The Good Place: Don't Let the Good Life Pass You By

“Hello idiots.”

So, that all happened.

What a crazy episode. It started off sleepily enough, with Michael and Janet out to find their ‘blueprint’ for a perfect life while the humans killed time at a bar called The Puking Moose by playing Special Jacksonville Style Pool. It ended with all the humans dead again, on their way to Janet’s void. Can I just say I am SO excited to see Janet’s void??

Okay so first thing’s first: Doug Forcett. To me, the Doug Forcett story line seemed…well…I had a problem with it. That problem is: Team Cockroach is fated for the Bad Place because they know about the points system so nothing they do from now on is motivated by virtue, but by the goal of getting points. Doug believes in the points system and is quite open about doing what he does to get points, so isn’t his motivation faulty as well? That seems like a huge oversight by the writers or by Michael and Janet, if you believe the writers intended the issue.

There’s more to be said about Doug exemplifying the flaws of utilitarianism, but I am not the girl to say it. Nevertheless, here I go. Doug was living an entirely insane existence, drinking his own urine and subsisting on lentils and radishes. Chidi asks “What do we owe to each other?” but I’m wondering what we owe to ourselves. Yeah, it’s great that Doug recycles and donates to charity and tries to minimize his carbon footprint but he’s miserable. He practically had a panic attack when he called Michael by the wrong name (accidentally) and things got worse when he stepped on the snail (also an accident). Maybe I’m just a selfish person but I think we owe it to ourselves to live in an environment that, at the very least, isn’t actively hurting us. Don’t let the good life pass you by!

Back at the bar, Eleanor confesses the events of last week’s episode to Tahani, who gives her some good advice: “It’s never a bad idea to tell someone how you feel.” Then all hell breaks loose. I’m not sure that sentence has ever been used so literally. The fight scene was bonkers. Janet kicked some serious ass. Some of the stunts were not perfect but you know what? I don’t care. It was fun. And fun is what I rely on The Good Place for.

The thing about this show is that it never sits still for long. Season One, where everyone believed they were in the Good Place for thirteen whole episodes is our longest run without series shattering shenanigans. After that, we’ve been hurtling at breakneck speed towards a mysterious endgame. Every week after one of these cataclysmic changes I find myself wondering if we’re finally coming to a pause. We did this season, for quite a few episodes. The “Soul Squad” went out saving souls (or trying to) and it felt like okay, we could spend some time here on Earth doing this. Enough material at least to finish out the season. NOPE.

Mike Schur is playing with us, steamrolling past so much story and so many missed opportunities it’s enough to drive an audience insane, but he’s steamrolling with such direction it’s clear he knows what he’s doing. While other sitcoms are satisfied to languish in “Why change anything? What we’re doing gets ratings.” land, The Good Place isn’t short of storytelling risks.

I’m so happy we’re headed back to the afterlife. Our time on Earth was fun but last week’s installment made me realize how much I missed the crazy, ridiculous hijinks of the afterlife. I mean Tahania? A penguin in a Jaguars jersey? I’m really excited to find out where we’re going next, waiting in agony for next week’s episode, which basically means TGP is doing everything right.

And now for some speculation: I’ve been thinking this for a while and Shawn’s malevolent taunting has me pretty much convinced that there is no Good Place. Or, maybe, there is but no one is sent there. Maybe the points system is so bad no one qualifies for the Good Place. Maybe it’s full. Maybe it’s offline. In any case, Shawn seemed really convinced everyone will end up in the Bad Place. Couple bits of possibly significant continuity here: the Janet warehouse and Janet herself has proved there are Good Janets. Mindy St. Claire lives in a Medium Place as sentenced by Judge Gen, right? I mean…right? Unless Gen’s been a Bad Place plant all along…too far? What about the Good Janets? Do they just exist to convince the demons that there is a Good Place? Why bother with that? They’re demons. Surely they don’t care if their mandate is ‘torture everyone’ instead of just ‘torture some people.'

