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THE GOOD PLACE Changes the Rules in Season 3 (Review)

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the season three premiere of The Good Place

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The Good Place‘s outstanding second season proved the series could completely upend its entire premise, just as it did in its shocking season one finale. After accomplishing that difficult task and somehow getting even better, the question going into the two-part season three premiere wasn’t “if” the show could seamlessly move the primary setting to the world of the living, but “how.” And while the hour-long first episode did at times feel more like (a necessary) resetting than a typical episode, it did show us the brilliant way a story about the afterlife could continue on Earth–by bringing the battle between Good and Bad to them. It’s a war in which the stakes are much bigger than just what happens to four souls.

While season two’s finale showed us Eleanor’s first year back on Earth after her brush with death, this episode revealed how Jason, Tahani, and Chidi all underwent nearly identical failed redemption attempts. Just like Eleanor, they all lapsed back to being their worst as the universe seemed to conspire against them. Chidi finally got decisive, and then his advice led to his unlucky, red boot-loving colleague getting hurt; fame accidentally found Tahani in the unlikeliest place; poor Jason continuously lost a two-horse dance race. It’s clear the world makes it as hard as possible to be a good person, but that’s a reason to be empathetic for them, not an excuse.

Fortunately for them and their chances of passing the Judge’s test, the group has a reformed demon working as their guardian angel, and Michael understands they all bring out the best in each other. They might rebound morally with a reunion. His clever way of “naturally” bringing them all together, not just Chidi and Eleanor, was the latest wonderful example of how the show deftly moves its story forward without ever feeling forced, and it was nice to see them reunited quickly because the show is also at its best when they are together, even if the stakes are much bigger than their collective wellbeing. Plus, that got Jason Mendoza back in our lives. He was an instant jolt of humor in a sequence that was the episode’s funniest beat amid many other genuinely funny moments.

While having the best intentions, Michael’s constant, hilarious covert trips to Earth allowed Marc Evan Jackson’s demon Shawn to hack into the Judge’s computer to find out where on they all were. (Faaantastic, even in the afterlife there’s no such thing as a secure line.) His cocoon-zipping frustration over the lack of progress on finding them highlights how the show is bringing the afterlife to Earth.

Shawn recognizes the same thing Michael did: if these four people can be redeemed, that calls into question if anyone should really be in the Bad Place. The entire morality-system is on trial, not just Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason. They can’t allow them to succeed, their redemption poses a true existential crisis for the Bad Place. Unfortunately for them–but very, very, very fortunately for viewers– Shawn’s discovery meant he could send Adam Scott’s Trevor to sabotage Michael’s reunion. Between Michael and a Bad Place demon traveling to Earth, we have some serious questions about how easy it is to manipulate the Doorman, but this all means the afterlife is now an active player in the experiment on Earth.

That single development has added one of our favorite minor characters to the mix (Trevor is a hysterical, brotastic pig played impeccably by Scott), and flawlessly transitioned the setting of the show to the world of the living without sacrificing any of the supernatural elements of the afterlife that were so important in the first two seasons. We never doubted The Good Place could do that, now we just know how they did it, and we love it. Almost as much as the Doorman loves frogs.

A few forking random thoughts…

–Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s Simone is a delight and it’s a testament to the brilliant writing of the show that they managed to make us already question if we would rather see Chidi end up with her or Eleanor.

–If you are ever feeling down about the world (which lately seems like every forking day) just think, Tahani’s sister Kamilah is definitely ending up in the Bad Place.

–Eleanor pronouncing Gif with a soft “J” like the peanut butter is probably reason enough to send her to the Bad Place. Sorry Eleanor. You can commiserate with all of the people who call them “at-ats” instead of “A-T-A-Ts.”

–Janet’s reaction to Michael’s so-bad-it’s–good Australian accent was so funny, it had the side effect of showing how underused D’Arcy Carden was. But the few moments she had, including her awkward response to the Judge almost catching Michael sneaking back, were a reminder why Janet continues to be one of the best characters on TV.

–If you missed the quotes for Tahani’s book, the perfectly 2018 Get Out of the Spotlight, they reveal that it was so good it caused Malcolm Gladwell and Cormac McCarthy to retire.

–We have no guesses what kind of payoff to expect from the Doorman’s frog obsession, but Mike O’Malley was great in the role.

–Seriously, give us a Zack Pizazz spin-off.

Images: NBC

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