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

THE GOOD PLACE -- "Patty" Episode 412 -- Pictured: (l-r) D'Arcy Carden as Janet, Kristen Bell as Eleanor, William Jackson Harper as Chidi, Ted Danson as Michael, Manny Jacinto as Jason, Jameela Jamil as Tahani -- (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

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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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Big Sky

Big Sky: Deadly Trails Season 3 Premiere Review – Do You Love an Apple

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Big Sky: Deadly Trails Do You Love an Apple Season 3 Episode 1 Premiere Review

Big Sky: Deadly Trails is entering a new era and living up to its new name!

After dealing with two murderous truckers and a drug syndicate, Helena finally got a break for a few months before danger crept back into town disguised as a glamping experience of all things. 

Sunny Day Excursions, run by Sunny Barnes and her husband, Buck, seems like a fun nature escape, but what’s lurking in the shadows, er, trails, is much more sinister. 

The episode kicked off with a death on Deadman’s Drop. The curious hiker, Mark Woodman, was ambushed by a hunter, who lured him in with a cassette player. While Mark initially managed to get away, when he reached the top of the cliff, he heard the same song playing, and when he turned around, Walter was standing right behind him. As fear washed over him, he backed away slowly and fell to his death. 

Mark’s disappearance hit the desk of Dewell and Hoyt, and they immediately jumped on the case. Cassie visited Sunny Day because has a personal relationship with Sunny Barnes, which is what threw everything for a loop. Cassie has a good feel for people, so if she thinks that Sunny is a great person, the kind of person she’d trust to go camping with her son, I’m inclined to believe her. 

Except that Sunny is hiding a very dark secret. After all of her glamping guests went to sleep, she threw the missing person’s poster into the fire, made some smores, and walked into the woods while singing the exact song that is played on the cassette player. She then called out to the man, Walter, who is revealed to be her son. I’m not entirely shocked since that was my guess from the very beginning, but when they introduced Cormac, I figured maybe I was wrong in my assumption. Now, I’m just bummed that Sunny’s friendly tour guide act is a total fake. 

It’s unclear why her son is a man of the woods, but we’ll just peel back the layers as the season progresses. Is he responsible for the murders and the hushed-up missing glampers? Or is he a witness to the killings? How is Walter involved?

It’ll be quite a shock to Cassie once she realizes that Sunny isn’t the woman she thought she was. 

The campers are all in danger, particularly Emily, who arrived with her stepdad Avery. Initially, they seem like just another random group of glampers, but by the end, the connection between Emily and Beau is made apparent. He’s concerned about his daughter and jealous that she spends so much time with her stepdad, Avery, who Beau hates and has on his punch list.

This also explains why Beau’s ex-wife, Carla, was brought up so many times. We haven’t met her yet, and she didn’t come glamping with Avery and Emily because of work, but I’m sure that she’ll show up eventually. Will Avery and Emily’s dangerous glamping trip bring her to Montana and reconnect her with Beau? And will she really hate Jenny as Beau said?

Sunny’s business and overall plan, however shady it may be, is in danger now that both Beau and Cassie are somehow involved. They won’t stop until they get to the truth. 

While it’s not entirely clear if Sunny’s husband and son, Cormac, know what she’s really up to, my guess is that they have to be aware. Buck questioned why Cassie visited them before the guest’s arrived, and he seemed worried that maybe the whole operation was going to unravel before it even began.

The mystery of Sunny Day excursions and the hiking trails was only just beginning as Beau and Jenny Hoyt tackled another case involving a nearly-naked man that flagged them down on the side of the road. The man, a cop, was seduced by a prisoner named Faith, who then robbed a small store at gunpoint and took the manager, Bill, as a hostage. Beau or Jenny couldn’t figure out why someone who just wanted cash would take a hostage, and when they checked out the manager’s house, his body dropped right onto the hood of their car. 

