The Good Place: Flying

“Think it’s time to make me good, partner. How do I do it? Is there a pill I could take or something I could vape?”

Can Eleanor become a good person? More importantly, should she even be given the chance? This is the question Chidi ponders over the entire episode (one he probably continues to ponder). While Eleanor tries to convince Chidi the answer is yes, the show tries to convince its audience of the same.

Because, if Eleanor is really as terrible as she’s been built up to be—someone who never listens, only cares about herself, who sold fake meds to the elderly, and ate all the shrimp at Tahani’s party—why should we want her to get into The Good Place?

To answer this question, Chidi consults philosophy. He jerks back and forth between the idea that she can’t learn to be good when her motivation is off (she only wants to be good to stay in The Good Place, not for the sake of being good or helping people) and Aristotle’s belief that moral improvement could be gained through practice.

For a while, Eleanor does little to help her case. She shows little interest in anyone but herself (she says Chidi was born in Sensodyne, calls Janet “front desk lady” and “magical slave robot”). And then she cuts corners when helping to clean up her own mess. But, ultimately, she shows there is hope for her case yet.

The show demonstrates this in two ways. First, we see flashbacks of Eleanor making selfish choices; she finds loophole after loophole to avoid being the designated driver for her “friends” at work. I don’t remember much about Aristotle from the one philosophy class I took in college, but I’m sure if you become a better person through practice you can also become a worse person through practice. So, if Eleanor tries to do the opposite (now that she actually wants to do good), maybe she can turn herself around. After remembering these flashbacks and seeing Chidi’s disappointment along with the wreckage she’s caused to The Good Place, Eleanor finally finds less corrupt motivation to do good: guilt. Even better, she does her good deed when no one is around to see. This is enough to show the audience and Chidi that Eleanor is capable of change.

But it turns out not everyone is convinced. At least according to the threatening message Eleanor receives at the end of the episode. The one that says “you don’t belong here.”

Bits and Pieces

-- I started watching the show because I love Kristen Bell in anything (a love that began with Veronica Mars) and I was a huge fan of Mike Shur’s Parks and Recreation. Then I watched it. Loved the philosophy lessons, was impressed by Jameela Jamil, William Jackson Harper, D’arcy Carden, Manny Jacinto, and Ted Danson (admittedly this is my introduction to Ted Danson because I never watched Cheers or remember watching him in anything else). The fact that the characters were somehow both exasperating and lovable, and the show was hilarious was only a bonus.

-- While Eleanor and Chidi consider the learnability of virtue and morality, Michael freaks out over the stability of his neighborhood. This leads to Michael kicking a puppy into the sun, Jianyu solving all this worry with a single touch, and Tahani doing a whole lot of name-dropping.

-- Eleanor hasn’t made a complete turn-around. She still only tried to be good because of guilt over what she caused with her selfishness and she meant to have Janet drop a bunch of garbage at Antonio’s house, one of her annoying neighbors. Which is good, because too much change too soon would be unrealistic and ultimately less fun to watch.

-- It was a nice touch showing Eleanor excited over remembering Chidi’s from Senegal. Chidi points out that it was an act of basic human decency, but it is still a lot for Eleanor, who’s just learning to care about other people.

-- Poor Gary, who’s now a human Picasso.

-- Eleanor’s favorite book is Kendall Jenner’s Instagram feed. I think she belongs in The Bad Place for that alone.

Janet: “Conjure an image that brings you pure joy. Some people think of their wedding day or a favorite vacation spot.”
Eleanor: “People puking on roller coasters. People puking on roller coasters.”

Michael: “Everyone, it is merely a construct of a dog. It feels no pain or joy or love.”
Neighbor: “Teacup doesn’t love me?”
Michael: “Oh, oh no no no, it definitely feels love. Do you actually want a dog that loves you more because I can kick her right back into the sun and get you a dog who loves you more just like that.”

1 comment:

sunbunny said...

My one philosophy class I took in college was an 8 am Monday Wednesday Friday. The strongest memory I have of it is leaving for the bathroom during one Friday class, throwing up half of the before's tequila, and returning to class as if nothing was wrong. College, man.

I'd seen a few episodes of Cheers on Nick at Nite but this really was my introduction to Ted Danson too, although of course I knew who he is.

The "Kendall Jenner's instagram feed" joke has gotten funnier now that Jameela Jamil who plays Tahani is waging a one woman war against the Kardashians hocking diet products on Instagram.