I am on the record, repeatedly, as being a huge fan of NBC’s The Good Place. It’s not only my favorite comedy currently airing on TV but one of my favorite TV shows in general. While I felt that the middle of season three was a bit of a misstep, the show had fully pulled me back into the fold by the end of that season. So, with the news that this fourth season of The Good Place will also be its final one, these first few episodes of the show had a lot to prove. They needed to continue to be stellar episodes of television while also laying the groundwork for what will ultimately become the show’s endgame. Do they pull this off? Absolutely. (NOTE: This review will contain spoilers for the first two episodes of the season, A Girl From Arizona, Parts 1 and 2, but will remain as spoiler-free as possible for the unaired episodes that NBC has granted critics access to – episodes 3 and 4: Chillaxing and Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy.)
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.
Over the course of season three, Michael and the team decided to try to fix the outdated points system after discovering that nobody has entered the Good Place for over 500 years. They convinced the Judge (guest star Maya Rudolph) on the idea of setting up a new neighborhood in the Medium place to see, once and for all, if humans can improve themselves. The plan is set in motion and four new test subjects, chosen by Shawn (guest star Marc Evan Jackson) and the demons, populate the area with Michael and the group overseeing the experiment. Unfortunately for Eleanor, she is forced to assume the role as Architect, following Michael’s sudden breakdown, and must also deal with the repercussions following Chidi’s (William Jackson Harper) decision to make the ultimate sacrifice and have his memory erased.
Also seeking redemption is elegant Pakistani-British socialite Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil) and dance-obsessed Floridian Jason Mendoza (Manny Jacinto). They are aided by Janet (D’Arcy Carden), a human-esque repository for all the knowledge in the universe.
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.
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.
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?