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The Good Place

The Good Place – A Girl From Arizona Part One (4×01)

The Good Place/NBC/Colleen Hayes

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Ok, so The Good Place is back! Good. It is the last season. Also good, as the story seemed to be bridging to its final act in season three.

So how does this final act open up? Unlike the previous two years, this premiere doesn’t seem as immediately distinct. “A Girl From Arizona” is a straight continuation from season three, with no reboots to the humans or the show’s premise (outside of Chidi’s memory wipe). In one way, this allows the story to continue to build in a way that wasn’t quite possible with previous premieres, but there is also a lack of punch and freshness, despite the peppermint featured in the episode.

To be fair, this is only part one of an episode that was likely intended to air as a single entity. I am guessing that NBC only aired the first half of this two-parter so that The Good Place could act as a lead into Michael Schur’s new series, Sunnyside. Therefore, I feel judging this half of the episode is a bit unfair.

I’m going to do it anyway.

The bulk of the episode was spent setting up the experiment for the audience by introducing us to the new residents. John’s introduction last year was spectacular, as they showed us a character that didn’t seem terrible before revealing the awful side. It reminded me of Eleanor’s introduction in the series premiere. With the rules of the experiment stating that the new residents have to be equally as bad as the originals, John checked that box.

Brent does not check that box. He seems exceedingly worse than Jason, Tahani, Eleanor, or Chidi. Eleanor was easily the worst of the original four, but we were shown a likable side of her almost immediately (even if it was still not a “good” side of her). Brent needs some redemptive qualities, whether it’s through some genuinely positive facets of his personality or just some sort of affable demeanor.

Simone, on the other hand, needs to show us why she is as bad as the rest. The Simone we knew was awesome on Earth. I hope we are given explicit reasoning as to how she fits in with Jason and Eleanor. I can’t imagine she made people unwittingly miserable like Chidi and she isn’t as vain as Tahani, so let’s see the sin in Simone and balance these new residents out.

Outside of the exposition, season four does provide us with some new character beats, even if some are more interesting than others. I don’t believe we’ve ever seen Jason jealous, as he’s always been so comfortable in his own skin. I hope that this is an aspect of his personality we get to dive further into, and isn’t just a sitcom trope to move the plot forward.

Janet gets the best display, though, as she becomes increasingly testy as she’s put under more stress. She’s running the neighborhood, maintaining the fake residents she built, and dealing with Derek and Jason, as well as delivering on every request made of her. Janet may have finally reached a point where she’s done being of service to everyone. This is a great place to take the character and a wonderful choice as a final arc for her. Please follow up on this!

Tahani and Michael didn’t have much to display tonight, and Eleanor had the expected (and necessary) reservations about pairing Chidi with Simone. I’m glad that’s out of the way already, though I’m sure the jealously will only continue to mount for her. The effectiveness of the Chidi/Eleanor relationship has varied from reboot to reboot for me, with much of it resting on the shoulders of Kristen Bell and Willian Jackson Harper. They are able to muster a lot of believability out of limited time for the relationship to grow. It’ll be interesting to see how affecting this storyline is now that only half of the actors involved are able to display the emotions.

Lastly, Shawn cheated by planting Chris the demon in the experiment, who posed as boring resident Linda until he snapped and started throwing punches. This isn’t surprising since it’s Shawn, but it did feel a bit convenient that Chidi is now part of the experiment due to the breach. I’m calling the experiment into question a bit now. It’s turning into an experiment to see if Chidi is the greatest ethics professor in the world. If the residents only improve in Chidi’s class, is that still considered “on their own?” If they improve, will Chidi have to teach ethics to every human who dies for the rest of eternity, lest they are sent to the Bad Place without his guidance? Too many shaky questions are arising.

At the end of the episode though, we don’t end the episode. We need to see the rest before a proper evaluation can be made on where we stand here, so I’m looking forward to next week. I just hope this episode follows in the footsteps of Linda. . .maybe a little boring at first, but then starts throwing punches and just goes nuts.

