Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Good Place 1.05: “Category 55 Emergency Doomsday Crisis”

“I used to do that. Now I do selfless things without even thinking about it.”
- Eleanor

As we’ve seen in the last few episodes, things seem to go horribly wrong when Eleanor does bad things. In the last episode, she created a huge sinkhole in town that has Michael in a panic. According to Janet, the sinkhole isn’t repairing itself and in fact is getting bigger. She relays this information to Michael during a brunch party Tahani is hosting. Jason (it’s just easier to call him that) bolts out of ethics with Chidi and Eleanor to make sure he doesn’t miss out on the mini waffles. Speaking of ethics class, Eleanor is super pumped to be learning and it is almost too much for Chidi to handle. He’s spent the whole day teaching them about different theories of ethics (the latest being utilitarianism which she thinks is pretty awesome) and she insists he keep going (or in the alternative grade her latest paper).

As I mentioned, Chidi is rather overwhelmed by all of it (he didn’t quite think it would be a full-time job) and this leads to some serious tension between them. He insists nothing is wrong when she keeps asking but she knows he’s lying. He wasn’t even that proud of her when she stepped out of line at the frozen yogurt shop because she couldn’t pick from the zillion flavors Michael had added to the menu to compensate for the sinkhole. In life, she never would have done that. She would be the person who took forever and then purposely tried a bunch of flavors she knew she didn’t want to spite the people behind her. Our little wayward student is actually learning!

Michael’s solution to dealing with the sinkhole turns into keeping everyone inside for the foreseeable future. This really doesn’t sit well with Eleanor and Chidi because they have a pretty big blow out where he admits he wants to just be enjoying his afterlife in paradise, not dealing with her drama. And then they get some houseguests (one was a marriage counselor and the other started a company to investigate identity fraud). Just what our duo doesn’t need in their afterlives at that moment. But it does turn out to be pretty helpful. We learn that Chidi’s issue is that he never had real love in life. He was never in an intense relationship before and he’s kind of disappointed (given that Eleanor isn’t actually his intended soulmate). By the end of the episode, Eleanor realizes that she needs to back off sometimes and even gives him a card that says “Fork off Eleanor” for him to use when she gets to be too much. She wants to still be his friend, even if they aren’t really soulmates. She then sends him out into the middle of the lake in a boat that he doesn’t know how to row (because he said earlier that his fantasy of paradise was to sit in a boat with a bottle of wine and read French poetry).

We also got some backstory on Tahani. While she is locked in at her place, she encounters the neighborhood manual that lists everyone and where they fall in terms of number of points they earned in life to get them there. She is horrified to learn that she was 321 out of 322 people. We get several flashbacks to her as a child and young adult. She just could never measure up to her older sister, Camilla. Her parents were rather nasty to her, which clearly affected her (and it also explains her personality now and why she’s trying to be so fantastic at everything). I kind of wanted to smack her parents when they said her that $5.6 million was a public embarrassment in charity fundraising. I really get why she was so big on flaunting how much she raised for charity when she was telling Eleanor about her life a few episodes ago. This also lends to my theory that everyone in this neighborhood has some flaw that means they really shouldn’t be there. But maybe that’s okay and they can kind of create their own version of the “good place” that works for them?

In the end, the sinkhole repairs itself and it appears that life is going to go back to the way it should be in the neighborhood. But Michael warns Eleanor that all is not well. He has no idea what caused the sinkhole (she’s got a theory) or what fixed it (she’s kind of got an idea on that, too) but he wants to figure it out. So he’s going to enlist her help to sort out just what’s been going wonky in his little slice of paradise. Well, that’s a big hiccup in Eleanor’s “stay under the radar” plan.

I really liked this episode. I thought it did well balancing advancing the story forward on what’s going on with the neighborhood while continuing to peel back the layers of the characters we are coming to know in the afterlife. It is nice that Chidi has faults, too (other than just being a crappy writer). I do think he’s leaning too much on his ‘ethical obligation” to help Eleanor. I would like to know more about what drew him to the ethics field and why he is so driven to uphold those ideals, even in death. I also would like to learn a lot more about Michael. Whom did he apprentice for and why now was he allowed to create his own neighborhood? There are some other characters we will probably see more of as well. I would be okay if they cut down a little on Jason and Tahani but that’s probably just personal preference. It’s nothing against the actors, but the characters are better in small doses. I think the sooner Tahani accepts that she doesn’t have to be perfect, the less annoying she’s going to be.

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