The Good Place: Mondays, Am I Right?

“My fake heaven was essentially a 600 square-foot apartment that was essentially bookcases and a toilet, and I loved it.”

Back in my Best of 2019 wrap-up, I recommended the novels of Becky Chambers, each of which is about good people trying to be good, and often succeeding. They are some of the most moral books I’ve ever read, yet they are never moralizing. Chambers also avoids making them boring in a way I haven’t quite figured out.

I thought of Chambers’ novels while watching this episode of The Good Place. From the wacky hijinks of Season One—and the tension of whether Eleanor would get caught—to this final season, something has changed. There is still an element of wackiness, but the shift from discovering morality to practicing it has resulted in a shift in tension levels. Good people doing good may be a delightful plot for a comfort novel but it is not, it turns out, the most thrilling television.

Take Chidi’s anguish about his suitability for Eleanor. It was a B-plot with no stakes: there’s no way that he and Eleanor would break up, and the enlightenment of the show’s characters means the problem was solved quickly from the wise fool Jason. For the plot to have ended otherwise was impossible, but that made waiting for the solution a bit blah.

Meanwhile, even the demon architects are on board with the new corporate re-structuring. Thanks to a lowkey pseudo-coup from Vicky and Michael, even Phil from the Performative Wokeness Department is awake to the possibilities of small, relatable tests that help people get better and don’t involve chainsaws. Everything, in other words, is moving swimmingly.

But is it scintillating television? Not quite. Is that a problem? I’m not sure. At the abstract level, I love what Michael Schur is doing here: letting Team Cockroach move from theory to praxis, finally applying the moral systems they’ve been learning about. At the narrative level, I love that The Good Place is allowing itself time to really wrap up everything. Nothing feels rushed, and the attention to detail in the planning phase is realistic. (As realistic as planning a universal test for all people to achieve eternal postmortem enlightenment can be, of course.)

At the more basic level of a television viewer, however, I miss the frisson of the first few seasons, in which everything—love, eternity, torture, penis flattening—was at stake. What’s at stake now is the fate of the billions of people we’ve never met, a few sad eggplants, and the workplace enthusiasm of some demons for their mandated training module.

That sounds like one long complaint, and I don’t really mean it to be. This episode of The Good Place was far more enjoyable than most television, and I’m certain that this stage of the show will work beautifully for people who binge it all at once. On the week by week basis, though, I find myself uncurious about what happens next, since it’s all gold hot-air balloons and joy now.

All Your Anticipated Needs:

• Demon: “I hope it’s not more sexual harassment training. We already did that, and I’m so good at it!”

• Phil from the Performative Wokeness Department: “Wow, way to mansplain my own department to me. And I’m triggered.”

• Chidi: “What?! I’m confused. Is this a game? Is it a sex game, somehow?”

• Tahani: “Typical Vicky, throwing shade. But it doesn’t matter, because I’m casting it. Because I’m closer to the sun.”

Two and a half out of four chainsaw bears. The smaller, relatable kind.

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

4 comments:

Victoria Grossack said...

I agree it's hard to keep up the tension when we're in the "everyone lived happily everafter" phase of things. Still, I enjoyed the episode and I loved seeing the gold balloon again.

Billie Doux said...

Basically what Victoria said. Every word you wrote is true, Josie -- a lovely review -- and I still enjoyed this episode a lot.

Nonei said...

Based on what we know about the Good Place committee, I have a feeling the Good Place is probably a bit screwed up. They've done these calm episodes before going into the unexpectedly insane, so since we have 2 episodes left I can't imagine there's only sunshine and roses (and light rain). I hope!

sunbunny said...

Did anyone else shed a tear when the gang took off for the Good Place at last? I'm really going to miss this show. I definitely agree there's a twist coming.