Other Musings:

  • Showing us Chidi’s apartment was nice, even if we know enough about him at this point to not be surprised at anything in it. The real value here was in showing us what perfect living quarters Chidi gave up to stay with Eleanor in season one. Of course, maybe this version of his apartment was different than the original, but seeing as there is frozen yogurt, I’m assuming it is the same.
  • The comparison of the motivational speeches between Michael and Shawn would have been more effective if we spent more time with the demons.
  • I wanna see Disco Janet.
  • Matt got into a verrrrrry similar obelisk as the one quickly seen in season two’s “Dance Dance Resolution.”
  • Little touches like Eleanor correctly pronouncing Chidi’s last name make this journey effective. It shows character growth and reminds us that Chidi has no idea who Eleanor used to be.

I have some hopes for season four I’m going to lay out and see how many come true:

I want the show to go nuts again like it did in season two. Season two was so fantastic because the show had such varied situations to put the characters in, and their personalities and flaws really shined. I hope season four really goes for it and gets crazier than it ever has. I have faith the characters won’t get lost in the madness, but thrive in it.

I hope this experiment fails within three or four episodes. I’d love to see where the writers take us were that the case.

I want Chidi and Simone to get together. It would make for a tragic ending but also send a message out there that maybe it can be ok anyway? We know Eleanor can’t end up completely miserable, but I’d like to see that kind of subversion and see what kind of positive spin The Good Place can place on lost love.

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The Good Place

The Good Place Review – An Imperfect Paradise (4×12)

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The Good Place Patty Review

We finally make it to the Good Place and it is everything that’s been promised. Unfortunately, everything that’s been promised isn’t necessarily everything one would hope.

Nor was this episode “Patty” exactly what I had hoped, so let’s start at the beginning.

The front half of this season is too slow. I mentioned in my review for “Help is Other People” that the show seemed to be treading some water the first half of the season, and now with “Patty” under our belt, I’ve even more reason to feel this way.

This show needed another episode dedicated to discovering the Good Place. Some of what happened in “Patty” is what I referred to in my review for “You’ve Changed, Man,” when I discussed the potential pitfalls of the humans coming up with their new afterlife plan too quickly. That episode avoided those pitfalls by having the crew take the length of the episode to debate and discuss the best plan moving forward.

“Patty” does not avoid those pitfalls. It barely raises its problem before offering the solution, and therefore greatly undercuts the drama.

The problem is that the Good Place isn’t quite all it’s cracked up to be, as the residents there lose their passion and joy and lead meaningless lives. Turns out that everlasting perfection tends to get boring, resulting in brains becoming mush and hopes and dreams becoming empty.

Good ol’ Eleanor Shellstrop comes up with a solution, though; let people leave. For good. Let them walk out a door and let their existence in the universe end, AKA permadeath. The idea behind this solution is that an ending will give the residents’ afterlives meaning again, and being allowed to leave once they feel they’ve accomplished everything will give them peace.

Let me be clear here – the solution to the Good Place is perfect for this series. I absolutely love it. It makes me sad and happy all at the same time. It’s a commentary on life and on stories, and is a culmination of the series’ messages and ethos.

But damn, if it isn’t a quick turnaround.

Due to the fast pace of this episode, the story has to plow through the set up of the problem. Hypatia of Alexandria, AKA Patty, ends up mostly telling the characters what the problem is instead of letting them, and us, naturally find it.

If there had been an extra episode dedicated to the Good Place, we could have not only seen more of Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason’s fantasies come true, but started to piece together that something isn’t quite right on our own.

Jason would have been the perfect vehicle for this as well. His impulsiveness makes him the perfect candidate to encounter the Good Place’s soul draining euphoria, as he would have burned through each of his fantasies quickly, leaving him the first to feel the emptiness of eternal heaven.

