Friday, September 20, 2019

The Good Place 2.12: "Somewhere Else"

“The point is, we’ve all gotten better. Why should we have to go live alone in a boring void because of a messed up system? How is that justice?”

The second season finale of “The Good Place” gave us yet another of the show’s signature twists. I think part of what makes “The Good Place” such an entertaining and worthwhile show to watch is that the paradigm is always changing. In that sense, it kind of reminds me of “Fringe” about ten years ago, which really got interesting when the creative team worked to flip the script each season for the last three seasons or so. Both with “Fringe” and with “The Good Place,” sometimes the twist works and sometimes it doesn’t (can Chidi and Eleanor just be together already without all this rebooting!), but I always appreciate the effort to try something different and keep things fresh. I have a feeling that Mike Schur and the team at “The Good Place” will keep us entertained with their creativity for some time to come.

We pick up with this episode in the Judge’s court room, where Michael is trying to argue that the Good/Bad Place system is fundamentally flawed and our four humans shouldn’t be punished for it. After all, they have become “better” since their death, and the current system, which just tallies up what you did in life, doesn’t account for that. Tahani and Eleanor chat while the judge is figuring out what she’s going to do, and they actually acknowledge that they have become friends, which was nice. Janet also takes the opportunity to appear next to Jason and confess her love for him. And yes, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of Japan Youtube, and the Japanese concept of “confession” pretty perfectly describes what Janet does here. Chidi has an epiphany when he sees this, and he grabs Eleanor and kisses her. Eleanor’s response is to say “hot diggity dog!,” which she is embarrassed by at first, but then she decides to own it. I thought it was pretty adorable, myself.

Michael and the judge try to work out a compromise that will test Michael’s theory that people can become “better” after death. Their first potential solution is to send everyone to the medium place while Michael does more work to build his case. When the humans learn that this means they will have to be separated and alone for as long as it takes (a medium place has to be fine-tuned to be perfectly medium for each individual), Eleanor throws a fit. She doesn’t think it’s fair that they all have to be alone because of a faulty judgment system. Michael and the judge then come up with an alternative plan that will test his theory. He needs to prove that humans will become better without a promise of reward.

Suddenly Eleanor is alive again and waking up in her bed in Phoenix. She goes to the store and harasses the guy who wants to get her to sign a clean energy petition, just like on the day she died, but she gets pulled out of the way of the flying shopping carts and truck, so it’s just a near death experience instead of actual death. Eleanor, to the surprise of everyone who knows her, decides to go on a self-improvement kick and become a better person. She quits her job at the shady pharma company right before it gets shut down by an investigation, and she joins the Clean Energy Crusaders. She also spends time hanging out with the guy who always tried to get her to sign that petition. She’s drinking less and generally trying to be kind to people. Michael is very happy at the results he is seeing.

After a few months, however, being good all the time starts to get tiring for Eleanor. She gets kicked out of her apartment for telling her roommate the truth about something she did the previous year. She writes a note when she bumps someone’s car and gets sued by the owner. Eventually, she quits her job with Clean Energy Crusaders and goes back to her boss from the pharma company, who has started yet another shady pyramid scheme. Michael is very disappointed and decides to try and intervene. Eleanor goes to a bar to drown her sorrows, and the bartender is none other than Michael, which gives Ted Danson his “Cheers” moment for the series. Elanor thinks trying to be good is hopeless. She is, after all, the person who “cyberbullied Ryan Lochte until he quit Instagram” (seriously…he’s so pretty, but so very dumb).

Michael tells Eleanor that the question to ask is “what do we owe each other.” While moping at home, Eleanor googles this and finds a video of a lecture by Chidi. He is faulty at a university in Australia now. This gives Eleanor yet another epiphany. Next thing we know, she has hopped on a Qantas jet and is headed for Australia. She shows up at Chidi’s office and tells him she’s a fan of his lecture. And I’m swooning. With all the twists this show keeps throwing at us, one thing seems constant. Eleanor and Chidi are meant to be together.

I’m pretty excited to see what this latest reset is going to bring for the next season. Presumably, at least for one episode, we’ll get to see all the humans back on earth, and we’ll see how they all reacted to their own near death experiences. I’m especially curious to see what Jason has been up to during his time on his own. I’m also excited to see how things will progress with Eleanor and Chidi now that they’re reunited (although I’m sure they’ll be reset again soon enough – it’s already happened several hundred times!). Even if this ends up being one twist too far, I think attempts at creativity and changing things up should be appreciated.

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