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The Good Place

The Good Place – Chillaxing (4×03)

THE GOOD PLACE -- "Chillaxing" Episode 403 -(Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

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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 – The Answer (4×09)

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The Good Place/The Answer

The Good Place has really returned to form the last four episodes. The plot has been propelled forward since the end of the experiment, and the characters’ place in the narrative has been clearer. The pace has also been quicker, which, ironically, has led to an episode that mostly takes place over the course of a single snap.

Last week’s episode explored the effects the humans have had on each other through their funerals, but Chidi was obviously left out of this due to him being unconscious. This week makes up for it in a huge way. As Michael returns all of Chidi’s memories to him, we follow along with the resurgence of memories, taking rests on certain important events in Chidi’s life. We get to see new time periods of Chidi’s life (like when he was a baby) as well as familiar events from Chidi’s perspective (such as his first day in the original neighborhood).

As we explore Chidi’s life on earth, we learn the origin of his indecision, which provides us with the close of his lifelong arc. After “solving” his parent’s marriage, Chidi realized that every problem has a solution, and if he could only find this answer, he’d always do the right thing.

The problem is that this idea was put into his head at such a young age (and supported by his parents’ decision to not tell Chidi that counseling saved their marriage), that he has accepted this as an absolute truth, which cripples his ability to make any decision by impulse or without knowledge of the outcome.

This crux is where we finally get to see what we missed from Chidi during the funerals; we see how Jason, Tahani, and Eleanor affected him. He asks both Jason and Tahani how they manage to make their decisions – Jason tells him that if you wait too long to decide you’ll miss an opportunity, and Tahani tells him that failure is a way to learn. The Chidi in the timelines of which he speaks to them cannot imagine being able to live that way, but the Chidi that Michael is putting together, the one with all of these memories we have been watching flow back, disagrees. This new Chidi has been through too much and has learned that there is no answer.

Except for Eleanor. Of all the people Chidi has interacted with in his life, Eleanor was the most important. Not because of their romance (though I’m sure that doesn’t hurt) but because of the ethical conundrum she as a person presented him. She is so horrible and has such poor instincts at times, but turns out to be caring, determined, and kind at heart. She is a walking ethical dichotomy, and proof that there is no answer.

Which is the answer.

It’s hilarious and appropriate that Chidi’s answer is itself a conundrum. What fantastic writing.

The Good Place is ready to end, and the final stretch of episodes are teed up to be excellent. I have no idea what’s going to happen, and apparently, neither does Chidi. But for once, he’s like the rest of us – excited to find out.

Other Musings:

  • This episode is yet another clever way to allow us to recap the series without painfully obvious callbacks or a clip show **shudder.** I guess this is kind of a clip show with the memories, but most of it was new and that’s where the focus is. It isn’t just a celebration of the series up till now, it informs Chidi the character as he awakes in the present Jeremy Bearimy.
  • I don’t think we have ever seen Janet materialize something before. It always has appeared with an edit.
  • I’m glad they didn’t have Chidi say anything about the fork in the garbage disposal. It’s a good reference this way without it being completely hammered over us.
  • The red boots return!
  • Michael really went all out for Chidi’s perfect apartment with that fridge. All the more effective when he has to leave it behind to stay at Eleanor’s because Chidi knows exactly what he’s missing.
  • Michael tells Chidi that soulmates most likely are not real and lays out the absolute truth about relationships – they are a decision. And now Chidi is ready to make that decision.
  • I can’t believe Janet didn’t put the note in her mouth. Maybe they didn’t want to undercut the emotion of the moment, but it’s not like this show hasn’t done that before. It is still a good callback to Eleanor’s note at the end of season one.
  • Chidi is zen now. He is ‘Zen Chidi.’ He is like Desmond in the back half of the final season of Lost. I don’t believe this is a coincidence. I also don’t believe that the final season of Lost is a decade old.

See you in 2020 Good Place!

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The Good Place

The Good Place – The Funeral to End All Funerals (4×08)

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TheGoodPlace/TheFuneraltoEndAllFunerals

The results are in! But you aren’t allowed to hear them yet.

I loved the funerals. It allows for us to celebrate these characters while also letting them celebrate each other. Each of the humans taking turns throwing their own best funeral is a great way to say goodbye to these characters. Their sentiments are touching, though I am a bit bummed we don’t get to hear Jason give any real thoughts on Eleanor. Dragging Chidi around to the funerals is a great way to inject some of that classic Good Place visual humor. Janet’s speech about her own journey mixes perfectly with the big reveal at the end of the episode. All around this is a fun, touching, and character based way to recap the characters and prepare us for when they take their permanent leave from our television screens.

The courtroom scenes provide their own kind of recap, as Michael’s case for humanity retreads the major plot points of the series. I particularly like Michael’s use of his original experiment to add to the strength of his position. The judge covers her own time on Earth as well and reminds us of season three’s revelation that Earth has become too complicated. This allows her “reboot the Earth” plan to feel justified (in her eyes). The frivolous nature of Jen, the demons, and the Good Place committee implies that life isn’t something they can really comprehend. To Jen, rebooting Earth is almost like restarting a video game. There won’t be major consequences for her, so it’s easy to see her making such a monumental decision with relative ease.

Michael and Janet, however, have spent far too much time with the humans and learning what it means to have life. They have learned to value it and won’t allow Jen to squish it out so easily. The big Janet reveal is awesome. Janet has grown so much since Michael brought her to his neighborhood, and if one Janet could learn and write that manifesto, I believe all Janets would take it seriously.

