TV - The Good Place

Everything is fine as The Defective Inspector welcomes us to his thoughts on The Good Place (some spoilers)...

Like a normal human being, I enjoy sitting and watching TV shows. Surprising isn’t it? The problem is I don’t watch anything but Netflix, Prime and the occasional Twitch stream. Unless someone recommends something directly (thank you mighty DreamCage writers) I will need a nudge from another source. I discovered The Good Place thanks to a BBC article discussing how an ex-E4 presenter fumbled her way into acting despite having no experience. I decided she must have almighty skills/girl balls to achieve such a thing and so I thought “why not?” and clicked the play button. I didn’t realise what I was getting into.

The Good Place is a story of how one lady, Eleanor Shellstrop, ends up at “The Good Place” despite being an eternally shitty person. The Good Place is a manufactured paradise-like region of the afterlife created by some sort of everlasting entity called Michael (Ted Danson). He interacts with everyone in his post-death society along with his omniscience assistant Janet (D'Arcy Carden) to ensure everyone is happy in their new region referred to as a neighbourhood. Progressively we meet other afterlifers in the neighbourhood including; Chidi Anagonye (William Harper), a neurotic philosophy professor who always wants to do the right thing. A posh philanthropist called Tahani Al-Jamil (Jameela Jamil), who cannot stop name dropping to save her life. And a silent cryptic Buddhist monk Jianyu Li (Manny Jacinto) who nods as his only form of communication (Sort of). I’ll say this now, everyone performed remarkably well for a randomly funded Netflix title about life after death so we’ll give some major thumbs up right now for acting skill, even Jameela who has no acting experienced at all.

The main entertainment factor of the show is the conflicting personalities constantly dealing with each other while Michael runs around like a headless but loveable chicken. It seems no matter what any of the main cast do The Good Place keeps falling into chaos and disrepair regardless of what actions, good or bad, are taken. In fact most of Season 1 revolves around the idea that Eleanor must improve herself to avoid mysterious The Bad Place which seems to involve a 4 headed bear and food that turns into spiders. At first glance this isn’t that remarkable for a series as it just revolves around obvious moral quandaries and platitudes. This slows down the series very quickly HOWEVER Netflix don’t fund no fool. The show reveals some impressive twists that even I didn’t see coming.

As a spoiler-less section I will say the following about the show. It has a good moral core, very well-balanced comedy, clever script writing, strangely compelling and well written characters. While they often show a unique borderline excessive personality flaw I can imagine these people existing, they were relatable at that level at least. The premise itself is pretty dynamic, the creativity alone is enough to be admired and it leaves it very open for the writers to have some fun without being overly complicated. The comedy is fairly safe and rarely offensive, in fact the few times where offence is implied it’s due to the terrible nature of the clearly not good Eleanor. It also likes to jump around between the ridiculous to conceptually dark. You know the “Trolley Problem” in ethics? Yeah, they play that out. It is horrifying, hilarious and unashamedly silly. Michael also kicks a dog into the sun! You get the idea… It’s a genuinely good show made by good people about The Good Place. But from this point onwards I am travelling the good ship spoiler which could ruin some of the fun for you. You’d still enjoy the conflict and comedy but… Well it’s better if you go in blind. So all aboard or get off the boat!

Eleanor and Chidi’s relationship revolves around him trying to make Eleanor a better person through moral philosophy as Chidi is told Eleanor is his soul mate. He knows all the way through the show that Eleanor is not truly allowed to be there. In fact another chaos crystal is revealed as Jianyu turns out to be Jason Mandoza, a selfish moron from Jacksonville. It also becomes clear that Tahani isn’t exactly a golden girl herself and it becomes increasingly difficult, but physically and morally, to keep up the charade. Eventually Eleanor outs herself as the turd in the punch bowl and the rest of Season 1 is dedicated to Eleanor fighting her case to remain in The Good Place. Suddenly everything comes together to realise that they are NOT in the good place and in fact our 4 after-lifers are in a new version of The Bad Place designed to self-inflict torture on each other and everyone are demons screwing with their minds. AMAZING twist. It does sometimes make me wonder how flawed the idea of a fake Good Place is but we accept it more as Season 2 develops.

While I am spoiling my guts out, I don’t like going into full details, but I’ll give you a little something. Season 2 focuses on the fact Michael, the true creator of tiny irony hell, has never tried this odd project before and his boss is expecting failure. This explains pretty much any and all failings from Season 1 and connects a few dots you may not have noticed. But he’s been found out by his lab rats, so as an all-powerful demon he resets the memory of the 4 “pro”tagonists in hopes he’ll find a way to make it work. I can’t remember the exact number but after 1000s of attempts Michael is blackmailed by his own demon employees as they are sick of not being able to do torture the old fashion way (lava, biting, molesting etc). Season 2 becomes a running commentary of how a literal bad person/demon hell creator can slowly become a better person. He never goes full angel but his self-interest motive to run away from his boss before the employees leak out his string of failures is a reasonable and compelling driver. The idea is everyone, including Michael, will escape to The Good Place and hide away from this not actually good place. There is a twist at the end of Season 2 but you are a little more prepared for it after Season 1, so it loses some of the punch. None the less I am sitting on the edge of my seat to see how it will all end. Annoying as EVERY episode, more so with the season finale, ends of a tremendous cliff-hanger.

So here I am, sitting and waiting for Season 3, grumbling that it’s not available yet. Now if that isn’t a good sign of a show I don’t know what it is. I’m looking forward to this expectedly long running Netflix series to keep me entertained for many years to come.

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