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The Good Place

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

THE GOOD PLACE -- "The Funeral to End All Funerals" Episode 408 -- Pictured: (l-r) Ted Danson as Michael, Marc Evan Jackson as Shawn -- (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBC)

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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 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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The Good Place

The Good Place Review – Making a New Afterlife (4×10)

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The Good Place You've Changed, Man Review

“You’ve Changed, Man” rumbles through a whole lot of ideas in quick succession. The newly zen Chidi, who shall now be referred to as Zen Chidi, pulls out his trusty blackboard and writes out several new, better versions of the afterlife to try out.

Zen Chidi is great. He is a totally different man – he’s confident, smooth, good at making decisions – but Zen Chidi doesn’t feel like a falsity. Our Chidi is definitely still in there, as we see his face light up when he does spins on his roller skates, and talking philosophy still gets his engine running.

On the way to appeal to the judge, the crew jumps from location to location, not doing much more than talking, and the episode does meander a bit. I find it tempting to criticize it for that, since by the end of the episode all of the initial ideas presented by the humans to save the afterlife essentially become meaningless, but if the crew had found an answer right away, I would be criticizing it for making the solution too simple.

I suppose this is a lose-lose situation in that regard, and if I had to lean towards a side, I’d choose the version where we see them constantly pitch different afterlives because it helps the episodes on two levels.

One, the search for the perfect afterlife is a good parallel to Judge Gen’s search for the Earth reset button; our crew journeys across the afterlife to propose different afterlife styles, and Gen journeys through the Janets for the button. The journey through the Janets is a ton of fun. Despite being revealed very recently, Disco Janet fits right into this world, and I 100% believe Gen would get distracted by Disco Janet’s rad void. Gen has always been a bit flighty and casual, so instead of feeling like a stretch to extend her search, this diversion just feels like a natural extension of her personality. (Somehow, neutral Janet’s was still my favorite void, though.)

Check Out Our The Good Place Gift Guide for All Your Afterlife Swag

The other reason I don’t criticize the meandering A-Plot is that I think it’s important to see the process of creating a new afterlife because it makes their final solution feel more earned.

The show has earned this moment as well, as the plan for the afterlife is one that reflects one of the greatest lessons of the show so far; learning. Instead of being punished forever for their sins, Zen Chidi and the gang suggest that every human should be placed within a particular test to see if they can overcome their shortcomings, and if they fail, they’ll be rebooted over and over again until they can get it right.

I love this idea, and I love the message that it sends to viewers. Try over and over again to improve, and eventually, you will. When Judge Gen and Timothy Olyphant question the validity of this process, Jason accurately points out that it’s already worked. (More than once, of course, if we count good ol’ Brent as well).

Gen isn’t the only one who needs to be convinced to reboot the afterlife instead of Earth, though. Head demon Shawn also has a vote (so do the Good Place Committee, but they’ll say yes to anything), and unlike Gen, Shawn is not impartial. One would assume this would make him harder to convince, but instead, it becomes the key to winning him over.

Shawn has always enjoyed torture and has always been shown as a demon who runs his office with a hammer. He despises Michael for betraying him and constantly reminds him of how successful “good old fashioned torture” is.

With these traits, I was quite nervous during the final proposal that he’d disagree. He has been so opposed to everything the humans do I thought that he would say no to any idea that didn’t have him coming out on top, so the way the show hinted at his change of heart didn’t ring true to me.

To my initial relief, he didn’t agree, but soon Michael is back at it convincing him. This time it works, and for a moment I felt the character of Shawn had been slightly betrayed.

Then Michael says one very important line, “You wouldn’t have let me try the original experiment if you knew things were working.”

I always had found it a little odd that Shawn green-lit the original experiment and allowed a reboot, and then became an immediate antagonist who was against the neighborhood. I passed it off as a slight character adjustment as the show developed, but now it seems (even if just by luck) that his characterization has been more consistent than I had given credit for.

Shawn himself was getting bored with normal torture, so he agreed to allow Michael to try something new. When it failed he refused to accept any part of the failure and put it all on Michael, and found a new joy in tormenting them. Michael realizes this and uses it to his advantage, first by getting Shawn to admit that he’ll be bored once he can’t torment Michael anymore. Then he tells Shawn that this time, instead of just watching the new experiment, Shawn can be part of it.

There is no reasoning the judge will listen to, but Shawn, because of his personal investment in not just torture, but keeping his life engaging, decides to try something new. He comes full circle here, completing an arc that happened under his human suit all series, and displays true character growth by admitting these feelings and shortcomings to Michael.

Was this character arc for Shawn preplanned? Maybe. I have a suspicion they just found a way to make it all work here at the end -and it does work.

But ya know what? Right now, everything on this show is working.

Other Musings:

  • Loved our quick spread of philosophy this episode. There are a lot of fascinating concepts and ideas to dive into, but if you do so, don’t forget to strap on some roller-skates.
  • I got a bit nervous the series was going to take us to a place where the humans come up with an afterlife that still sent people to be punished for eternity, and I am so glad they come up with something better and more in line with the show’s messages.
  • Disco Ball marble is A+ writing.
  • A puppy cannon is so wrong. I love it.
  • Timothy Olyphant is a great stand-in for the audience asking all the questions at the New Afterlife Proposal. They could have just had Gen ask all of these, but it is more fun bringing in a fresh face for a moment instead (and in a way natural to the show).
  • Chidi is just the idea guy.

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