As Jen searches each Janet for her reboot button, Eleanor demands that Michael wake up Chidi. Each character gets their big recap moment during the funerals earlier except for Chidi, but Michael recaps him completely here. “The most indecisive man ever born” is about to be woken up with more memories and pressure than he’ll know what to do with. This is a perfect plot point and culmination for Chidi. Only Chidi can solve this problem, and yet almost everyone else is better suited to handle it than he is. What has he learned? How much has he improved? Has he improved enough to save humanity?

The climaxes presented here are perfect stakes that are born from the show’s history. Chidi’s task, one more giant reboot, the Janets – all are rooted in stories we’ve seen before. It feels like next week could be the last episode, but as we all know that isn’t the case. It makes me wonder if The Good Place has one more huge trick up its sleeve. I can’t wait to find out.

Other Musings:

  • We got an explanation for Chidi’s jackedness.
  • Eleanor and Jason always got along and I loved that Eleanor acknowledged their bond.
  • The use of “the cockroaches” positive influence on their families on Earth finally gives some real weight to that side quest in season three.
  • Brent’s upswing right at the end proves a lot about human behavior, and the notion that no one is beyond rehabilitation is one that I hope a lot of viewers take to heart. I was worried about Brent’s character being an amalgamation of stereotypical middle aged white guyness, but they use it to send an important message here, and his broad characterization allows it to commentate on a large swell of people.
  • They packed so much content into the first fifteen minutes of the episode. That is some vintage Good Place pacing.

Oh, they succeeded with the experiment, by the way. Now you can know.

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The Good Place

The Good Place – Help Is Other People (4×07)

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The Good Place - Help Is Other People

The experiment is over. The group split apart and the status quo was finally blown up. I have no clue where the series will head now, which is a feeling I haven’t had with The Good Place since this season began. It’s an exciting feeling, and I’m grateful for it.

But still, it is a shame we didn’t spend much time with the subjects of the experiment. It feels as though the season was treading water from its second episode onward to get to this point, and I still feel the time could have been better spent. I also find it a little convenient that Eleanor and Michael didn’t think about telling Brent he is in the Bad Place way earlier in the timeline of the experiment. Tahani and Jason didn’t improve at all in their original run until they were informed about their position in the Bad Place, so it seems like this thought would have occurred to Eleanor and Michael back in episode three or four.

However, there is a ton to like about this episode, and it is probably my favorite episode of the season thus far. Tons of character humor, a sense of tension we haven’t felt all year thanks to Simone’s compiling of information, and unexpected twists along the way. A good way to make a final season successful is to call back to the rest of the series, and Eleanor and Michael recreating moments from season one here, such as the sinkhole and the iconic laugh, work well as call backs because they also serve the plot. Their backs are against the wall, so they are just trying to recreate the circumstances the original humans improved against.

As for that laugh, nothing will ever top the first reveal, but seeing Eleanor and Michael slip right back into their old ways is a treat, and watching them use the more negative aspects of themselves to try to achieve a positive goal is a testament to their growth.

I don’t know if they succeeded, and I’m not all that concerned with whether or not they did. I’m more concerned with how this series is going to wrap itself up. The experiment was fine but the way these episodes are structured, there wasn’t much attention paid to the subjects or the consequences of failure, making the outcome less meaningful. At this point, though, with six episodes left to air, I’m almost happy about this. It almost guarantees a separate endgame; one that will hopefully have higher personal stakes for all of our characters.

And finally; Brent’s realization that he is a bad person. We actually see the conflict and denial in his face and voice before he seemingly comes to terms with who he is. It feels a bit quick, but not because his turn to good happens immediately. Tahani immediately realized her issues when she was informed she was in the Bad Place, but the difference there was that Tahani was a well explored and fleshed out character by that point. We understood the headspace she inhabited and why she would think she is a good person. We never got to learn that about Brent, so I’m left wondering why he ever thought he was a decent human being in the first place. It’s a wonderful moment that is undercut yet again by the lack of development leading up to it.

By and large though, this series isn’t about Brent. It’s about Eleanor, Michael, Chidi, Tahani, Jason, Janet, and what it means to try to be a good person. And the biggest reveal of the night was built to perfectly in regards to that last pillar. Last week, Michael told Bad Janet all a human can do is try, and that’s what makes them good. Tonight, it’s revealed that the first step in that process is actually admitting to yourself that you need to improve. Brent didn’t try to be better before because he didn’t admit to himself that he needed to be. Eleanor and Michael’s demonic taunts and Chidi’s truth bomb to him is what he needed to hear. Now he can start to try. The Good Place is still as thematically sound as ever, even if the season so far has been a little slow. That’s enough for me to feel more confidence once again that the ending is headed to a very good place indeed.

Other Musings:

  • We also finally get to see some negative Simone traits. She’s a good character; I really wish we could have spent more time with her in the neighborhood.
  • John has some killer one liners. He has a unique personality amongst the group and I wish we could have spent more time with him as well.
  • I feel like the “early successes” joke may have been a bit meta, and if so that gives me even more confidence in the end of the show.
  • Brent saying he’d put a good word in for the rest of the friends was a good touch so we could see some genuine decency in him.

I complained about reusing old music cues a few episodes back, but obviously when the show itself is recreating events like the sink hole and the Bad Place reveal, old music cues are perfect. I just wish the sink hole danger strings would have been saved for that moment.

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