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 – Help Is Other People (4×07)
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.
- 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.
The Good Place – A Chip Driver Mystery (4×06)
“A Chip Driver Mystery” seems like a turning point episode, not because of any action or some narrative shift, but because Michael appears to have laid out his final point of view, and perhaps this point of view will carry him and the humans to the end of the series. “Try to be better today than you were yesterday.”
As we witnessed this chapter in the form of Michael telling Bad Janet (who they’ve been holding captive) a story, I began to wonder what the purpose of delivering this episode in this manner was. Most of the narrative happenings took place from the same points of view we always watch each episode, and there was no tangible benefit (nor harm) coming from this storytelling method asides from just mixing it up. However, at the end of the episode the purpose reveals itself as Michael frees Bad Janet from captivity, putting his words into action by trying to be better today than he was yesterday.
With the humans storylines focusing on improving the test subjects, and with Janet being not a person, Michael is the only character we can see put this foot forward at this time, and since he’s been the ethical voice for two seasons now, it makes the most sense from a character perspective as well. His message puts all of Bad Janet’s knowledge into a new context. Janets know everything that has ever happened; they know the good and bad things that each person has done. However, like all machines, they lack the ability to truly put this behavior into context beyond what they are taught is “good” and “bad.” Michael’s idea that humans can try to be better each day doesn’t imply “good” or “bad,” only effort, and it allows for mistakes and the loss of points in a way that the system doesn’t account for. Just because we screw up one or several days or weeks in a row doesn’t mean we aren’t trying or can’t try to be better the next day – effort counts. For Michael, that’s the most important factor and his greatest lesson.
The lesson ties in well with the guilt he felt last week over who he used to be. It seems as though Michael has come to realize that he can feel good about his attempts to get better despite his past, because trying to improve yourself really is a purely noble and honest feat. I expect this message to crop up again as the series wraps up.
The few complaints I have over this episode stem more from what hasn’t been shown previously. Michael finally states one of Simone’s flaws; she makes snap judgements about people. This is a good flaw for a character, but we have barely seen her this season so it hasn’t been built to as organically as it could have. The same goes for Michael releasing Bad Janet. This scene would have been more powerful if we saw her kept in that cage for a few episodes. We are told she’s been there for six months, which is quite an extensive amount of time we missed out on(we’ve had several large time jumps this season). Time jumps aren’t inherently bad, but I do feel we are missing out on some build up to these scenes.
Of course, with this being the final season and the series running at 22 minutes per episode, time isn’t something the show has on its side. I get it. Still, I feel some of the time in previous episodes could have been spent better to successfully lead up to our turning point here. On its own though, this episode hits a lot of the right notes for me. It brought a little faith back to me in where the series is headed, and hopefully each episode for the rest of the season will try to improve upon the one that aired the last week.
- Ok, they said Brent made some improvements, and he just still seems like the worst. This is another example where spending some more time with him would have made his so called improvement more visible and also made his egregious book all the more disappointing.
- Jason’s joke about being nicknamed “The Defendant” is honest to goodness one of my favorite jokes I think I have ever heard. It is so dumb and wonderful and I wonder how no other series has ever made a similar joke.
- I very much like the stance the show takes here that Simone is not the problem and Brent is, and they should not be walking on eggshells around him. This felt organic to the storyline in a way Brent’s behavior doesn’t, since they need him to improve, and putting up with his attitude is not working. Don’t allow people like Brent to get away with how they treat others! But the episode doesn’t scream it at you. It makes the lesson clear while staying completely in universe. Brent’s personality could have used some of this depth.
The Good Place – Employee of the Bearimy (4×05)
Janet has been rescued and she, Michael, and Jason are headed back to the neighborhood. And yet, I’m left wondering as to the purpose of this excursion. What did the story gain from this detour? As of the end of this episode, we are left with Michael and the gang trying to improve four humans in their experiment, which is exactly where we started this season.
Maybe there will be some repercussion of this adventure down the line, but as it stands now it feels inconsequential. The episode tries to paint Michael’s revisit to the Bad Place as difficult, but asides from his short personal guilt trip over his “Employee of the Bearimy” photo, we don’t see him struggle much. In fact, he and Jason execute their extraction with ease.
On top of that, Jason needed to change exactly zero because his impulse decision of blowing things up saved the day, as he and Michael blew up two demons (including Vicky) during their escape. I was hoping to see Jason learn to control himself and contribute in a less combustible manner, especially after so much of the season has implied this would be his arc. If that had been the case, the journey would have at least had a character benefit.
Back in the neighborhood, Tahani feels useless. I mean that in both interpretable ways – Tahani herself feels she isn’t able to contribute, and Tahani the character doesn’t seem to be contributing to the narrative. The conclusion of this plot gives Tahani’s party throwing abilities validity, with Tahani openly declaring that she wants to be more than a party thrower. I see no reason that this same plot couldn’t have been explored in the third episode of the season with a more focused storyline, perhaps allowing us not just to dive into Tahani’s headspace, but actually see the four test subjects interact.
We’re nearly halfway through the final season, and Chidi and Simone’s romance blossomed completely offscreen. On one hand, we have seen their romance begin before (in the start of season three), so avoiding these scenes could be seen as efficient story telling, but on the other, the context of the romance is different this time. Not only do we have Eleanor watching their romance in terror, but this relationship could be crucial to how the afterlife treats humanity for the rest of eternity. There is a lot of proposed weight on the outcome of this experiment, but with so little time actually being spent with these subjects and their relationships, the smaller the stakes feel. The show tells us what’s important by virtue of its nature – the focus of an episode is what the series tells its audience is important. “Employee of the Bearimy” spends more time focusing on Tahani’s perceived lack of use than it does on the humans improving at the lake house, so are we to believe that Tahani’s personal problems are greater than the success of the experiment?
Of course not, and I’m not trying to imply that Tahani’s feelings shouldn’t be showcased (they should), but there is a balance to be struck that isn’t quite happening right now. Episodes like season two’s “Dance Dance Resolution” excelled because not only did we see Michael’s inner turmoil and professional struggles, but because the consequence of his failing was kept prominently in the viewers mind with Shawn’s ominous threats and Vicky’s blackmail. The plot worked in tangent with the character storyline, not as a backdrop to it.
I’m a fan of character driven episodes and stories. My favorite Good Place episode is “Best Self,” where nothing happens except for a party the humans throw before they accept their fate in the Bad Place. However, it’s a culmination of a season’s worth of character work, and results in Michael’s official induction to the group as an honorary human.
“Employee of the Bearimy” has no such culmination and has no evidence of any forward momentum for the story. I hope to be proven wrong in the coming weeks, and that there is something in this episode I missed that will directly impact the coming story.
Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles was mentioned. A+
- Tahani, Jason, and Eleanor apparently have ALL of their memories back now. So these are the complete versions of these characters. I would have liked to see the slight personality changes in the characters when they regained these memories (season 1 Tahani and season 2 Tahani were quite different by the ends of those seasons), though I suppose it makes sense that the growth in one timeline would overcome the lack of growth in another.
- The emblem on Shawn’s podium was a good callback to the pins from season two. Nice continuity.
- Derek reset himself.
- Chidi trusts Eleanor. I’m not sure if this was a hint of multidimensional connections or just Chidi trusting her like he trusted Michael in season one.
- I hope Chidi and Simone stay together because I’d love to see Eleanor get an ending that doesn’t revolve around romance, but that potential storyline will be immensely weaker without us having seen the romance develop. Maybe that’s the point? Underplay Chidi and Simone so that Eleanor and Chidi can have a guilt free reunion?
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