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The Good Place

The Good Place – A Girl From Arizona Part Two (4×02)

TheGoodPlace/NBCColleen Hayes

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It is a shame that this second part didn’t air with its precursor solely for Eleanor’s big breakdown. That is a wonderful scene and Kristen Bell is great in it, as is Ted Danson, who lends a gravity to standing around and sympathizing. Unfortunately, its effectiveness was minimized since it took place only a couple minutes into this week’s air time, instead of after thirty plus minutes of the buildup and stress that was successfully displayed last week.

The two parts work better together, without a doubt, but from here forward I’ll focus on what aired tonight.

Michael’s pep talk to Eleanor, once again, works because of his personal experience. He did fail 1000 times, so he knows what it means not only to keep trying, but how to learn from his mistakes. Michael learned the biggest lesson of all during his time, that he was wrong, and the ability to admit when you’re wrong and take personal responsibility (as Brent claims he always does) is what allows Michael to continue being Eleanor’s conscious. He’s given Eleanor so many pep talks at this point and yet I don’t find it repetitive. Growing and changing is difficult, and we need people who are going to continue to push us when we regress, and since the series is about what it means to be a good person it’s realistic to show how important a positive and steady presence can be to maintaining ourselves. Hopefully at some point we are able to carry ourselves mostly on our own, but at this incredibly stressful point in Eleanor’s afterlife, support is needed.

Eleanor hears Michael’s words and comes back with confidence. I felt the group was tearing apart and Eleanor was going back to her old ways in her outburst (and as noted above, that regression is realistic, especially under stress), but having the ability to suppress those old desires and put others above herself is what has made Eleanor’s improvement so remarkable. Michael is right when he says Eleanor’s sacrifice of Chidi’s love is bigger than Chidi’s sacrifice of his memory because Eleanor has to live with the consequences, and I hope that this line is foreshadowing what is to come.

I wouldn’t say that the humans have gotten off easy in regards to how they lived their lives (they have been through so much), but the entire series is about avoiding hell, which can be seen as avoiding the consequences to their actions. I certainly don’t want them to go to the Bad Place, nor do I believe that’s a proportional punishment, but I do hope this idea of consequence comes around again. The series has allowed for so many do overs that it’d be an appropriate and necessary touch to remind the viewers that this is it – no more do overs. This is the final season and their final chance at redemption. With Eleanor already giving up her strongest emotional connection, even just a reminder of the permanent consequences our characters face would be appreciated and do wonders for the tension. I’d also like to see some more personal stakes. Eternal damnation for all of humanity are high stakes, no doubt, but they aren’t rooted in our characters. We know what’s at stake for Michael, as the humans will be tortured by “him” forever, but the rest of the gang could use a similar, more personal, consequence to their failure.

Michael telling Jason about controlling his impulses gives us another final arc to watch out for. This is a perfect final arc for Jason and the number one way in which he needs to improve himself. Jason was always the nicest of the original four with most of his misdemeanors and wrong doings coming from his impulses. I look forward to seeing what kind of person he becomes when he does learn to control himself.

Tahani is still missing from this week. I’m not too concerned. We have plenty of time, and since Josh wasn’t focused on much in the opening, I know Tahani will have plenty to do when it comes time to make Josh good.

But Brent…Brent is awful. I was really hoping for a redemptive quality in him, and I thought we were going to get it for a moment when he immediately confessed he didn’t belong in the Good Place. I was actually a bit disappointed that he wasn’t actually confessing; for a moment this felt like a classic Good Place twist. I had no idea where the story was about to go if he had confessed, but with him just doubling down on his position in the afterlife and declaring he belongs in the “best” place, we just went back to square one. Eleanor’s plan to get him to do good deeds in hopes that he will just start naturally doing them is a reasonable one in universe, for sure, but I’m skeptical of the validity of the plan in regards to the story. It’s the final season, we don’t have much time to watch Brent do good deeds over and over, and due to the nature of the experiment and the questions the series is exploring, we can’t just cut away from Brent for a few episodes to focus on the other subjects, then jump back and see that Eleanor’s plan worked. We need to see the growth. I feel the best approach would be to get these four subjects into situations together so we can see them all at once. Otherwise, I fear the experiment, or worse, the show, could fail to prove its hypothesis.

