The Good Place: Existential Crisis

Eleanor: “All humans are aware of death. So... we're all a little bit sad. All the time. That's just the deal.”
Michael: “Sounds like a crappy deal.”
Eleanor: “Well, yeah, it is, but we don't get offered any other ones. And if you try to ignore your sadness, it just ends up leaking out of you anyway.”

First, I’ve gotta give Chidi props.
He often questions his effectiveness as a teacher, but here he manages to actually teach philosophy to an all-knowing demon. If he was still a living human being who needed a resume, this would probably make a nice accolade.

So Team Cockroach needs to pretend it's business as usual around the other demons while they all take philosophy lessons in secret. The obvious conflict there is to find a way to get Michael to learn and take the lessons seriously, and for the humans to handle being knowingly tortured with nothing to do about it. Chidi and Eleanor take on teaching Michael while Jason supports Tahani as she’s knowingly tortured.

Turns out Chidi might be too effective a teacher because he sends Michael into a full-on existential crisis. Michael can’t handle knowing one day he could (likely will) be gone (retired), so he channels his existential dread (am I using that term correctly?) into a stereotypical midlife crisis, complete with a shiny red car, a new tattoo (“it’s Chinese for Japan”) and a vapid, bottle-blonde Janet—no, Janet. It’s very funny, but a little on the nose. That said, it was interesting seeing Chidi narrate Michael’s existential journey, like describing Michael as a “Jenga tower of sadness.” Also, even though much of Eleanor’s flashbacks told us nothing we didn’t already know, watching her pull Michael back from the brink was sweet.

While Michael almost succumbs to his existential crisis and nearly dooms them all, Tahani has to face her torture for the day. She needs to plan a party for one of the other “humans” while Vicki plans a better one. Seems pretty simple. Vicki’s torture plan works even better than she’d hoped. Knowing that she actually thought she could out-do a demon and was so affected by such vain, shallow torture further damages Tahani’s self-worth. Only when Jason tells Tahani that she’s a pretty cool person who shouldn’t be so hard on herself does Tahani realize her lack of self-worth is largely her problem.

I can totally see how someone could think watching these characters experience epiphanies and grow and change over and over again (because they keep losing their memories) could be boring and frustrating, but I guess I really like watching characters grow because I still find myself enjoying it. I also think it’s closer to life. (Not the repeatedly losing your memory part.) People don’t usually have an epiphany, make a better decision, and then retain that growth without issue going forward. We need to learn the same thing over and over again and make ever-so-slight changes that can be hard to even notice, if we are to gradually become better or healthier people. What’s really difficult about it is that it is boring and frustrating, so it’s easy to give up. Maybe TV shouldn’t be like life, maybe it should be entertaining. But I can handle watching characters learn the same lessons a million different ways and fall back into obvious and stereotypical phases. Especially when there’s also gags like the “Build-a-Real-Bear” stand at the party, a never-ending list of crazy frozen yogurt flavors, and Michael’s affinity for trivial human objects.

Bits and Pieces

-- In the afterlife, Millennials are demons who have only been torturing for a thousand years.

-- In addition to the “Build-a-Real-Bear” stand, Vicki’s party also has a puppy pit, a kangaroo pouch to snuggle in, actual Hungry Hungry Hippos, and, of course, unicorns.

-- Eleanor’s boyfriend Sam was actually pretty decent. I assume she sabotaged the relationship somehow.

-- Oh, and the very-end-of-episode-twist is that Tahani and Jason sleep together. Poor Janet.

Jason’s surprisingly wise speech to Tahani: “Listen, back in Jacksonville, I was in charge of a 60-person dance crew. Whenever we auditioned a new dancer, we would rate them in 5 categories: dancing ability, coolness, dopeness, freshness, and smart-brained. I would give you an eight in every category.”
Tahani: “Eight isn't bad, I suppose.”
Jason: “No, no. Eight is the best. It was a scale of one to thirteen, but eight was highest. The scale went up and back down, like a ten … Lately, you've been really down on yourself, but you're the most amazing person I've ever met, besides Michael. And he was constantly torturing us, so I'd only rank him a ten … The point is, you're cool, dope, fresh, and smart-brained. Never seen you dance, but I bet you're good because you're good at everything. You're awesome. Be nicer to yourself.”
Tahani: “Thank you, Jason. From one eight to another.”

Chidi: “Look, the good news is, if he can work through this, it's the first step towards understanding human ethics.”
Eleanor: “And what if he can't? Then, he'll be a lifeless shell of misery forever, and we're all doomed.”
Chidi: “Okay, I will be right back. Gotta go grab some Camus.” I love how excited Chidi was about Camus.

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