After a lengthy hiatus, my favorite comedy on TV is finally back! After a pretty stunning season 2 finale that featured our four humans being given a second shot at living a decent life, aided by their guardian demon, Michael (Ted Danson), The Good Place has returned even better than before! With lots of new jokes, lots of emotional scenes, and lots of really fun surprises, this premiere episode of the show is as good as you could hope for!
Episode 301-302: Everything is Bonzer! (Written by Michael Schur and Jen Statsky and directed by Dean Holland)
After the surprising events of the season 2 finale, Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) finds herself returned to Earth, no memories of her time in the Bad Place, given a new chance to live a good life. Realizing she’s gonna need some help in order to be a good person, Eleanor travels to Australia in order to meet Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), a professor of ethics at a local university, in order to convince him to teach her how to be a good person. Nudged along by Michael and Janet (D’Arcy Carden), elegant Pakistani-British socialite Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil) and dance-obsessed Floridian Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto) also make their way to Australia in order to join a new study, headed by Chidi, in which he studies the brains of people who have survived near-death experiences.
Unbenknowst to them, Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson), a demon from the Bad Place, is hellbent on hacking into the Judge’s (Maya Rudolph) computer in order to find out where Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason are so that he can get them back to the Bad Place.
Can Michael and Janet help the humans lead better lives and get into the Good Place, or will all of them fail?
This is a really strong season premiere. Like I said in my spoiler-free preview of this season, my biggest worry going into it was that the show would focus too much on the events set on Earth and ignore the afterlife stuff. I’m just so glad to have been proven wrong in that regard. I mean, the episode literally opens with Michael meeting the Doorman (Mike O’Malley), a being who guards the door to Earth, leading to us seeing just how Michael reset the timeline, allowing the humans a new shot at life. From there, we see more interactions between Michael and the Doorman as he keeps going back to Earth (ignoring the rules for the experiment laid out by the Judge (Maya Rudolph)) in order to ensure that our humans end up back together. As if those interactions weren’t enough, we also frequently cut to a room within the Bad Place HQ where we see Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson) leading a group of demons as they try and hack into the Judge’s computer so they can see where the humans are and try and get them back to the Bad Place. It’s a great little twist and a good way to keep Shawn involved in the story as we focus more on Michael’s efforts to save the humans. All of these trips to the afterlife make up about a third of the episode, which feels about right. You’re never gone from Earth long enough that you start wishing you were back there but you’re also not away from the afterlife stuff for too long either. It’s a really nice balance and I’m glad the writers didn’t move too far away from the afterlife stuff.
Another thing I’m really pleased with is how quickly Michael Schur and Jen Statsky (the writers for the premiere) get Eleanor, Jason, Chidi, and Tahani back together. Sure, the majority of this premiere is dedicated to getting all the characters to Australia so they can participate in Chidi’s thesis study, but it feels about right. They’re not brought back together too quickly but the writers also don’t draw it out too long either. The speed at which the events in this episode happen feel about right and it’s really nice that we don’t have to spend more than about 2/3 of this episode with our main four characters apart from each other. The lifeblood of this show is the interactions between Chidi, Eleanor, Jason, and Tahani and so it’s really good that they’re brought back together as quick as possible. I also like how they introduced a new character, Simone – a professor of neuroscience at the university that Chidi teaches at. She makes for a really interesting addition to the cast and she ends up being the catalyst that makes Chidi decide on his thesis project, thus bringing all of our characters back together. Plus, she’s really funny and great and I 100% hope that she and Chidi actually end up dating in this season.
That being said, I really enjoyed seeing what they were all up to during the year they were apart. We already saw what Eleanor got up to in the season 2 finale, so seeing Chidi’s struggle with trying to make more decisions (and how that backfires), Tahani’s struggle with being more selfless (and how that backfires), and Jason’s struggle to… start a new dance crew (and how that backfires). All of these little glimpses at their lives were great and they all felt like natural evolutions of the characters. I like how, for each of them, it seemed that the changes they’d made were good ones and were sticking, but then, inevitably, they started to fall apart the longer they were apart from each other. It definitely works with the show’s main theme of how people tend to make each other better when they’re together. It was a good, natural way of exploring how this new shot at life both changed and didn’t change our characters. But I’m glad we didn’t spend a whole season on those plotlines. It’s a whole lot more fun when all four of them are together and feeding off of each other.
This premiere is just a really great episode. It perfectly builds upon the seeds laid in the season 2 finale while continuing to push the story into new and exciting places. It’s a lot of fun seeing more of the world of the afterlife fleshed out (seriously, please utilize Mike O’Malley’s Doorman as much as possible!) and I like how Michael and Janet keep interfering with the lives of the humans. I enjoyed seeing how our four heroes got on during their year apart but I’m even happier to see them back together so quickly. The pacing of this episode was really good; things moved quickly but the writers always made sure to leave time for all the emotional beats to have enough room to breathe. As always, The Good Place is just as heavy with pathos as it is with jokes. And speaking of jokes, there are a lot of good ones in this episode. Like, the jokes just keep coming faster and faster and it’s great. (I really enjoyed hearing Ted Danson’s truly awful Australian accent as well as Michael’s reactions to various things on Earth.) This was a great episode, a great opening to the season, and featured a really, really good cliffhanger featuring the return of a character we’ve all been itching to see again since his guest appearance in season 1. But more on that next week. All in all, Everything is Bonzer! is a great hour of TV. It’s one of the best episodes of The Good Place yet and it makes me very excited for the rest of the season.
(5 out of 5 wands)