Big Sky: Deadly Trails Do You Love an Apple Season 3 Episode 1 Premiere Review

BIG SKY: DEADLY TRAILS – ÒDo You Love An AppleÓ Ð ItÕs been a few months of relative peace in Helena, but all thatÕs about to change when Sunny Barnes and her family set up Sunny Day Excursions just outside of town. From the moment they arrive, things begin to go awry, with Cassie being called in to investigate a missing backpacker and the new sheriff in town, Beau, partnering up with Jenny to track down a murderer on the loose. A mountainous mystery begins to unravel for Cassie Dewell and Jenny Hoyt on the season premiere of ÒBig Sky: Deadly Trails,Ó WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 21 (10:00-11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Michael Moriatis)
REBA MCENTIRE, LUKE MITCHELL, REX LINN

Jenny threw caution to the wind and ran up to check the apartment without backup (Beau should expect this behavior from her at this point), and figured out that the case may involve a child. When they tracked down Faith, sure enough, she risked everything for a little girl that she helped raise like a daughter. The scene that unfolded was heartbreaking as Maddie ran into her mother’s arms to save her from the guns that Beau and Jenny pointed at her. Eventually, Faith surrendered, and they allowed her to say goodbye to her daughter one last time before she was locked up for good. 

This was definitely a one-off case that didn’t tie into the overall mystery of the season, but it was necessary to help us get a deeper understanding of Beau and Jenny’s partnership. They work well together, even if they’re roasting each other half the time.  

These two may still be figuring each other out, but Beau and Cassie are the kind of BFFS that have movie nights together. If you’re thinking they are probably more than friends, well, so did Jenny, and Beau shot that right down. He’s clearly still hung up on his ex, while Cassie is getting over a breakup with Lindor. Honestly, I hate that. I know the series wasn’t able to get Lindor back this season because of a scheduling conflict, but I don’t buy the “we’re better as friends” and “he and Jeri are a great match” excuses at all. He was such a promising love interest for Cassie, so it hurts. However, there was definitely some sexual tension between her and Cormac, and I’m not opposed to giving him a shot, as long as he’s not involved in any shady business with his mom and man of the woods brother.

Cassie also purchased the ranch that was previously owned by the Bashrani cartel, and she managed to get it at a good price by playing Tonya at her own game. Tonya truly got off easy considering everything she did. She’s only a “legitimate business owner” because she worked her way up to acquiring land and property by working for a gang. Therefore, there’s nothing legitimate about it. I hope that at some point, Cassie and Jenny destroy her and Donno once and for all. Much like Ronald last season, these two are the lingering characters that keep the series grounded for longtime viewers, but it also means that their storyline isn’t over. Why did they stick around when the cartel operations clearly folded?

What did you think of the Big Sky: Deadly Trails Season 3 premiere? Have all your glamping dreams fizzled out? Maybe Luke was onto something when he complained that they weren’t at an all-inclusive 5-star hotel. 


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Chicago P.D

Chicago PD Season 10 Premiere Review – Let It Bleed

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Chicago PD Season Premiere Let It Bleed Season 10 Episode 1

Intelligence is back in action, but Anna’s death has rocked their leader, Hank Voight.

Chicago PD Season 10 kicked off about two weeks after the team’s takedown of Los Temidos, but Voight was struggling to make sense of it all. His grief manifested in action as he went rogue to patrol the streets of Little Village in order to take down anyone who tried to take over the corner and deal. Is he losing it a bit? Yeah. Is it insanity? Definitely. Are we here for it as an audience? Absolutely. 

We knew that he was going to take her death hard as it was clear from the beginning that he wanted to keep her safe and give her and her son, Rafa, a better life when it was all over. When that didn’t happen, Voight felt like he failed her.

And his personal crusade against the neighborhood was his way of ensuring that her death wasn’t in vain; that it mattered.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a sustainable solution. As Upton pointed out, Intelligence simply cannot police one city block when there are so many other issues to focus on. And Voight’s private patrols weren’t exactly “private” as everyone took notice and simply turned the other way hoping that he would eventually come to his senses. 

It all culminated in a new drug case that involved a five-year-old boy accidentally overdosing on some heroin cut with fentanyl. 

Everyone was adamant that Voight hand the case over to narcotics, but honestly, it seemed like a case Intelligence would’ve tackled regardless of Voight’s involvement in the neighborhood. If the tainted drugs already took the life of one minor, what’s to say they wouldn’t do more damage if the dealer wasn’t stopped early on?

Voight, however, was more determined to get the dealer because of Anna’s death, so it caused him to make some questionable that Upton wasn’t exactly keen on. 