The episode tries to do this with Jason, but his entire journey happens off screen, and by the time he returns we already know what the problem is so his journey is inconsequential.

Imagine if the reveal at the end of season one happened three episode into the show. There would be too little time for the characters and audience to build up their own interpretations of the environment before the reveal. This is what I feel happened in “Patty.” We barely spend any time in the Good Place, and don’t get to discover for ourselves what it is about before we’re told what it is about.

I wish the experiment at the start of season four would have ended an episode sooner. That time could have been used to journey around the Good Place with our characters, giving them time to settle into their paradise only to feel something was off and for us to discover that with them.

As for Eleanor’s solution; it comes too quickly. There is no build up to her revelation and no input from any other character. I also feel this solution maybe should have come from Michael.

Michael has grown so much and learned all about what it means to be human, it would have been a very touching moment had he been the one to recall his lessons from Eleanor and realize what the people of the Good Place need.

Despite my gripes, the problem of the Good Place and the solution provided are excellent.

Providing the lifeless eternals an avenue for what is essentially true death is a haunting and beautiful sentiment. I wish there was more time spent with the rumination of this concept, because it really hits the themes of the show out of the park.

The Good Place has a plot about characters in the afterlife trying to avoid eternal damnation to achieve eternal bliss, but it’s always been about the connections the characters make with each other during this journey.

Based on the The Good Place’s philosophy, being a person is about making these connections and trying to be a better person today than you were yesterday. If you have eternal tomorrows, though, what drives you to improve? What drives you to do anything?

“Patty” posits that the gift of time is only a gift if there is a limited amount of it (even if that limit is decided by you). What you do with your time is only valuable if there is only so much time you have to fill. It makes what you choose to fill it with important.

I love this concept so much it hurts, and it makes me super salty that we didn’t get more time to explore this idea with these characters.

Take away “Employee of the Bearimy” and add in another episode of the characters in the Good Place so the plot here has time to thicken and build some tension. Let the humans personally begin to feel the lackluster bliss of the Good Place and have Michael’s tenure as the head honcho of the Good Place force him to reflect on his time becoming human.

Maybe we even could have been given enough time with one of the Good Place residents to develop an attachment to them, and experience the elation they feel when Eleanor announces the ability to leave.

As it stands, though, I feel “Patty” is a great concept slightly muddled by some imperfect execution.

There is one episode left, and just as I said about “Mondays, Am I Right?” it’s hard to completely judge “Patty” without knowing what is coming next, since the ending of this episode’s storyline feels very finite.

“Mondays, Am I Right?” gets a minor bump upwards in my viewing due to this episode. The team’s success at creating a system that will push more people into the Good Place provides some good tension for this episode, since soon, due to their new system, more people will end up in the Good Place and suffer the same soul sucking paradise that’s been plaguing the Good Place for centuries.

Anyway, salt aside, there is a lot to love in “Patty.” The Good Place feels fully realized and milkshakes are made of stardust. Tahani talks about caviar on Jello-O shots and Chidi has never been more excited than he is meeting Patty.

Beautiful touches such as the squad walking arm and arm into their perfect party together and Jason realizing that he’d rather be with his friends than go-karting with animals are examples of what has made the series sing over the past four years. The story of these characters is here, and it coalesces nicely with the plot of the episode.

As time passes I know I will look back at this episode and be happier with what it provides instead of being disappointed in what I feel was left on the table. The story here is excellent; it’s just a bit too quick.

For now, though, I wish their time this season was a bit better spent.

Other Musings:

  • Janet slips up and says she was born.
  • I thought Michael’s anxiety over being in the Good Place was going to be his focus in the episode. This would have been a GREAT storyline if there was an extra episode here.
  • Michael’s line about never signing his name before pulled at my heartstrings for some reason. I wish there was more time for moments like these.
  • Michael’s robe is ridiculous and classic Good Place visual comedy.
  • Love that they rebuild the neighborhood. Gave me some Lost vibes, as the most important time in their lives was the time they spent together, so their paradise is a return to their original afterlives.

