Monday, February 11, 2019

The Good Place 2.10: "Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent"

Principles aren’t principles when you pick and choose when you’re going to follow them.”

This particular episode of “The Good Place” moved the plot along nicely while also providing some more insight into a few of the characters The gang find themselves in Bad Place HQ, and they face a series of challenges as they try to escape. I especially liked the focus on Chidi in this episode. We really dive a bit more into his neuroses, and we see him work to help the group in spite of them. We also get to learn some more about how the Bad Place operates. I always appreciate some good worldbuilding, and this one’s got some creative elements, like pin-activated portals to judges. Also a museum dedicated to human torture (well, that’s not so cool, but you can’t say it’s not creative). Overall, it was a great blend of plot, worldbuilding, and character work, which is really what television at its best should be.

The episode picks up with our human crew (and Michael) on the train. Michael reveals his plan to the humans. He wants to take them to the Judge, who can decide if they have enough points to escape the Bad Place. To get to the Judge, though, they’ve got to take a portal from Bad Place HQ, activated by a thumbs-down lapel pin. Michael is going to have to find enough lapel pins for the whole crew, though, which is going to take some time. He decides to stash the humans in the Hall of Low-Grade Crappiness at the Museum of Human Misery. The Museum is pretty clever. There are exhibits exhibiting the first time humans did all sorts of stupid things that just annoy others, like the first guy to send a dick pic.

Unfortunately, Sean has other plans that are going to make life significantly more difficult for Michael and the humans. He has planned a raid on Mindy St. Claire’s house, even though that’s technically illegal. He’s going to bring the humans back by force. Of course, the jig is going to be up when the raid happens and Sean learns that our crew actually isn’t in the Medium Place right now after all. When Michael learns of the plan, he does his best to play it cool, but he’s really panicking on the inside and trying to get those thumbs down pins as fast as possible so they can all be out of Bad Place HQ when the raid goes down.

To make matters worse, the usually sparsely attended Hall of Low-Grade Crappiness is going to be filled with demons on this particular day. The Bad Place Powers that Be have decided to launch a new museum exhibit dedicated to Michael’s experiment and its inhabitants, and they’re having a party to celebrate the opening. Our humans try to pretend to be fellow Bad Place torturer demons, and they each have very specific characters they are playing. Tahani is especially enthusiastic about this, considering she’s a wannabe actress. She’s very excited to put all that training to work. Chidi is the least enthusiastic. He thinks lying is completely unacceptable from a moral perspective, so he won’t lie under any circumstances. He won’t even tell white lies. It’s all truth all the time with Chidi. This gets even more difficult when a demon named Chet (played by Kristen Bell’s real life husband Dax Shepard) is convinced that Chidi is a demon he used to work with named Trent. Trent always had the best torture ideas, and Chet and his buddies are in need of some help with an especially difficult torture subject. Chidi just barely holds it together through these interactions.

Interestingly, it’s Eleanor who finally figures out a way to get through to Chidi. She mentions a philosophy called “moral particularism,” which holds that specific moral principles aren’t necessary for moral action. Basically, she tells Chidi that one can decide what to do in a situation on a case by case basis. Chidi wants to help his friends, so he sucks it up and really tries to be “Trent.” He suggests to Chet that he and his buddies torture the especially difficult human by forcing them to read philosophy books, of course. This was amusing, but I think it also showed some serious character growth for Chidi. Chidi has always been so indecisive about important things and so wedded to specific moral principles that it was often hard for him to function. This is the first time I can really recall seeing him try to fight through all that, and I enjoyed watching it.

Everything seems to come to a head all at once near the end of the episode. First, Michael finds himself in the Bad Place situation room as the raid on Mindy St. Claire’s house is happening, and the audio quickly makes it clear that all did not go as planned. The SWAT team basically just finds Mindy having sex with Derek (complete with wind chime genitals) and nobody else. Michael is immediately suspected as being up to no good, so he hightails it out of there. Around the same time, the big exhibit is revealed at the museum. The exhibit features animatronics of the four humans, and the demons who had just interacted with them recognize them right away. Before the chaos really kicks up, the humans are able to escape with the help of a Molotov cocktail courtesy of Jason. He’d been talking about Molotov cocktails all episode, so it was pretty amusing to see that throughline finally pay off. It was basically Chekhov’s gun at that point, so it had to pay off. It definitely got a good laugh out of me.

The climax of the episode happens as Michael and the humans all meet up at the portal. Michael starts handing out the pins, and everybody starts jumping through, anxious to escape before they’re caught. When Eleanor is about to jump, however, Michael realizes he’s one pin short. After some quick thought, he decides to give his own pin to Eleanor. Eleanor jumps through, and Michael is left behind, awaiting whatever punishment Sean and his crew come up with. I thought this showed a lot of character growth on the part of Michael, who hadn’t seemed especially selfless in the past. In fact, there’s still a tiny part of me that wonders if Michael doesn’t have some ulterior motive, but for now at least, I appreciate the sacrifice.

No comments:

Post a Comment