stakes of the show became much more emotionally tied to our protagonists. By the end of season two, Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason didn’t just fear being sent to the Bad Place, they feared being separated from each other. Recall at the end of season one how Jason continually celebrated that he got to avoid the Bad Place while two of his friends had to go, and how at the end of season two he willingly agreed to be sent to be eternally tortured if even one of his friends couldn’t go to the Good Place with him.
Now we are nearing the end of season three, and while the largest threat ever is looming – the eternal judgment and fate of all people – the closest stakes affecting our characters remain tied to emotion and relationships.
Michael is paralyzed by the fear that if he fails with his experiment his friends will believe that he betrayed them. Threats of retirement, marblization, and eternal torture weren’t as powerful as Shawn’s legitimately horrifying notion that he will torture the Soul Squad with someone that they believe is Michael.
The concept of emotional stakes versus physical ones lines up perfectly with this series considering Michael’s initial torture plan was to emotionally torture his victims instead of physically torturing them. Now he is truly learning how valid and effective this form of torture can be.
The ability to learn has also been a major aspect of this series, with our characters learning just by living life. They learn from mistakes, other people, teachers, friends, and inane Jason stories. Even Shawn, the torture master, has learned from Michael. He is now utilizing emotional torture (and also took his idea for bees with penises). Judge Gen also allows herself to learn. She encourages research and keeps her mind open to new ideas by going to Earth. Janet’s entire arc has been about learning more about humans. Derek has learned more every time he was rebooted by Mindy. And they have all put their new knowledge into practice, such as Gen creating a new neighborhood experiment and Janet creating more realistic people.
And of course, the humans have learned how to be better, and with their time on Earth, how to make other people better. Now they will be in the new neighborhood putting what they’ve learned to good use to try to save humanity.
Honestly, saving humanity is a pretty generic, bland stake. So many stories involve saving humanity. That’s why it is so important to keep those emotional stakes at the forefront, like Michael at the end of this episode. I am interested in seeing where the neighborhood experiment goes, but I’m invested in Michael and his crippling fear of letting his friends down.
Outside of those lengthy evaluations, a lot of pieces fell into place this episode. An endgame for the season finally presents itself. We got to see the Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes, which was super trippy as Jason so obliviously pointed out. There was the return of Derek and the Medium Place, giving us the perfect site for the new neighborhood. And of course we see the return of what seems to be a similar version of the original “Good Place.” This was a heavy exposition episode, but I felt it threaded its themes of learning and emotional stakes well throughout. I’m excited about the finale and curious where the set up for next season will go.
Amongst all of its characterization, heavy plotting, and ethical bends, The Good Place never forgets to be a comedy. The humor has its charm back since returning to the afterlife, and each side character (Judge Gen, Mindy, Derek) continues to stand out. The creative ways the writers torture people, such as Shakespeare being tortured by hearing the plot of the Entourage movie, are always a hoot. And William Jackson Harper is so good at being traumatized. He is so expressive and can make such simple phrases, like “time-knife” seem like biblical omens.
How will the new experiment fare? What will the results be? Will Eleanor have to take Michael’s place as “the architect” if he can’t get himself together? I’m looking forward to learning what happens next.
- Was that Trevor screaming through the blackness in the opening scene?
- iHop was probably the trippiest place we have seen thus far.
- I believe Jason’s inane stories have a 100% success rate in inspiring someone into positive action.
- I really wanted to see what happened to Tahani if she touched her “scarf.”
- The bureaucracy continues. Judge Gen could make iHop anything, and she chose a conference room.
- Chidi saw the time-knife and didn’t like it.
- I really like that they learned from Simone about repeating the experiment. Maybe she’ll be one of the people brought to the new neighborhood?
This episode was a bit dark in places. I know the show is about people who died but it was always fun, with torture devices having funny names or implications. Not only did Judge Gen depressingly find out that the world is both “hot and crowded and cold and lonely,” but Shawn’s idea to torture the humans with a Michael suit is legitimately threatening.
Season 3 has won me back at this point, and I can’t wait to see the last episode of the season!
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