The Good Place is one of my favorite shows currently airing on TV. There’s nothing as funny, heartwarming, and genuinely well-written and well-made as this show. Unfortunately, every show is subject to a rough patch or two, and much of the first half of season 3 of The Good Place could be considered this show’s rough patch. At first, putting all the humans – Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), and Jason (Manny Jacinto) – back on Earth in an attempt to see if they can improve their lives seemed like a good idea. But, it quickly turned out that without that element of fantasy the show’s afterlife setting gave it, it all felt a bit less special. Thankfully, about midway through the season, the writers started reintroducing some of those fantastical elements before eventually killing the humans again and returning the show to the afterlife. And that’s when things got really good. When we last left off, Janet (D’Arcy Carden) had taken all the humans and Michael (Ted Danson) into her void while she and Michael went to the Accountant’s office to investigate the points. There, they found out that nobody had made it into The Good Place in over 500 years, and quickly Michael and the gang end up traveling through a mail chute into the mailroom of the Good Place. And things only get crazier and more satisfying from there. (SPOILERS AHEAD)
Episode 3×11: The Book of Dougs (written by Kate Gersten and directed by Ken Whittingham)
Michael’s resolve is put to the test. Meanwhile, Jason wrestles with his feelings and Chidi surprises Eleanor.
Episode 3×12: Chidi Sees the Time-Knife (written by Christopher Encell & Joe Mande and directed by Jude Weng)
Michael arranges an important meeting and Janet makes a reconnection.
Episode 3×13: Pandemonium (written by Megan Amram & Jen Statsky and directed by Michael Schur)
Various events occur, in a certain specific order.
The Book of Dougs picks up exactly where the previous episode left off, with Michael and the gang crashing through a mail chute and realizing they now find themselves in the Good Place. Michael quickly gets in contact with the Good Place committee and tries to present his case that the Bad Place is tampering with the points system and is causing all the humans to be sent there instead of to the Good Place. Meanwhile, the humans are forced to deal with their various relationship dramas. Eleanor and Chidi continue to grow closer (and Chidi does some really cute stuff to try and cheer Eleanor up) while Tahani tries to bring Jason and Janet together again, but it backfires in her face. Ultimately, the Good Place committee sinks into their bureaucratic patterns and decide to investigate Michael’s claims – only it will take them 400 years to form an investigative committee and another 600 years to investigate that committee for any signs of conflict. Tahani comes to Michael to vent about her troubles with Janet and Jason, leading Michael to a realization: the Bad Place isn’t tampering with the points system; the points system just hasn’t evolved alongside humanity and all of the complexities of being a human. It took Michael long enough to come to that conclusion, too, as it’s one that a lot of fans have been suggesting since season 2. But, nonetheless, it’s nice to see him finally figuring out that the problem is the system itself. He decides to take the humans to see the Judge (Maya Rudolph) in order to get her on his side. Ultimately, The Book of Dougs has to do a lot of setting up for the final two episodes of the season, but it handles that set up with a lot of grace and humor and is still able to stand on its own two feet as an episode. There are a lot of really funny moments and I’m so happy with where the overall plot is heading.
In Chidi Sees the Time-Knife, Michael and the gang meet up with the Judge in the IHOP – Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes -, a place which I won’t even begin to describe as there is no way I could put words to the sheer trippiness of it. It is here that Michael presents his concerns to the Judge (and also to Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson) – the head honcho of the Bad Place). The Judge takes a quick trip to earth and realizes that Michael is onto something, so she and Shawn agree to Michael’s (and Chidi’s) suggestion that they be allowed to repeat Michael’s original plan. They are going to set up an exact replica of Michael’s original neighborhood – only this time, in the back yard of Mindy St. Claire’s house in the Medium Place. They are gonna take another four humans and see if those humans can better themselves the same way that Eleanor, Chidi, Jason, and Tahani did. This time, Michael will be assisted by the original four humans and some other being created by Janet. Meanwhile, Jason and Janet have some new hurdles thrown at their relationship with the return of Derek (Jason Mantzoukas) – the boyfriend that Janet previously made in season 2 – and his increased intelligence while Eleanor and Chidi move in together and seem to be doing great. The preparations for the neighborhood seem to be going well, but just as the first new human is about to wake up, Michael has a sudden wave of panic (caused, in part, by Shawn telling him that, when his experiment fails, he is going to use a demon in a Michael-suit to torture the original humans). The episode ends with Michael collapsing to the ground as a result of his panic attack, leaving Eleanor to deal with the human. This episode was another really strong one. I’m impressed and surprised at just how quickly the writers got us to this point; I honestly expected the season to end with the Judge allowing them to start this new neighborhood, but the fact that we’ve gotten to that point in the penultimate episode suggests bigger and more explosive events are to come.
