Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Good Place 2.02: "Dance Dance Resolution"

“I have tickets to Hamilton next week, and there’s a rumor Daveed Diggs is coming back!”

“The Good Place” is currently working through what every show that counts plot twists as a significant component goes through at some point. What happens when the creative team shows their hand with a completely game-changing plot twist? Where do we go next? The season finale, where it was revealed that the Good Place we knew was actually the Bad Place, was just such a gamechanger. When Eleanor wrote herself a note reminding herself to look for Chidi after the simulation was reset, I thought I had a good idea of what was coming next. Eleanor would find Chidi, have some instinct of what he meant to her and what was going on, and they’d fight Michael together. Surprisingly, the note was taken out of play in the first episode, and the Bad Place was reset yet again in the season premiere, so I went into this episode having no clue where the show was going to go next. I was worried (and still am, somewhat) that there would be plot twists to the point of exhaustion in the episodes ahead. I think the season’s second episode, however, eventually set us up for where the story is going to go next, though. Or at least I hope it did.

This episode begins with Michael narrating his plan for attempt number three and what I’m going to call his “huis clos” (“Hell is other people” as Sartre so eloquently put it) theory of Bad Place torture. This is followed by attempt three failing when Eleanor again eventually realizes that they’re actually in the Bad Place. This is followed by a montage of many, many further attempts to make Michael’s plan work. Most of the time, it’s Eleanor who figures it out. A couple times she overhears Michael narrating to himself in his office, so that ends those particular attempts quickly. My favorite is one where it’s Jason who figures it out because, among other things, there’s no NFL Red Zone, and he would totally have that available in the real Good Place. In almost every permutation, Eleanor and Tahani hate each other, Jason is his usual doofus self, and Eleanor at first thinks Chidi’s a big nerd, but then tries to learn from him. Given the whole Huis Clos vibe, I’m actually surprised that we didn’t see a permutation where Chidi figured out they were reenacting some Sartre. But we didn’t.

One of the things we got to see was how the restaurants around the “Good Place” changed with every permutation. Fro yo was the original, after all. My personal favorite was an Italian theme with a shop called “Holy Gnocchi.” You can damn well believe that my version of Heaven would offer gnocchi! Another thing that happened with each permutation was that Michael would have to reset Janet. Each time, she would protest strongly (she was programmed to). One time she claimed to be having Michael’s baby, and one time she claimed to have Hamilton tickets. Eventually, the Bad Place torturers Michael has enlisted to help with his experiment, and led by Vicky (aka “Real Eleanor”), they decide to go on strike. Vicky still wants her fantastic, memorable part where she gets to use the Australian accent she practiced, after all. And most of the others just want to go back to more straightforward types of torture.

In the latest permutation (800-something, I believe), Chidi and Eleanor discover they’re in the Bad Place when they take a break from ethics lessons at the clam chowder fountain. As an aside, Eleanor goes on a bit about how gross clam chowder is, but I actually really like it (New England, not Manhattan). The idea of a chowder fountain is kind of gross, though. Anyway, as they are chatting by the fountain, Chidi and Eleanor overhear some of the torturers complaining about their new jobs. One of them is even a legit fiery golem of some kind. Chidi freaks out, naturally, but Eleanor has a plan. She calls up Janet and asks Janet to take them as far away from the neighborhood as she can. Janet ends up taking them on the train to none other than Mindy St. Clair’s “Medium Place” house. Mindy is upset that nobody brought her some coke, because they’ve been to her house over and over since Michael started doing his resets, and she asks for coke each time. Meanwhile, back in the neighborhood, Vicky tries to blackmail Michael to get what she wants. She has all of Michael’s experiment failures documented, and she will send the documentation to Michael’s boss if he doesn’t do exactly what she wants.

Mindy basically tells Eleanor and Chidi that trying to escape Michael’s hellish torture loop is futile. As soon as he realizes they’re on to him, he’s going to reset the scenario, and they are going to forget everything they learned. Chidi frets over this in an especially nerdy, philosophical way, which annoys Eleanor enough that she goes and complains to Mindy about him. Mindy says that Eleanor always complains about Chidi, and that’s because they’re hot for each other. Eleanor tries to deny this, but then Mindy breaks out some tape. Yep, after Eleanor and Chidi had sex in her house a couple times, she started taping it because she’s gross like that. The tape shows a post-coital Chidi and Eleanor telling each other that they love each other. At this point, Eleanor grabs the tape, calls for Chidi and Janet, and tells them they’re going back to the neighborhood.

Michael, feeling pressure from Vicky, enlists the advice of Jason of all people. Michael himself seems to sense this is a bad idea, but he goes with it anyway. Jason tells him a story about how his best friend started a rival dance crew back in Jacksonville, and this gives Michael an idea. When Chidi and Eleanor return and are reunited with Jason and Tahani, Michael tries to enlist their help to take down Vicky and the other blackmailing demons. He wants to start a new “dance crew” with the humans, believe it or not. Eleanor especially seems very skeptical of this, but we fade to black before we learn whether or not they will agree to help Michael.

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