The Good Place: Derek

“Who the fork is that?”

I love The Good Place. The show makes almost no missteps and delights me with almost every turn. But those equivocations—those almosts—all come down to Derek. I don’t like Derek.

It’s not Jason Mantzoukas’s fault: he does a great job. But characters like Derek are scatterbombs of silliness. They’re pure foolishness, epitomizing the Freudian id, and if that weren’t bad enough, they tend to destroy those around them. For instance, Michael, just moments after confessing his friendship for Janet (in the previous episode) destroys most of that emotional labor by chastising Janet for making Derek.

Chidi yelling at Derek in the tree was really my breaking point: wouldn’t Chidi be overthinking how to treat a non-human void-constructed being like Derek? Would he just yell at him and then offload the philosophical inquiry to other questions? Derek, in other words, infects those around him until they start acting out of character.

Sure, sometimes that scattershot silliness has payoff: Tahani and Jason playing croquet was delightful, and a great example of why it can be fun to date someone with whom we have nothing in common. The montage of Tahini loosening up on the croquet…green, or lawn, or pitch, or field, or whatever it’s called—was sweet. If only the Hertfordshire Academy for Expressionless Girls could see how their alumna ended up: a prominent philanthropist with award-winning legs marrying a swamp-dweller who yells “Thor!” when a ball goes wild.

And Eleanor’s Chidiesque indecision about hiding her past relationship with him was a nice—or “noice!”—emotional arc. Should she tell him about their love for one another in a previous reboot? Would it hurt him to know? Those are questions she wouldn’t have asked in the first season, and Eleanor’s emotional growth is another of this episode’s high points.

Her advice to Janet (not based on a real example, of course) is sweet and meaningful: “Talking about your feelings is the worst…If you ever need a friend to talk to, I’m here.” Honest and sweet and exactly what Janet needed to hear to help her grapple with the not-knowingness of past relationships—all she needed was some self-knowledge and friends to help her through it.

That’s probably why Eleanor finally told Chidi the truth. As she said to Chidi: “I don’t wanna talk about this. But after everything that’s happened today, we gotta.” Eleanor learned from helping Janet—she learned that talking things out, and even relying on friends, can help solve most problems, or at least how we think about those problems.

It would be a heartwarming ending if not for the result: Chidi admits he doesn’t love Eleanor, and Eleanor pretends she feels the same. As Michael says, “Being ethical, it’s hard.” And for Eleanor, it means making herself vulnerable and being unintentionally harmed.

Sigh. Well, at least Derek’s in a box.

Fetch My Tizzy Couch:

• Michael: “He has to stay in your void.”
Janet: “It’s our void now.”

• Tahani: “All of this time indoors has downgraded my skin from radiant to merely dewy.”

• Eleanor: “I hate to be the bearer of bad news…”
Jason: “I think you mean ‘bad news bear’”
This was the first time I ever realized that’s probably where the “bad news bear” name came from.

• Eleanor’s ideal boyfriend would be Steve Austin head’s on Tahini’s body. Or vice versa.

• Chidi’s face, watching that tape, was comedy gold.

Three out of four Bad News Bears

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

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