The Good Place Returns to Earth and Its Everything We All Needed

first_imgStay on target A New Addition Makes It The Bad Place on Earth on The Good PlaceSDCC: Everything is Fine For Season 3 of The Good Place Going into last night’s Season Three premiere of The Good Place, I knew how much I wanted to see the rest of this story, but I didn’t realize how much I needed this show. Honestly, this hour-long double episode came at just the right time. Yesterday, in particular, was a parade of politicians and pundits loudly trying to justify why credible accusations of sexual assault aren’t a dealbreaker for them. It was a rough one. So it was so nice, necessary even, to escape for an hour into a world where people are genuinely trying to be better. To show us the empathy that so many of the people on our screens can’t manage. It also helps that it’s funny as Hell… um, I mean The Bad Place.Our four heroes are back on Earth, a place where being a good person is really hard. When Eleanor ended up alive on Earth during last year’s season finale, it was a big surprise. One of those moments where The Good Place completely changes up its premise once again. It’s one of the things that makes this show so great. It’s completely unafraid to scrap its entire world and give us a new one. This season, Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason have to prove they can change their lives if given a second chance and end up in The Good Place for real. The near-death experiences work at first. They reevaluate their lives and make some positive changes. But the harsh realities of the world get to them, and they slide back into old habits.Pictured: (l-r) William Jackson Harper as Chidi, Kristen Bell as Eleanor (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)We saw it happen to Eleanor last season, and this hour-long premiere starts us off with Chidi’s story. After his near-death experience, he decides to actually get some help. He meets a neurologist who gives him the decisive answers he’d spent all his life searching for. He gets better. He becomes more decisive, allowing him to give that speech that inspired Eleanor to seek him out in the first place. But reality catches up with him. When he tells a friend to make a decision to get fit, it leads to a leg press bending his friend’s leg backwards. Then, he learns of the conditions under which the blueberries in his favorite blueberry muffins were picked. Just like that, he’s paralyzed at the thought of making a decision again. And just like with Eleanor, it takes a visit from Michael to get him back on track. As a bonus, we get to hear Ted Danson’s attempt at an Australian accent. It may not be flawless, but it is *perfect.*The plan to get Chidi and Eleanor together starts to work pretty well. She diligently comes to Chidi’s lessons, and sets him up on a date with the neurologist in return. But we don’t watch The Good Place to see things go according to plan. Remember, this is a series that began with giant flying shrimp. As promising as things seem for Eleanor and Chidi on Earth, there are forces working against them. Shawn from The Bad Place isn’t going to let four souls escape torture. He has his underlings hack into the Judge’s system, so they can get a peek at everything that goes on Earth. Well, Shawn can. He gets a little cocoon happy with his staff, and they won’t be peeking at anything anytime soon.Ted Danson (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)Then there’s the fact that Michael keeps making illicit trips down to Earth to ensure all four of his friends reunite and help each other become better. It doesn’t lead to anything in this hour, but the show is strongly hinting that it could all go wrong fast if the Judge were to find out. It’s the kind of sitcom tension that can lead to some hilarious situations in the future. For now though, it gets us where we need to be for the rest of the season to happen. Chidi, Eleanor, Jason, and Tahani are back together working toward a common goal, and Michael makes it back just in time to avoid suspicion and make a few lighthearted jabs at CBS TV shows. NCIS jokes are always funny. That’s just science.I’m so happy new seasons of The Good Place start out with these double-length episodes. It’s been so long since we spent time with any of these characters and the added runtime gets us reacquainted with them in the funniest possible ways. Plus, the complete change in setting adds a fresh energy to the show. It’s fun watching these characters we’ve only known in their afterlife navigate life on Earth. Tahani’s near-death experience inspires her to stop seeking the spotlight. She gives up most of her worldly possessions and travels (commercial and in comfort plus!) to a Buddhist monastery. Like her friends from the afterlife, she sticks to her new life for a while. Then, temptation rears its head again. After an encounter with some exploitative reporters from a website just distinct enough from Vice to avoid legal trouble, Tahani starts craving the spotlight again. Suddenly, she’s standing in a spotlight selling a book about giving up the spotlight. Nice touch, The Good Place. The only difference between her current life and her pre-near-death one is that now she name drops the