But this is just the start. For the entire run of the series, The Good Place has never kept a status quo running for more than a few episodes at a time (even in season one). I expect the plot to advance in a big way soon.

Other Musings:

  • Michael says Jason’s name five times to get rid of his headaches. This is character humor at its best.
  • I thought the team questioning Eleanor’s decision making was realistic, and wish they hadn’t so quickly backtracked on it. It would have been nice to see them decide to keep Eleanor as the leader but allow more collaboration between everyone.
  • Janet broke up with Jason and this made him sad, but telling him Blake Bortles got cut crushed him. He can only affect the Janet situation, so I’m sure he will focus more on that, but his personal hero was just taken from him. That’s the kind of hit that takes a bite out of your soul. Blake Bortles was his faith.
  • I didn’t mention Chidi and Simone. Their interaction was cute. Not much to say on it yet.
  • I love how each duo in the core group has their own type of bond. Eleanor and Jason have always shared in a juvenile sense of humor so I loved that Eleanor was able to get Jason to high five her at the end. That’s why we need all sorts of friends and people in our lives.

Brent is seriously awful. His improvement will be a challenge not just for Eleanor, but for the writers. They are in very dicey territory. Brent isn’t his own character as much as he just represents the stereotypical privileged white man, and if he stays that way, any improvement he makes will imply the writers’ suggestion on how to deal with systemic racism, sexism, and injustice. A noble cause, of course, but also a cause with no single, easy solution. I’m not sure The Good Place is currently in a position to tackle all these topics with the attention they need. Maybe I’m wrong, though!

The Good Place

The Good Place – Chillaxing (4×03)

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The Good Place - Chillaxing

The humans in The Good Place have come a long way since they started; so far in fact that their character growth has threatened to put them into a place of stagnancy this final season. But by putting the humans in a position to become teachers and help make other people better, they avoid stagnancy by putting them through a final test of sorts. They are each being forced to reflect on themselves and their own growth, which not only helps them understand why they changed, but will solidify these changes and complete their transformations.

Tahani spends most of this episode with John, who is a much fuller character than Brent in every way. John definitely isn’t all bad, and he and Tahani seem to get along quite well during their spa day.  We see the positive qualities alongside the negative ones, which makes him a better rounded character. Plus, his flaws are relatable and real. Many people don’t handle criticism well and tend to double down when they are accused of wrong doing, just as John does when Tahani reveals that his blog was hurtful. During his defensive retort, we learn that he had to work sixteen hours a day on his website, which hints that much of the content on his blog may have been created for an audience that loves spiteful gossip and not just out of his own petty enjoyment (though this doesn’t excuse the blog nor absolve him from enjoying it anyway). All of this creates a character that feels real and makes me root for his improvement. I like Tahani, so seeing John get along with her makes me like him more. I don’t like his mean spirited gossip, but understand his defensive stance when called out on it.

By the end of the episode, Tahani realizes that she and John are similar, and she reflects on her own self improvement. She comes to the conclusion that what was most beneficial to her development was human connection, and so she decides to connect with John personally. No Chidi ethics lessons, just good old fashion friendship.

Jason is also being forced to reflect a little, even if he doesn’t realize it. Last week, Michael told Jason he needed to learn to control his impulses. Jason seemed to take this to heart, but change doesn’t come easily, and one thing that Jason needed to see were the actual impacts of his actions. Throughout this series, through all the reboots and crazy time jumps and the constant running from place to place, most of Jason’s actions were left behind and he didn’t have to come face to face with anyone who was being hurt by them.