And while I can’t blame her for worrying about Voight’s motives, the way she approached the situation wasn’t exactly ideal either. Upton continues to think that she can just waltz in and do whatever she wants without listening to orders, which continues to show her entitlement when it comes to the job. Voight’s actions may have been questionable, but it was Upton’s rebellion against his rules that ultimately almost cost them the case and put lives in danger. 

When Voight sent in Torres (new series regular Benjamin Levy Aguilar), a probationary police officer who was on “loan” to them, he truly believed that he was doing the right thing. And I have to believe that no matter what mindset Voight is in, he wouldn’t just play with someone’s life on a hunch. He knows the risks and makes strategic calls. It hurt him to lose Anna because she was a good person, and it doesn’t seem like he wanted any more casualties, especially a budding new cop that has been a great addition to his team. And since it was clear that Enzo was a loose cannon and his actions were unpredictable, I don’t think Voight would’ve taken chances he didn’t believe in.

Chicago PD Season Premiere Let It Bleed Season 10 Episode 1

CHICAGO P.D. — “Let it Bleed” Episode 1002 — Pictured: Benjamin Levy Aguilar as Dante Torres — (Photo by: Lori Allen/NBC)

He wanted to continue letting the situation with Torres and Enzo play out because he trusted that Torres had the skills to get the job done. If Upton had just followed Voight’s call, they would have nabbed him with the drugs in hand and put him behind bars for a very long time. 

Instead, she decided she knew better and “got closer” to the situation in a careless manner. When the gate slammed, Enzo got spooked and began shooting at both Torres and the CI. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but it could’ve ended terribly for everyone involved.

They were eventually able to get Enzo, but only because of Voight’s quick thinking, which Upton didn’t agree with, again. Why is she still part of this unit when she clearly doesn’t think Voight is fit enough to run it? 

After Upton’s screw-up, she didn’t even have the gall to apologize to Voight. Instead, she turned the tables on him and told him he hasn’t been a very good leader lately. While there may be some truth to what she’s saying, it really wasn’t the right place nor time to bring it up.

And I’m glad Voight shut it all down. He’s realizing that Upton and Halstead have gotten a little too comfortable around him and no longer respect his authority, which can’t happen if this unit is to function seamlessly.

We know Halstead is leaving the series this season, and I think his desire to protect Voight will ultimately lead to his decision to exit the unit. He protected Voight this episode and stood by him, while also acknowledging that he was taking it a bit too far. Being a contrast to Voight is going to take a toll on him personally and will likely be what breaks him. It definitely seemed like Upton was setting the scene for his exit by informing Voight that he was going to drag Halstead down with him unless he leaves first. 

In the end, Voight got a wake-up call from the new Chief, Patty (they seem to have a history), who informed him that he’s graciously allowed him to grieve for two weeks, but he really needs Voight to step up to the plate again and save Chicago. In fact, his words were “the whole city is going to hell,” which was rather dramatic, but puts pressure on Voight and the team to do their job. It also promises the backing and support of the new Chief, and it seems like he will help Voight get away with stuff because he knows that he’s the man that will get things done.

The city is better off with him because he’s made this job his entire life. Nothing else matters more to him.

In a full-circle moment, he also informed Voight that he pushed through half a million payment to Rafa, Anna’s son who is now living in Iowa. Voight pulled through in his promise to take care of him. 

And while Anna’s name was never mentioned when Intelligence was being honored for their heroics in taking down Los Temidos, they were all very much aware that it wouldn’t be possible without her sacrifice. She didn’t die “for nothing” as she once informed Voight, and that may lessen the blow of her death ever so slightly. 

Lastly, we knew Torres was going to join Intelligence permanently, but it wasn’t entirely clear how it was going to happen since he’s still a rookie cop until the Chief personally granted him to Voight’s unit. Voight didn’t seem to have an opinion on it, but we’ll see how Torres factors in once Voight is officially his boss. It’s going to be interesting to see Torres’ story play out since he’s so green, but he’s also a go-getter that has what it takes to succeed. He’s got street smarts, which will come in handy, he knows how to play the game, and he’s not afraid. The only question is—will he mesh with the team? 