NEW MUSIC CUE ALERT – I believe we finally have a new major music cue for when Eleanor reminds Michael that he is in charge of the Good Place and can make a door that allows residents to move on. This is my favorite moment of the episode and a reminder at how essential music is to make your moments land. This cue almost saves the moment from not having enough build up. Almost.

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The Good Place

The Good Place Review – The New Afterlife (4×11)

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The Good Place Monday's Am I Right? Review

“Mondays, Am I Right?” starts and completes the human’s new afterlife plan. Michael and Shawn begin working together, Vicky and insecure Chidi return, and Janet reveals her dirtiest secret.

The return of insecure Chidi is a little surprising, since he seemed so fully transformed in the previous episode. I feel like this storyline maybe should have happened earlier in this season, but that wasn’t feasible due to Chidi’s erased memories. At worst, it felt like a regression of his character, but on the better side, it reminds us that the Chidi we’ve spent the last four seasons with is still in there and still has fears. Just because Chidi is his “best self” doesn’t mean he’s his “perfect” self, and he shouldn’t be. Nobody is perfect and we all have fears.

Jason, on the other hand, proves his worth by knocking some sense back into Chidi. Jason (for probably the first time in the series) slightly grated on my nerves last week, as he played no major part in creating the new afterlife system and his dimwittedness actively interrupted their planning. He seemed prepped to continue on this track at the start of “Mondays, Am I Right?” when he is helping Eleanor and Chidi sort out good people. He quickly names the Kool-Aid Man a top person (which isn’t necessarily a wrong choice), and then leaves Eleanor and Chidi to do all the work.

Instead of being superfluous, though, Jason gets to not just help Chidi with sound advice, but show genuine irritation at everyone’s assumption that he’s a total idiot. I really wish he would have been a more integral part of the creation of their new system because this moment would have landed even better, but as it stands, his reference to Romeo and Juliet and the offense he takes to Chidi being shocked he read it reminds us that Jason is a product of his environment and not necessarily just a dope.

Tahani hasn’t had much to do this season, but she gets a good showing this episode. Not only does she participate in the training of the demons, but her experience in swallowing her pride makes her a natural fit to encourage Michael to bring Vicky back. Her and Janet’s assumptions as to Michael’s motivations may have been wrong, but they display growth none the less. Janet’s growth comes from her admittance that asking for help is necessary sometimes, not because she ever had trouble asking for help, but because she’s grown human enough to realize that even she needs help sometimes. I can’t imagine what Alexa knows that Janet doesn’t, though.

Michael’s journey is the heart of this episode, and as it has in the past, parallels the show’s own journey. Michael, throughout the series, has been a demon with a purpose; whether that be torture, redeem, or save humans, he’s always had a task driving him forward.

With the completion of the new afterlife system, and having found someone who can run it better than he can (which is Vicky), he’s essentially out of tasks. He doesn’t know what his purpose moving forward will be, and the purposelessness scares him. What’s eternity mean if you’re doing nothing with it, anyway?

I don’t know. Not even Janet knows. But Michael does the right thing and places Vicky in charge, sacrificing his purpose for the betterment of all humans.

The rock has been pushed up the hill. By Michael, yes, but by The Good Place as well. “Mondays, Am I Right?” basically completes the show’s storyline, but we still have two episodes left.

So what’s next?

The team ends the episode sailing upwards towards the real Good Place, and having completed the overhaul of the afterlife, there seems to be no goal left for them to chase after. So some sort of conflict must arise once they get there.

“Mondays, Am I Right?” will be difficult to have a fully formed opinion on until that new conflict starts. The episode seems underwhelming, but its position in the narrative implies that this isn’t the endgame, and therefore it will be naturally underwhelming so close to an unknown finale. What sort of conflict will this system lead to? Will it end up not working? Will it continue to work perfectly and the final storyline only be tangentially related?

