The Good Place: What’s My Motivation

“Pobody’s nerfect?”

The second half of the first season of The Good Place is all about realizations. Eleanor realized she needed to come clean. Chidi realized he really, really needs to work on his decision-making skills. And, in this episode, Jason realizes he is a moron. (A fact which some of us have suspected for a while.)

Late in the episode, as Michael grapples with the implications of a “glitch” that allows Janet to love (and hate), Janet asks Michael, “Is it an error to behave unpredictably and behave in ways that run counter to how you’re programmed to behave?”

The Good Place seems to say that no, it isn’t an error. It’s growth. We can make changes, as long as we do so for the sake of change itself, not just to reap potential rewards in the afterlife. That’s what Eleanor has to realize after she attempts to earn points to, basically, buy her way into a Good Place passport. Turns out, if you’re doing good things for the hope of reward, they don’t count as good things.

That Eleanor realized that so quickly speaks to this show’s willingness to pull the rug out from under us; a lesser sitcom could have spent numerous episodes on the hilarious hijinks of a selfish do-gooder. But The Good Place shows us Eleanor’s realization and lets us see the payoff: to be truly good, she must leave the Good Place. And so she does.

With Jason and Janet in tow, of course, because why on earth not? Jason’s backstory is exactly what you might expect from a failed (ahem, “pre-successful”) DJ in one of the top-ten swamp cities of northeastern Florida: foolish crime and a bunch of whippets. It’s hard to judge Jason. He’s just fundamentally thoughtless.

Except, that is, when he realizes that he’s a moron, that his snorkel plan didn’t make sense, and that he might not be worthy of Janet. Janet’s reboot changed her ability to love and to hate. And some of that rebooting seems to have rubbed off on Jason, who is not a changed man, precisely, but at least is someone who is slightly more self-aware.

It’s a subtle character arc—it would be wrong to expect more of the fool character type—and one that allows us to see Jason not only as a foil to Eleanor, but also as a foil to Chidi, who is struggling with his own realization: he and Real Eleanor are living together in the clown home. They have a morning egg ritual. She loves him, and he isn’t ready to respond. Is that really how someone would feel about their soul mate?

The Sweet Relief of External Extinction:

• Tahani is an expert at mediating conflict. Just ask the Spice Girls and Desmond Tutu.

• Eleanor’s salvation party will be the fourth most-important party Tahani has ever thrown.

• So Eleanor, Jason, and Janet are on the train to the Bad Place, eh?

Three out of four “I love you” eggs

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

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