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The Good Place - Everything Is Bonzer! Parts 1 & 2 - Review: "The Near-Death Club" + POLL

28 Sept 2018

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It seems things are no longer just “fine” or “great,” but “bonzer,” which, according to the internet – I may or may not have had to look up the word – means excellent or first-rate. As for why things are so “bonzer,” well The Good Place returned with, yet another, startlingly impressive season premiere after nearly eight months off the air. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, but I really have no idea how this series continues to be this good without being repetitive. Every season manages to have a distinct feel, and while I may have gotten lucky in predicting some insane theories in the past, I don’t really have any idea what comes next. I thought it would have taken at least a few episodes, if not half the season, for the core foursome to reunite; instead, the gang is back together after only two episodes. I also didn’t have a good idea of what Michael and Janet’s role would be for this season. I wasn’t sure if the duo would have their own separate storyline, but I doubted they would spend most of their screen time watching tickertape, which, only Janet did during the premiere, as Michael spent most of his time meddling on earth.

With more than 800 iterations of the fake Good Place, it really shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone with which the frequency that Michael feels the need to intervene. Sure, his motivation may have changed, but he’s still ignoring direct orders from his superior. He was only supposed to head down to earth once to reverse the core foursome’s deaths, not repeatedly return to the place where a Pizza Hut and Taco Bell can simultaneously exist to continually meddle in the gang’s lives. At the end of last season, we knew he had disregarded the Judge’s orders and visited Eleanor, setting her on a course to meet Chidi, but in the season premiere we learn that wasn’t the extent of Michael’s interference. First, he poses as a librarian and advises Chidi to say ‘yes’ the next time someone asks for the professor’s help, essentially guaranteeing Chidi will agree to help Eleanor, but apparently that victory isn’t enough after learning Chidi is romantically interested in Simone and not Eleanor. While it was sort of adorable for viewers to see Michael upset that his OTP wasn’t together, it was just another reminder for the former demon of how much things are left up to chance. Like Janet said, there were plenty of reboots where Eleanor and Chidi weren’t romantically involved but still helped each other out, yet Michael is still clinging to the people the pair were during the last reboot. It was during the final iteration of the fake Good Place that Michael became friends with the core foursome, so it makes sense he would want everything to be the same. The closest real-life comparison I could think of – I decided to exclude the possibility of getting amnesia, as it just seemed a little too convenient for this analogy – is after some sort of big, life-changing event and wishing things could go back to how they used to be. Well, Michael has just been put through the wringer with all these changes, so, of course, he wants to try to control as much of the experiment as possible. He may be an honorary human, but he hasn’t really learned the concept about some things being left to chance. However, when you’re a reformed demon with repeated access to earth, then it doesn’t really matter; you can pretty much just shape the world to your will, which is what he continues to do with both Tahani and Jason, once again meddling in the core foursomes’ lives to get them to Australia to participate in Chidi’s study.

While Chidi’s study serves as the perfect opportunity to get the gang back together, the idea to explore how near-death experiences affect ethical decision-making is just the cherry on top of the proverbial humble pie. Philosophy and the principles of ethics have been so deeply woven into the fabric of the series that any sort of omission moving forward would have been extremely disappointing. One of the key themes the series has explored is if people can really change. The first two seasons showed the core foursome repeatedly working to become better people. No matter how many times Michael rebooted the experiment, he watched them, time and time again, become thoughtful and generous and caring people. Even Michael, by the last reboot, showed he was capable of evolving. However, the series added another layer to the philosophical question in the season two finale when the Judge explained that the core foursomes’ actioned were tied to some extrinsic reward – they wanted to stay and/or earn a spot in the real Good Place – rather than doing good things for the sake of being good. So the question became to see if the core foursome could become better people, without any knowledge of the afterlife, if given the chance. We already knew Eleanor temporarily became less selfish after her near-death experience, but soon backslid into her old habits when life got difficult. However, as we learn in the season premiere, Chidi, Tahani and Jason went through very similar situations after their own near-death experiences. So did they actually improve? Well, yes and no. Chidi became more decisive but started questioning everything again after he gave his friend some bad advice; Tahani embraced a more minimalistic approach to life but re-entered the spotlight upon receiving praise for her lifestyle; and Jason doubled down of his efforts to win a dance competition, even giving up crime, but returned to his old ways in the face of defeat. The core foursomes’ journeys over a year raises the interesting concept of whether or not change is permanent. If something really bad almost happens to you, then you may celebrate in narrowly avoiding said bad thing from happening and vow to change your ways. After a period of time has passed, the heightened feelings may lessen and you may start to revert back to your old self or habits. However, it’s also entirely possible that you remember those heightened feelings and they keep driving you to be a better version of yourself.

