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.
Honestly, I really wondered how the writers of The Good Place will be able to top the previous episode, which felt like a great midseason finale episode, but then, lo-and-behold, they give us Janet(s), an episode that’s both insane and brilliant. This episode is not only the best episode of the season, but it might be my new favorite episode of the entire series, that’s how good it is.
Episode 309: Janet(s) (written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan and directed by Morgan Sackett)
With Janet’s help, Michael hatches a plan.
In my last review, I mentioned that I wasn’t in love with the past few episodes of The Good Place. I felt like having all our characters trapped on Earth with no connection to the afterlife had resulted in the show losing a big part of what made it feel special and, subsequently, had started to feel like any other network sitcom. I’m happy to report that both The Worst Possible Use of Free Will and Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By make great strides towards rectifying that problem. Both of these episodes feel like classic episodes of The Good Place. The humor is on point, there’s some good character development, and most of all, there’s the return of a bunch of fantastical elements! (This review features full spoilers for episodes 7 and 8 of season 3: The Worst Possible Use of Free Will and Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By!)
Episode 307: The Worst Possible Use of Free Will (written by Cord Jefferson and directed by Claire Scanlon) Eleanor (Kristen Bell) recalls some forgotten events from her past.
Episode 308: Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By (written by Andrew Law and directed by Dean Holland)
Michael (Ted Danson) and Janet (D’Arcy Carden) take an important journey. Eleanor ponders whether she should share a secret.
When The Good Place first premiered on our TV screens, we were introduced to a whole cast of characters who were dead and had awoken in the titular Good Place, an afterlife loosely based on the concept of heaven. As the series progressed, we found out that only four of them had ever been humans and they were actually in the Bad Place, being tortured for all eternity by demons, led by Michael (Ted Danson). From there, things only got stranger until the show decided to resurrect our main cast and give them a new chance at life. And this is where things started to go wrong. While giving your main characters a second shot at life as a way for them to actually earn their place in the Good Place isn’t a bad idea, it’s not one that can really be sustained for a long period of time when a huge part of your show has built itself on the whimsical weirdness of the afterlife. Take out a lot of that whimsical weirdness and you just have… any other comedic show with a cast of likable characters trying to do good things. That’s the problem The Good Place has found itself in these last few episodes and it’s one the show and its writers are gonna have to fix asap before the show stops feeling as special as it is. (This review/editorial covers episodes 4-6 of season 3: Jeremey Bearimy, The Ballad of Donkey Doug, and A Fractured Inheritance)
Episode 304: Jeremy Bearimy (written by Megan Amram and directed by Trent O’Donnell)
The group explores the three main branches of ethical thought.
Episode 305: The Ballad of Donkey Doug (written by Matt Murray and directed by Rebecca Asher)
Jason (Manny Jacinto) visits with some people from his past while Chidi (William Jackson Harper) gets help in resolving a problem.
Episode 306: A Fractured Inheritance (written by Kassia Miller and directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller)
Eleanor (Kristen Bell) makes a startling discovery that tests her resolve, Tahani (Jameela Jamil) looks to make amends and Janet (D’Arcy Carden) does some bonding.
I really love how the writers of The Good Place don’t dawdle with this series. They never drag their feet when it comes to moving the story along. Last season featured Michael rebooting the neighborhood over 800 times in a single episode. Tonight’s episode featured a similar thing as more than a year passes within a single 22-minute episode, rapidly advancing the plotline of the season while also showing the continuing evolution of our favorite awful humans.
Episode 304: The Snowplow (Written by Joe Mande and Directed by Beth McCarthy Miller) After the shocking events of last week’s episode, Michael and Janet are, essentially, trapped on Earth as they continue to supervise Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), and Jason (Manny Jacinto) as the four of them continue to try and improve upon themselves. As a year goes by, Chidi’s thesis project comes to a close and Tahani gets engaged to Larry Hemsworth, Michael and Janet start to fear that all their work has come to naught and frantically try to keep the group from going their separate ways.
After last week’s excellent cliffhanger featuring the return of everyone’s favorite demon, Trevor (Adam Scott), I was really excited to see just what would happen next and how it would live up to the season premiere. As expected, The Brainy Bunch continues to push this season into new, exciting, and hilarious situations. Plus, it’s always fun to get to see Adam Scott interact with this cast again.
Episode 303: The Brainy Bunch (Written by Dan Schofield and Directed by Jude Weng)
After Trevor (Adam Scott), a demon sent by Shawn to infiltrate and break up Chidi’s new study group in order to ensure their return to the Bad Place, joins the study group, Michael (Ted Danson) and Janet (D’Arcy Carden) must figure out a way to get him to leave before he can tear the group apart and ruin the experiment.
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?
Last season of The Good Place turned that show into one of my absolute favorite shows currently airing on TV. It had brilliant world-building, superb characters, and genuinely funny situations. Not to mention a whole lot of genuine emotions. It’s such a well-written show that it’s always a little worrying to think about how the cast and crew could possibly live up to, or even top, all that had already happened. Would this third season be a bit of a disappointment after how last season’s finale ended? The short answer is: Nope! The longer answer requires a bit more time to get into. I’m gonna try and keep this preview/review as spoiler-free as possible, restricting any potential spoilers to things that have already been revealed (the clip of the first three minutes of the premiere revealed by NBC a few weeks ago, the official sneak peek of season three released about a week and a half ago, the Entertainment Weekly first look images, or any other public information from Comic-Con or other interviews).
From creator Michael Schur comes a unique comedy about what makes a good person. The show follows Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), an ordinary woman who enters the afterlife, and thanks to some kind of error, is sent to the Good Place instead of the Bad Place (which is definitely where she belongs). While hiding in plain sight from Good Place Architect Michael (Ted Danson), she’s determined to shed her old way of living and earn her spot.
The first two seasons featured surprise after surprise and twist after twist, including a world-upending season one finale that threw everything up in the air. At the end of season two, Michael appeared in front of the Judge (Maya Rudolph) to argue that the humans may have been judged unfairly, and deserve a second chance. With a snap of her fingers, the Judge sent the humans back to Earth, in a new timeline where they never died.
Also seeking redemption, along with Eleanor, are Senegalese philosopher Chidi Anagonye (William Jackson Harper), who is tortured by decision-making; elegant Pakistani-British socialite Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil) and dance-obsessed Floridian Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto). Michael is aided by Janet (D’Arcy Carden), a human-esque repository for all of the knowledge in the universe.
The thing I love the most about The Good Place is how it manages to constantly surprise me each and every week. Every time I think I know what the show is gonna do, it pulls the rug out from underneath me and goes in a completely different, narratively earned, direction. From executive producer Michael Schur comes a unique comedy about what makes a good person. The show follows Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), an ordinary woman who enters the afterlife, and thanks to some kind of error, is sent to the Good Place instead of the Bad Place (which is definitely where she belongs). While hiding in plain sight from Michael (Ted Danson), the wise architect of the Good Place (who doesn’t know he’s made a mistake), she’s determined to shed her old way of living and earn her spot. The first season featured surprise after surprise and twist after twist, all leading to a world-upending finale that throws everything up in the air for season two. Helping Eleanor navigate her surroundings is Chidi (William Jackson Harper), her kind, open-hearted “soul mate” who seeks a philosophical solution to every problem; her seemingly perfect neighbors Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jianyu (Manny Jacinto); and Janet (D’Arcy Carden), the go-to source for any and all information in the Good Place.
(This review will feature major spoilers for season one and most of season two – and minor spoilers for the end of season two) (more…)