Even though he’s doing it on purpose, he’s seeing how his actions are affecting Chidi. Unlike the first season, where he was doing the same thing (though obliviously), Jason cares for Chidi now. He wants to lay off of the torture Chidi is going through because he doesn’t want his friend to suffer. Jason doesn’t have much introspection shown here, but I have to believe that Jason is going to improve upon himself. Too much of the season so far has put a focus on his actions and the consequences of them, and I believe that he will take some of his part in Chidi’s breakdown to heart. He will also take the positive affect of his actions to heart, as he knows he helped the team achieve their goal of pushing Chidi into teaching ethics again. This was a very busy week for Jason, as he came face to face with both the ups and downs of his personal actions.

Last on the list is Eleanor. She’s gone through a lot of emotional turmoil lately, and all those feelings are swirling around her right now. It’s no surprise that she took a certain glee in causing Chidi pain, not just because she was angry at him, but because it was an easy, tangible task that could distract her from the rest of her emotions. There is nothing like having an excuse to let yourself act on your worst desires and ignore the rest of your problems. Eventually though, with all that came a breakdown. Eleanor does still love Chidi, after all. I believe Eleanor needs to sort out her emotions, for if she didn’t I would cry fowl, saying that she adjusted to mind wiped Chidi too easily. I think it’s covered now, though, and would like to see Eleanor get her shirt together, just as Michael told her. We need a fully functional Eleanor if we want the plot to move along. I’m not saying she shouldn’t have any more complicated feelings regarding Chidi or the experiment, but I would like to see her put her focus more into completing the experiment than dealing with Chidi.

Other Musings:

  • I’m so glad they recognized that Chidi himself still needs to improve as a person. I feared that would get lost in the shuffle here.
  • Jason fearing that he would mess the plan up is character growth. Previously he would have been throwing out unhelpful suggestions left and right.
  • Chidi thinks he made God cry. Chidi’s suffering tonight was basically tangible.
  • Trevor is coming to town. I can’t think of any other side character that would warrant a surprise reveal, and since that’s the case, why not just show him? It’s a cheap cliffhanger instead of a tease for what’s to come. Trevor is enough of a wild card that the “What’s he going to do?” would be a much more interesting topic of discussion this week than “Who is under the hood?”
  • I didn’t miss Brent at all.

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The Good Place

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

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The Good Place/A Girl from Arizona

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 Final Season Sneak Peek: Everything is Fine

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The Good Place Final Season

All good things must come to an end, yes, even in the Good Place.

NBC’s comedic gem is preparing for its fourth and final season, and it’s bittersweet.

The first preview is more of a montage of the cast preparing to say goodbye, and it’s breaking our hearts despite Manny Jacinto (Jason) assuring us that “everything is fine.”

Tucked away amid a montage is a sneak peek of the final season that includes the creator of the Good Place, Eleanor, showing residents Janet’s impressive abilities.

That girl can do anything.

Eleanor tells Linda, who may or may not be one of the hand-chosen four residents, that she can ask Janet for anything her heart desire. To demonstrate, she asks for a “baby elephant made of pure light that tells you true secrets about the universe.”

And behold – a glowing elephant that reveals that “Shirley Temple killed JFK.”

It’s this kind of sense of humor that we’re going to miss the most about this show.

If you recall, Ted Danson’s Michael was forced to recreate the Good Place in an attempt to prove that humans are judged unfairly.

His goal was to show that humans can change for the better, and while the Bad Place agreed to his little experiment, their one condition was that they choose the four new participants. The intention was to make it as difficult for the Good Place to succeed in proving their point to the judge.

The first arrival was Chidi’s ex-girlfriend, Simone, which caused Eleanor (Kristen Bell) to wipe her boyfriend’s memory so that he wouldn’t ruin the experiment. Catch up on all previous reviews HERE!

Will he fall in love with Simone again or will he be drawn to Eleanor proving that true love exists?

Watch the first look below:

The Good Place Season 4 is set to premiere on Thursday, September 26, 2019.

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