The series made it clear that season 10 is going to hit reset as Voight’s unit is tasked with getting back to saving the city. And with the Chief telling Voight he’ll keep him on a “long leash” and give him more cash, my guess is that fans who have been waiting for dark Voight to return might get their wish after all. How will that affect Halstead, Upton and the rest of the squad? Only time will tell.

What did you think of the Chicago PD Season 10 premiere? Are you happy that they finally offered some closure following Anna’s death? 


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Abbott Elementary'

Abbott Elementary Season 2 Premiere Review – Development Day

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Abbott Elementary Season 2 Premiere Review Episode 1 Development Day

School is back in session. 

As our favorite teachers return to Abbott Public School for development day ahead of the students’ first day of school, chaos ensues, particularly for Janine. 

Since her breakup with Tariq, she’s been trying to keep it together and pretend like nothing is wrong, but the truth is, everything is wrong. 

While she holds it together for the first half of the day, even impressing her colleagues with the strides she’s made and how organized she is, things quickly spiral out of control. 

First, Jacob oversees an email from her landlord that says her rent is overdue. She’s facing eviction, but Janine is in denial because she’s determined to be okay. When she dismisses Jacob’s concerns, he tells everyone, including Gregory, who calls her out on it immediately. 

From there, things just continue taking a turn for the worse. Gritty, the Philadelphia hockey mascot that Janine managed to book for the first day of school, arrives a week early because she got her days mixed up. She then admits that she hasn’t been paying her bills because she can’t afford them without Tariq’s contributions. 

But the last straw is when she gets a boot on her car for unpaid parking tickets. Janine informs the city worker that she hasn’t been paying them because the driving violations belonged to Tariq, which is when she’s hit with the hard truth that if it’s her vehicle, it’s her responsibility. I would think that a teacher like Janine would know that, but I’m also impressed with her desire to force some responsibility onto Tariq. She’s been funding his life for far too long. 

Janine eventually breaks, but it’s all for the best because she has a solid support system in her colleagues, especially Barbara and Melissa, who have been there and done that and know that there’s no way to avoid the heartache that comes with a breakup. The only way over is through it, and Janine needs to face the pain and acknowledge that it doesn’t make her any less than. 

And, in the long run, it’ll be the best decision she could’ve made because while she was wrong about a lot of things, she wasn’t wrong about the fact that it was the right choice. She outgrew Tariq, and seeing how unfazed he was when he moved out, he didn’t fully appreciate all that she had to offer. 

And Gregory? He noticed the new side part. A man doesn’t notice the side part unless he’s smitten.  Of course, audiences already knew that, but it seems like Janine is finally considering him in a new light… when he ends things with Taylor, that is. If he’s even with her anymore. 

Barbara and Melissa weren’t interested in participating in Janine’s “wisdom swaps” portion of the mixer, but they imparted their wisdom on their younger colleagues nevertheless. They are Abbott’s very own superheroes!

In addition to helping Janine work through her break-up, Barbara also helped Gregory, a first-year full-time teacher, figure out that the magic of being a teacher is simply doing the best they can. Every teacher can attest to the unattainable goals set by the school districts, but the curriculum, as Barbara pointed out, is a mere suggestion. They are much more than teachers—they are guides, counselors, and mentors. They try their best every year. 

After Barbara helped him navigate the first week jitters, Gregory took her advice to heart and did the best with what he had. He braved the school’s creepy basement and dug up an ADA desk for her wheelchair student. And the joy on their faces was well worth it. 

Abbott Elementary may be a 20-minute sitcom, but it has so much heart and deals with some of the most difficult realities for teachers, including the lack of funding and being set up to fail. This season, there’s an added effort to be more inclusive. In addition to the wheelchair student, Jacob, who boasts all about the trip he took, took on ASL, which came in handy when he welcomed a deaf student into his classroom. 

Melissa, however, was given 10 additional students as a mix of second and third grade. Every teacher is being tasked with new responsibilities and challenges, but since they’re all there because they love their students, they all rise to the occasion every single time. 

Elsewhere, Jacob helped cover Janine’s finances with the money for his student loans (and didn’t seem phased because Joey B is getting rid of them anyway), Ava ran a side hustle in the school parking lot because, of course, she did, and Gregory continued to be the funniest character using only his facial expressions. 

It’s going to be a good year for these Emmy-award-winning characters… I just know it! 

What did you think of the premiere of Abbott Elementary Season 2?


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