The Good Place: The Worst Possible Use of Free Will

Eleanor: "Can you believe that my high school voted me most likely to die young and unaccomplished?"
Michael: "You did die young and unaccomplished."

Eleanor makes Michael show her scenes from various reboots in the after-life – especially the reboot in which she and Chidi fell in love.

This episode takes advantage of the series’ strengths, focusing on Michael and Eleanor (all the actors are good, but Ted Danson and Kristen Bell are the best) and letting us take a break from the restrictions of Earth and revisit the whimsy of the fake good place. It’s fast-paced, with bright and pretty scenes, and wonderful stuff coming out of left field. Pet day at the fake good place is fun, because we have normal pets (puppies), odd pets (lizards and owls) – but we also have mythical pets, like the Tahani-centaur.

Eleanor watches her interactions with Chidi, but she keeps denying their significance. Given that Michael manipulated everything in the fake good place, she claims that she has no free will. Even on Earth, everything is predetermined, she says, due to the forces of biology and environment. Michael shows her scene after scene in which she behaved differently than he intended. How is it possible that a show can make such philosophical questions so witty and amusing? Where else can the word “determinism” be employed and make you laugh? Where else can you debate the existence or not of free will?

We get to the heart of the issue. Eleanor has trouble accepting that her feelings for Chidi were/are real, because she is afraid to be so vulnerable. And Michael admits that the reason that he didn’t want to show Eleanor these scenes was because he didn’t want her to see how cruel he used to be.

Both grow tremendously in this episode, acknowledging their vulnerabilities. And Michael decides he’s going to act as if he has free will, even though it's possible that he doesn't, because that’s what he wants to do. Eleanor accepts that, given that she’s aware of what happens in the afterlife, she might be a creature with more free will than the rest of the beings out there.

The rest of the cast are seen mostly in just scenes in the fake good place, so there’s less for them to do, but I enjoyed them when they appeared.

Title musings:
“The worst possible use of free will,” are the words uttered by Michael when he tells Eleanor that it’s time to pick up their friends at the airport. But I think it really applies to the bad arguments that Eleanor applies to her analysis of her memories with Chidi, as well as the many questionable decisions that all the characters keep making in the fake good place. Going to fetch your friends, of course, is one of the best possible uses of free will.

Bits and pieces

Although it was really cute to claim that public libraries in Arizona are deserted, I must point out that the ones that I have visited were full of happy patrons.

The Tahani-centaur was just so fantastic.

I loved the bald scene, the banana, and then I loved the Chidi-is-trapped-in-the-purple-sphere scene.

In one reboot, during which Michael is obviously frustrated, the green words that greet Eleanor have been changed from "Everything is fine!" to "Everything is okay."

From the close, it looks like demon Vicky is back for the next episode of The Good Place. Funnily enough, I didn’t care for Tiya Sircar’s character in Supergirl’s "Ahimsa" (which I just reviewed) but I’m expecting good things for The Good Place.

Quotes

Eleanor: Did I look hot bald?

Chidi: I made my bed, and now I’ll bleed in it.

Tahani-centaur: With whom can I speak about acquiring new shoes? You can’t expect me to walk around in these flats all day, like some common, glue factory, hobo horse.

Librarian and waitress (two different scenes, same line): I’d take off if I were you. The second we close, they use this place to shoot pornos.

Overall Rating

A fantastic 21 minutes of show, entertaining and thought-provoking. Four out of four lost lizards.

Victoria Grossack loves math, Greek mythology, Jane Austen and great storytelling in many forms.

6 comments:

Lamounier said...

I agree that this was a great episode. Revisiting the fake good place was just what this season needed at this point. The cliffhanger is also very promising. And now I think (and hope) that the humans will eventually regain their memories, from all of the reboots.

I loved that Eleanor immediately thought of Rihanna as the perfect role model.

This season has been amazing so far.

Billie Doux said...

I loved this one, too. Ted Danson and Kristen Bell were terrific, debating determinism and free will in a way I actually understood. Philosophy is so not my field.

But librarianship is! Thanks for your mention of Arizona libraries, Victoria! People keep saying libraries are dead, but patronage has never been so high.)

sunbunny said...

This episode made me miss the charming wackiness of seasons one and two. PENGUIN IN A JAGUARS JERSEY! I wonder what consequences letting demons on Earth is going to have. Like will they just go after the Soul Squad or is the entirety of humanity at risk? Also (quibble) if Shawn JUST got his door up and working how did Trevor get down to Earth way back in episode 2?

CharlesTheBold said...

If the California writers are obsessed with bashing other states, they should at least mention real problems to bash them with, such as Arizona's law requiring everybody to carry proof of citizenship with them all times. It's ridiculous that Americans had to carry passports to visit a US state. Instead the writers make up things like "Arizona dirtbags" or supposedly empty libraries

Anonymous said...

There is no such Arizona law. If people are going to be obsessed with bashing Arizona, they should at least mention real problems and not make up pretend ones.

Victoria Grossack said...

Well, in 2010 Arizona passed the infamous SB1070 known as "papers please" - but it was challenged in court and considerably watered down. I tried to follow the Wikipedia article on it to give a succinct version of is status here but decided that I didn't understand it well enough. And something like that, complicated and controversial, probably doesn't belong in this show.

I spend a lot of time in Arizona, and although I see people in the few libraries where I go, the state has a pretty bad ranking with respect to education. So maybe libraries aren't being used enough.