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Over the course of season three, Michael and the team decided to try to fix the outdated points system after discovering that nobody has entered the Good Place for over 500 years.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.
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.