If not for Michael’s meddling, would the core foursome have ended up in the exact same position when they died again, or would they have been able to turn things around again? We’ll probably never know, but Michael believes that because he intervened, he has set his friends on the right path, on the path that leads straight to the Good Place. He has spent most of the season premiere trying to control every little detail, arrogantly believing he could play God Judge, but as he learns at the end of the episode, that’s not how life works. No matter how hard you try to control a situation, there will always be unforeseen consequences. To backtrack a little, Sean and the Bad Place crew have spent the past year trying to hack into the Judge’s system, solely to check on the progress of four humans, but they hadn’t had any luck, until they find a backdoor into the system. And how do they find said backdoor? Well, it seems that Michael’s continual adventures down to earth allowed Sean to not only be able to track the core foursomes’ progress but intervene as well by inserting Trevor into the study. Yes, Adam Scott’s Trevor is back for an unknown number of episodes in an attempt to derail the progress the core foursome would have made. It’ll be deliciously fun to watch as Trevor tries to disrupt the group dynamics, especially without any of his demonic powers; I can only imagine the Bad Place equivalent of torture in human terms. However, it looks like Michael won’t take too kindly to Trevor’s presence, as the synopsis for the following episode states Michael is forced to take drastic measures when his grand scheme hits an unexpected snag. I’m assuming Trevor is the unexpected snag, but I’m not really sure what “drastic measures” could entail. As we saw in this episode, Michael was repeatedly willing to intervene with his friends’ lives to make sure they found their way back together and hopefully to the Good Place. He put himself at great personal risk – he most likely would have been retired if the Judge found out – to “save” his friends from themselves. How far is Michael willing to go to “save” his friends from a demon? I’d say he’d be willing to do anything; I’m just not sure what “anything” is or could be.

Some stray thoughts:

- As much as I love Eleanor and Chidi together, I’m really digging the burgeoning romance between him and Simone. The character has such amazing energy, and her directness and sarcasm provide a great contrast to Chidi. It’ll be fun to watch their relationship play out – we’ve never really seen Chidi in a functional relationship before – but I’m sort of apprehensive about fully committing because I feel like Eleanor randomly will be thrown into the middle at some point.
- Is anyone else still curious about why Eleanor flew all the way to Australia just to meet a random professor she saw in a lecture series? I get that the Michael planted the seeds of “what we owe each other,” thus prompting her to reexamine her life, but why not turn to a therapist or priest for moral guidance? Could it be that even though Eleanor doesn’t remember Chidi, they are still inexplicably drawn to each other? That even though they don’t remember the time they spent in the afterlife together, they’re still connected somehow?
- I was initially with Glenn on wondering why Sean would spend so much time and energy on four humans, when they literally torture millions of souls. I feel like the demons’ time could have been better spent by coming up with new and creative ways to torture humans, but I guess if I were a demon who had been alive for billions of years, spending one year, in the grand scheme of things, wouldn’t be that long of a time.

So hit the comments below to let me know your thoughts. Why does Michael feel the need to control everything? How far will Michael go to save his friends? What sort of mayhem will Trevor cause?