Dalai Lama.Jameela Jamil (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)Her come-to… well, Michael moment might be my favorite of the four. It’s the one with the most pointed commentary, and Danson really gets to lay the sleazeball persona on thick. He poses as an agent looking to get in on her scam. Tahani insists there is no scam, but she can’t ignore that what she’s doing isn’t far off. She’s selling a commercialized version of enlightenment to suckers who will buy anything. From there, it’s not a big leap to selling painted golf balls as healing crystals. It’s not hard to see the show is making fun of people like Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah here. In fact, there’s a line about Tahani taking over for Oprah right before she falls into the spotlight-seeking semi-charlatan life. Yeah we see you, The Good Place. You’re not wrong. And right at that moment, she gets a call from Chidi asking her to join his study of morality in people who’ve had near-death experiences. Another helpful push from Michael, or “Professor Largebrain.” God, even this show’s stupidity is genius.Jason’s story, like him, is stupid, funny and surprisingly sincere. After Michael saves him from suffocating in a safe, Jason decides he’s going to change his life. He ignores a community college ad offering to do just that in favor of a dance competition. He may not be the brightest, but he knows what he’s good at. And like the others, he tries to make a legitimate go at it. No crimes, personal dance routines and real determination to do this right. But he keeps getting disqualified because his dance team is too big. The rigid structure of dance competitions doesn’t care about what he’s trying to do. Unable to continue paying rent, he turns back to crimes. To be fair though, he’s still sincere about it. He offers his arresting officer half of what he stole if she marries him and doesn’t arrest him. That’s… kinda sweet. Doesn’t work, but it’s sweet. The simplicity of Michael’s interference here is actually kind of beautiful. He comes in planning to act like a big shot dance team manager. But Jason’s not into that anymore. He just needs someone to talk to about his really tough year. (“It started… about a year ago.”) A sympathetic ear was all it took for Jason to change his life and join Chidi’s group.Manny Jacinto (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)That’s part of the beauty of this season’s premise so far. We’ve only really seen The Bad Place and The Medium Place, as far as worldbuilding goes. We don’t know much about the actual Good Place. Only that the requirements for getting in are hilariously strict. It’s a wonder anyone gets in at all, if anyone even does. And that’s the point I think this season’s building up to. If Michael and the Judge’s experiment is a success, it’ll cause a radical shift in how the afterlife works. It would force them to acknowledge that individual humans are constantly evolving and changing. That they have the ability to become better people, even after they die, if they really commit themselves to it. What the current system doesn’t recognize is that it’s almost impossible to do it alone. You need people around you who all support and keep each other on track. Michael knows this now, which is why he feels he has to break the rules to get them all together.The Judge is going to find out that Michael has been making trips to Earth. That’s just how sitcoms work. The question is what happens next. Because even if he is tipping the scales, humans need someone in their corner to stay on the right track. I think that’s what this experiment is going to force the afterlife to reckon with. You can’t judge humans on an arbitrary system of points without considering their circumstances. Even a torturously indecisive moral philosophy professor, a name-dropping socialite, a dancer/DJ/burglar from Jacksonville and an Arizona trashbag can lead good lives if they can find the right support system. All they need is a push in the right direction. However this all shakes out, the show will change entirely yet again. That ability is part of what makes The Good Place so special. Sure it’s laugh-until-it-hurts funny, but it’s also brave, smart and eternally empathetic.center_img Not all the characters will be on board with that change, of course. There’s a reason Shaun is spending so many resources trying to get four humans back. If they prove humans can change, that could put The Bad Place out of business. Or at least put a damper on all the torture. He wants things to stay as they are. So, they send down a saboteur. Just when Michael thinks he’s finished his trips to Earth, he finds an unexpected addition to the core group. Shaun sent Trevor to sabotage the whole experiment. On the bright side, nothing makes me happier than evil Adam Scott, and it looks like we’ll be getting plenty of him this season.See our feelings about season one of this brilliant show. Read up on the possible ongoings for season three. Looking for more great shows? Well, we’ve got a list of every comic book TV show that’s in production. Find all the latest TV news here.Let us know what you like about Geek by taking our survey.last_img

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