Also! Eleanor confessed their shared past and her current feelings to Chidi! That’s…huge. I mean, she hedged it a bit, saying there was a possibility she was in love with him, but even that is such a huge leap for Eleanor “Character Development” Shellstrop. And Mr. Indecisive himself seemed to have something to say back to her before their conversation was so rudely interrupted by the ongoing brawl. Whatever the situation with the Good Place and the points system ends up being, I think Michael’s experiment was a success. People can change, they can get better. At the very least Eleanor did. And so did Chidi. Did you notice? He didn’t ruminate over the philosophical ramifications of ANYTHING. Jason asked him to play pool and he didn’t even think about it, he just agreed to it. Tahani and Jason have shown less growth. I know they’re the more comedic characters but it does make me a little sad we’re not seeing them progress too.

Ethical Bits

How did Doug hallucinate the points system? I mean was that just a coincidence or is there some story there? Why does he have so much faith in a hallucination?

Rural Calgary looks remarkably like southern California.

All we got was a glimpse of Bad Janet and it’s a real shame. I’d love to see Janet vs. Janet.

The Good Quotes

Chidi: “I’m so jet lagged I can’t even regrender my chorf.”

Chidi: “Cool. That sounds fun. Let’s go into a void.”

Three and a half out of four snails

sunbunny

3 comments:

Lamounier said...

What a terrific review, sunbunny.

I agree with you that this episode was a bit sleepy, the first part at least. I also kept expecting Michael and Janet to address the issue of Doug's motivation being corrupt, and they never did it. I think that saying anything to Doug would have driven him insane(r), but they never spoke about it amongst themselves either, which was weird. Maybe they were too distracted by Doug's miserable way of living.

Doug put too much effort for too little result. I mean, even if his motivation wasn't corrupt, how many points would he earn for mourning a snail? Which brings me to your excellent paragraph on utilitarianism, sunbunny. For a good chunk of my life I was a typical utilitarian, and it was exhausting. You don't do it because you're the purest person on Earth, deep down you do it because you want to be liked (my motivation was corrupt!), but at some point you get tired of it. You realize that you are taking care of people's problem before taking care of yourself, and being liked or perceived as good does not cut it. It takes a while for you to understand that you are allowed to be selfish, to not give a damn about people's perception of you, but, Jesus Christ, it's such a relief to get there. "I think we owe it to ourselves to live in an environment that, at the very least, isn’t actively hurting us. Don’t let the good life pass you by!" This is a great advice.

Maybe the points system is so bad no one qualifies for the Good Place. Maybe it’s full. Maybe it’s offline.

I think at least very few people qualify, otherwise why would Mindy St. Claire qualify for a medium place? (Unless there is more to Mindy than meets the eye, and I hope that's not the case because she is too marvelous a character the way she is.) However, your theory that the Good Place is either full or offline is very interesting. Or the bar is so damn high that the people Shawn mentioned are never going to make it. In any case, I hope the Soul Squad is able to bring the points system down.

Even though I had been missing the afterlife, this felt like an abrupt end to the humans' journey on Earth. What was the point of it all? Give the humans a chance to fix a couple of things? Maybe it will be clearer by the end of the season. I agree with you that Eleanor and Chidi have grown a lot, but I would argue that Tahani making amends with her sister was pretty big for her journey. I have nothing on Jason, though.

Janet kicking ass was awesome.

I miss Simone. I hope she dies so we can see her in the afterlife.

Billie Doux said...

Janet kicking ass was absolutely awesome. And I am so floored that they're freaking dead again!

sunbunny, that is a fascinating theory, that *no one* is going to the Good Place. That gives our main characters a genuinely important purpose that hasn't even been mentioned yet, which would be opening the Good Place up to everyone who deserves to be there. That would be a perfect end to the series, wouldn't it?

Patryk said...

Michael McKeen is again playing someone living without electricity. :)