The other reason it feels underwhelming is it doesn’t lead anywhere. There is no implied next chapter within the episode. All there is is Janet telling Michael that he’ll just have to find out what is next. Once again, Michael’s journey reflects the show.

The fate of humanity may be solved, but what is next on The Good Place will determine the fate of this series. Until we can see where it goes, my understanding of this episode’s design is limited.

I’m optimistic, though.

Other Musings:

  • “It’s the way it’s always been done” is my least favorite reason for anything.
  • Vicky’s use here pleased me. I don’t know why, since I don’t feel she ever did anything to deserve getting her dream of being in charge, but it seems as though she chilled out once she felt someone trusted her. Maybe that’s just me trying to find a reason I liked her here.
  • 1.28 Jeremy Bearimy later, so we have zero idea of how much time passed.
  • The golden balloon is back!
  • FOLES!!!

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Editorials

The Best Episode of The Good Place Is… “Best Self”

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The Good Place - Best Self

I have a pet peeve.

I can’t stand it when people turn a TV show on to play in the background. It eats away at me that they aren’t putting their full attention to the piece of art on the screen, and are missing jokes or character moments because they’re browsing the internet or doing something awful like playing with their cat.

The Good Place - Best Self

The Good Place/NBC                                        Example.

My annoyance isn’t fair or justified. Everyone is allowed to enjoy whatever content they want in whatever way they want. No matter how you enjoy something, odds are someone else will enjoy it differently. That can be hard to accept; we tend to want other people to extract the same level of enjoyment out of something as we extract ourselves, and we assume we know the best way to do this.

Like when you take your best friend to your favorite burger place, where they have the best toppings and secret sauce, and your friend gets a plain, topping free, sauceless burger.

“No,” you say as politely as you can mustard, “you have to try the secret sauce. You need to get the whole experience.”

“No thanks,” your friend says, in the least aggressive way possible.

Why did I even bring you here?

The Good Place - Best Self

The Good Place/NBC                                        Tahani’s face here accurately portrays my emotions.

This is how I feel when someone makes a grocery list while watching TV. This is how I feel almost every time someone watches The Good Place Season 2 Episode 10 “Best Self,” even if they’re paying attention

***Spoilers for The Good Place Below***

 

The Good Place is hilarious. Because it’s funny and charming, it makes a great background show to throw on while you’re dusting your living room.

It has a unique setting and plot as well, which also makes it fantastic viewing for those who like to sit and pay more attention.

But there is a third layer to the series. It’s deep and philosophic and is available to be analyzed and digested by those who want to do so.

The Good Place - Best Self

The Good Place/NBC                                        Also known as being Chidi.

I want to do so. To my devastation, my friends don’t always want to do so. So I’m going to do it for them!

“Best Self” is the most deeply human episode of television I’ve ever seen. Peel away the clever jokes and gags, and the next layer of the intricate plot, and you get to a core that is all of life packed into 22 minutes.

The episode starts with reformed demon Michael telling our heroes Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason that they are finally all going to head to the real Good Place together. The four humans have one last round of fro-yo together and fantasize about the heaven that awaits them.

Watch The Good Place Best Self Right Here

Once their magic balloon arrives, they have to pass the magic gate that only opens if they’ve become the best version of themselves. Of course, Chidi can’t get on because he isn’t sure that he’s his best self.

Then Michael reveals confesses that he lied, that the magic balloon won’t work even if they all pass the gate, and he has no idea how to get them into the actual Good Place. They’re stuck in the neighborhood, and by morning the Bad Place demons will come and get them, dragging them into an eternal hell of torment and torture. No matter what they have done or what they do now, they’re screwed.

The Good Place - Best Self

The Good Place/NBC                                          We’ve all had this moment.

That’s life.

Every single living organism on this planet, in this universe, is screwed. No matter what it knows or does, each living thing is going to eventually die, and there is absolutely nothing that can be done about that. In this way, every living thing is equal; no life is better or more valuable than any other life because, in the end, it won’t be life at all.

