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TV Review: The Good Place (Season 2 - Part 2)

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Season Two of The Good Place came to its optimistic conclusion this week, leaving audiences pining for Season 3, which is due to air in September later this year.

As awful as the seven-month wait will be, this gives us plenty of time to dissect a few things, and to muse over a few questions, the main one being: what the fork just happened?

The Good Place is a delightful feel-good comedy. In Season One, nobody could have anticipated that the story would have convoluted in such a way to lead us to witness our delightful quartet of slightly-garbage humans not-dying. “Not-dying” being the semi-technical term for the Judge, Gen, (played by the impeccable Maya Rudolph) turning back time and allowing Michael (Ted Danson) to prevent them from perishing in the first place. So, to indulge the hypothetical, if Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto) didn’t go to Michael's “Good Place” due to surviving – could other humans have taken their places, in this new, unexplored timeline?

On top of the hypothetical plot questions we may ask about The Good Place, the show also poses very real questions to its audience that centre around ethics and, as humans, what we owe to each other. The show tackles the heavy issue of philosophy, morals and the afterlife with finesse this season, without ever weighing down the golden comedic value of the show.

The comedy of the show balances on the line between exaggerations and craziness, with sentimentality and sincerity – it’s a line easy to fall foul of, and the show has succeeded in tight-rope walking it every episode. Ted Danson’s enigmatic performance as Michael captivates everything crazy but sincere about the show: a demon who, with the help of philosophy lessons, finds a conscience and manages to make fulfilling friendships with the souls of four, condemned to the “Bad Place”, humans.

Despite it’s intriguing, and often twisted backdrop, the show manages to surprise and deliver with fresh twists, as the characters grow.

In Episode 11, “The Burrito”, Eleanor does something especially touching. Having successfully completed Gen’s task, in order to get in to the “real” Good Place, and being aware of her companions failing it, she stops the Judge from revealing that she passed the test to the others. From someone who initially died whilst hurling abuse at an environmental activist as she reached for her lonely gal margarita mix, the impact of her progression at being selfless really resonates with the viewer.

However, the season drew its strength from referencing previous episodes, as was the case with Episode 9, “Best Self”. As well as the episode giving the viewers a shirt-ton of flashbacks, such as Eleanor giving back Tahani the necklace she stole from her house in season one, it provided a lot of ammunition for the finale. In Best Self, Chidi says to Eleanor: “I wish we’d met the way normal people meet, like at a philosophy conference, or after one of my philosophy lectures, or you came knocking on my office door, asking for help with philosophy.” To which Eleanor gently mocks him with Chidi admitting he doesn’t know how normal people meet.

In “Somewhere Else”, Eleanor struggles deeply with trying to be a good person, and is prompted by Michael, who quickly intervenes as a bartender and asks her, “what we owe to each other” - something she promptly google-searches the next day. Due to the search, she finds a series of online philosophy lectures taken by Chidi and, inspired, flies to Australia to see him. The series ends with her knocking on his office door, about to ask for help with philosophy as they’re unwittingly reunited again. Ted Danson does an excellent job as Michael smiles while reading Eleanor’s points and says: “Okay. Here we go.” Personally, I feel this would have been a satisfying ending for the entire series (rather than a season finale) due to the sentimentality attached to their meeting.

It may sound mushy, but the second season highlights the innate goodness of human nature - and with the finale, “Somewhere Else” still fresh in the mind, it shows that every human -and immortal AI, (D’Arcy Carden) and omniscient demon- has the potential to be redeemed.

Contrasted to other shows where characters are killed off whimsically, or regress to baser states, The Good Place marks a welcome deviation from popular television shows, as it focuses on how the characters have improved, and focuses on building them up, rather than destroying them.

The Good Place: Seasons 1-2 are available to stream on Netflix. Season 3 will return in September 2018.

 

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