Friday, September 30, 2016

The Good Place 1.03: "Tahani Al-Jamil"

“Eleanor, you don’t know what it’s like to be in paradise and feel like there’s something just not quite right.”

The third episode of “The Good Place,” being the first episode after the very exposition-heavy two-part premiere, had some important work to do. Now that the premise of the show has been established and the ground rules have been laid out, it was time to see what the show was going to be like week-to-week. If this episode was a representative example of what the show will actually be like going forward, I’m happy with it. There was character growth, the plot kept me interested, and there was a rather fantastic twist at the end. I just hope that Eleanor’s journey towards becoming a “good person” doesn’t move too quickly. I’m the opposite of Ted Moseby – definitely a journey not the destination kind of person. I would like to see her have plenty of misadventures before truly fitting in in the Good Place. There won’t be much of a story to tell, otherwise.

As this episode opens, Eleanor is trying to make good on her promise to take ethics lessons with Chidi. She does seem to genuinely want to become a better person, if for no other reason than that she really wants to avoid the Bad Place, but she’s having trouble paying attention. As we’ll discover throughout this episode, that really isn’t entirely Eleanor’s fault. Chidi can ramble, especially when talking about ethics and philosophy. The lesson is interrupted when Tahani stops by with a Welcome to the Neighborhood potted plant. Eleanor is less than impressed, since a houseplant is kind of useless, and she makes that fact known to Chidi. In this episode, we learn that Tahani raised billions (yes, billions with a “b”) for charity, which is guess is why she made it to the Good Place. I still think she’s rather insufferable, though, “good” person or not. There are people who, through no fault of their own, are annoying as hell because they’re just too good and perfect at everything. Tahani is one of those people.

Speaking of Chidi, he runs into Michael in town, and Michal announces that Janet is now serving as his assistant. He tried to program her to interact a bit more naturally with people, but he went a too far. She’s disturbingly bubbly, then way too eager with the “fun facts” then tries to act sexy. Michael mentions that Chidi really only did one thing with his life – write a 3,000 page treatise on ethics. He encourages Chidi to try and find a different hobby to make his time in the Good Place more enjoyable. First up is cartography. That’s not going to work, though, because Chidi has “directional insanity” and can’t navigate his way out of a paper bag. Then it’s journalism, but Chidi isn’t too thrilled about that, either. Michael eventually is forced to admit that he read Chidi’s manuscript, and he hated it. It is way too long and meandering and makes no sense. Because it was Chidi’s life’s work, Michael was hoping he wouldn’t have to actually tell Chidi this, but the situation got dire. Thanks to a pep talk from Eleanor near the end of the episode, Chidi realizes that even if his manuscript wasn't perfect, it was still a great accomplishment. He asks Michael to be his "advisor" for a re-do.

When Eleanor starts going on another rant about how she is sure Tahani is the one who left the threatening note about not belonging, Chidi gives her a talking-to. He theorizes that Eleanor actually manifested the note herself because of her anxiety over the fact that she’s in the Good Place by mistake. Whenever Eleanor is mean to Tahani, the plant Tahani gifted starts wilting. Chidi thinks the plant is meant to be a symbol of Tahani and Eleanor’s relationship, and he suggests Eleanor try being nicer to Tahani. I’m actually Team Eleanor on this one. Like I mentioned, Tahani may be a genuinely good person, as we’ll see in this episode, but she’s annoying as all get out. She presents her niceness in a way that seems fake. Anyway, Eleanor goes to Tahani’s house with a basket of pears as a make-up gift. Tahani immediately throws them out, because apparently in Chinese culture, pears mean bad luck, and she doesn’t want to offend Jianyu. Eleanor continues to try and play nice, however, and she agrees to join Tahani on her planned walk around the neighborhood the next day to make sure everyone is okay following all the strange events in the neighborhood.

Throughout the episode Eleanor has flashbacks that help to explain her rather strong reaction to Tahani. The flashbacks center around her relationship with a former boyfriend. The boyfriend wants to boycott a local coffee shop because a video was leaked that showed him blatantly harassing women who applied for jobs at the shop. Eleanor, however, could care less. She just wants good coffee close to home. Her boyfriend is clearly disappointed in this, but Eleanor just takes making a show of getting coffee from this shop as far as she can go. Remembering all of this makes Eleanor realize that people who try to be good intimidate her and make her feel lesser. That’s why she lashes out at Tahani.

Anyway, Eleanor goes on the neighborhood canvassing walk with Tahani, where she does genuinely try to be nice. It all unravels after the walk, though. Eleanor decides to steal Tahani’s diary, and that makes the friendship plant straight-up explode. Chidi gives Eleanor another talking-to (he’s kind of horrified that she stole Tahani’s diary), and that’s when Eleanor really has the revelation about “good” people intimidating her. She goes to pay Tahani another visit to try and make things right. Tahani confesses that her relationship with Jianyu isn’t quite what she thought it would be. It certainly doesn’t seem like the most ideal match, given that Jianyu has taken a vow of silence and Tahani really, really likes to talk. Tahani feels like something is off, even though she’s in paradise, and Eleanor can really relate to that. She gives Tahani the best pep talk she can.

When she gets home, Eleanor sees that the friendship plant has really blossomed. She’s got bigger problems to deal with, though. Another threatening note has appeared. The note says to meet the writer in the courtyard that evening. As she walks to the courtyard, Eleanor keeps trying to tell herself that the note was just a manifestation of her own insecurities, but it turns out, it really wasn’t. The writer of the note is none other than Jianyu. He tells Eleanor that he doesn’t belong in the Good Place, either, and he begs her for help. See what I mean about an awesome twist at the end of the episode?

No comments:

Post a Comment