Most life, though, can’t actually perceive or understand the finality of our dooms, and our ability to do so is what separates us and makes us definitively human. It’s the same reason Michael couldn’t truly understand humans until he understood death in “Existential Crisis.” This ability to understand the finality of life is what allows us to truly live.

The Best Forking Gifts to Buy a “Good Place” Fan 

So that’s what the humans decide to do on their last day. Eleanor orders a ton of alcohol from Janet, and they begin to party. The friends dance, get drunk, talk about their feelings and their fears, and take comfort in the only thing they can take comfort in; each other.

The Good Place - Best Self

The Good Place/NBC

If you just watch this episode as another chapter in a story about a crazy afterlife that houses demons who have holiday weekend Ikea as an entire department of torture, it’s honestly a little boring. Very little happens, as basically the cast just hangs out in a single location for 22 minutes, making it a bottle episode. It’s fine, but it’s no “Dance, Dance, Resolution,” with its insane 300 mph pace, or “Michael’s Gambit” with an incredible twist.

Analyze a little deeper, though, and you’ll find an episode of television that perfectly encapsulates human existence.

The unrealistic hope they display at the start as they fantasize about the perfect Good Place, the heartbreak Eleanor feels when Chidi dreams about meeting his soulmate, the pain Michael experiences when he disappoints his friends after revealing he lied to them about getting into the Good Place; the range of emotions captured by these characters in such a short time reminds you of the rollercoaster that is human emotion.

The humanity doesn’t end there. The silly jabs at each other during their toasts are funny character jokes, but also a display of how we cope with our own and each others’ faults. They’re a display of love between people who have shared the trials of (after)life together. There is a comfort we feel when someone truly knows us well enough to point out the specifics of our personalities, and what is human life but trying to create that kind of bond with others?

And then there is Michael’s Human Starter Kit. Made an honorary human, the demon Michael gratefully opens his gift and pulls out car keys, band-aids, a stress ball, and a Dr. Oz diet book; all “garbage that [he has] no real use for.”

The Good Place - Best Self

The Good Place/NBC                                        Who doesn’t love never using their stress balls?

And yet he does find a use for them. By assigning meaning to the objects as they pertain to people and as they relate to him as a gift from his friends, Michael finds value in something meaningless. “Welcome to being human,” Eleanor tells him.

The episode immediately shifts to the friends doing the same thing, as they create meaning in their last day by dancing and having fun with each other. They take what’s left of their lives and they live it. Tomorrow they will be doomed forever, but for now, they are free. Free to laugh, free to cry, free to feel, and free to dance.

In the end, after discussing what their personal Bad Place will be (a nice contrast to the start of the episode where they discuss their Good Place), the friends decide to do the most human thing of all.

“Attempt something futile, with a ton of unearned confidence, and fail spectacularly.”

The Good Place - Best Self

The Good Place/NBC                                        Go us.

We cannot win. We can’t escape our own doom, and we can’t create some transcendent meaning to our lives. All of our attempts at it will fail, but my goodness, we are going to keep trying.

“Best Self” packs in so much about human existence and reminds us that even if we don’t have a larger purpose, we’re responsible for creating the meaning in our lives, and we do so through each other. We can’t stop the end from coming, but we can make the time we have left worth something to us and the people around us. We can find meaning in the void.

“In a way, the Good Place was inside the Bad Place all along.”

My Good Place is shutting the lights off and over analyzing everything I see on screen, but everyone’s Good Place is different, and no one’s way is right. So if you want to do the dishes while watching TV, go for it. Have it on while you vacuum the floor, put together the furniture you got over the holiday weekend at Ikea, and cook up a plain, topping free, sauceless burger. It doesn’t matter, we’re all doomed anyway, so watch TV, and live, in whatever way makes you feel alive.

The Good Place - Best Self

The Good Place/NBC

Be your “Best Self” and watch here!

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