And boy, did they ever. In Pandemonium, the final episode of season 3, Eleanor takes over for Michael as the face of the operation; she is the one who interacts with the new humans while he pulls the strings in the background. All seems to be going well until it is revealed that the four humans that Shawn has picked for this test are all people that the original humans knew when they were alive. Chief among them being Simone (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), Chidi’s colleague at the university he taught at back on Earth, and his ex-girlfriend. This presents a pretty major problem for the gang as Simone will recognize Chidi and Chidi will recognize her. Michael gets permission to wipe Simone’s brain, but Chidi is still worried that his past feelings for her will cause him to slip up with her and spoil the whole experiment. So, Chidi suggests that he have his mind wiped, too, so he doesn’t remember Simone. Unfortunately, that means all of his memories regarding Eleanor and the rest of the gang will be erased. Naturally, nobody is happy about this turn of events, but Chidi insists it’s the right call, and after an emotional final night with Eleanor, they go through with it. It’s deeply emotional, yet oddly okay with me. As much as I loved Chidi and Eleanor getting together over these last few episodes, it also felt a bit too easy. Like there weren’t enough challenges being presented to them. And, well, this alleviates that problem. It’s made pretty clear that, somehow, Eleanor and Chidi will end up together again, and part of the fun will be watching that happen, but it’s still deeply moving to watch Chidi sacrifice his memories and his relationship with Eleanor in order to (hopefully) save her from eternal torture. The episode ends with a touching conversation between Eleanor and Janet about the meaning of life and pandemonium as Eleanor prepares to walk the newly-rebooted Chidi through the ins and outs of the afterlife. It’s a really good cliffhanger and a great way to set up the next season. The new experiment will start in earnest in season 4 and there are so many different ways it can go.
All in all, season 3 of The Good Place ended much stronger than it began. When the season began, it was hard to see just where it could go: I mean, the show had to reunite all of our main characters again, and it had to eventually kill them off because the show just isn’t as fun with the characters separated from the magical elements of the afterlife. Conversely, these final few episodes set the show up on a really interesting path; one that many fans have suspected the show would go down: Michael and the original humans are tackling the points system heads-on and are repeating Michael’s original neighborhood with new humans to see if they get the same results. There is a whole lot of fun you can have with new humans in the neighborhood and some really interesting ways to develop our original humans even more. I’m just really pleased with how this season ended; it maintained the strong quality the show has become known for. It’s pushing the characters and the plot into new and unexpected directions and setting up a whole lot of new stories. My one concern is that it feels like we’re starting to enter the endgame of the show; with Michael and the humans trying to correct the points system, where else can the show go? It will be disappointing if they just fail again and it seems like there’s not much story to tell if they succeed. So, are we nearing the series finale of The Good Place? I’d be okay with that. I’d rather the show end on a high note than be dragged out too long. Regardless, the season 3 finale was a very strong one and felt both dramatically and emotionally earned. I’m beyond excited to see where the show goes next!
The Book of Dougs: 4.5 out of 5 wands
Chidi Sees the Time-Knife: 5 out of 5 wands
Pandemonium: 4.5 out of 5 wands