The Good Place (2015-2020) reviewed

After summiting Parks and Recreation, I was looking for a new series. Enter The Good Place. The show is a light-hearted take on the afterlife while also incorporating elements of philosophy. The cast features the talented Kristen Bell as Eleanor, William Harper as Chidi Onagonye, Jameela Jamil as Tahani, and Manny Jacinto as Jason Mendoza/Jianyu. I am biased towards Manny’s portrayal as he is from a Filipino background. Meanwhile, Ted Danson is loveable as the devil-architect Michael who has a change of heart. Good Place ran for four seasons and each one was well-received. Each year had thirteen episodes (last season had fourteen), and the instalments are about twenty minutes apiece.

Welcome to the Good Place

The story begins with the four protagonists being informed that they are in ‘the good place.’ This shocks all of them as their actions on Earth make them unworthy of heaven. In the beginning, Eleanor is reincarnated as Chidi’s soulmate. Eleanor is doubtful from the start as they seem to have little in common. Meanwhile, Chidi loves giving philosophy lessons and reading books. While reticent at first, Eleanor starts attending these classes in her conscious effort to be a better person. She is constantly envious of Tahani, their next-door neighbour. The latter lives in a palace and is a socialite. Eleanor even detests Tahani’s posh accent.

The Players

While Elanor loathes Tahani, the latter hates Camilla, her sister who could do no wrong. The sibling rivalry between the two often sees Tahani coming second-best. She cannot understand why Camilla is the peerless and most admired. Indeed, Tahani’s jealousy was what finally killed her. Jianyu is Tahani’s soulmate; he has taken a vow of silence. However, Eleanor learns early on that Jianyu is in fact Jason Mendoza. The latter was killed while on a job with his sidekick, Pillboi. Jason adores the fictional Jacksonville Jaguars and worships their star quarterback, Blake Bortles. Throughout the series, Jason may not be the smartest but still is the realest and perhaps even the coolest.

He reminds me a bit of Joey Tribbiani (Matt LeBlanc) in Friends, the iconic 90s sitcom

While Chidi has the smarts, he is also incredibly indecisive. For instance, he has spent his lifetime writing his book. However, he has three thousand pages in limbo. In his childhood, he could not pick the best place to sit in class. Even selecting ice cream flavours is a tall task for him. In one storyline, Chidi works in St John’s University, which is now apparently in Australia. Here, he meets Simone, who shares many of his traits. The scene where Eleanor and Simone ask him questions was really cute. His lack of resolve carries over to the afterlife, where he agonises over which frozen yoghurt to choose.

A fresh perspective

The first season was a brilliant introduction. The concept was fresh, the characters and their stories believable. Throughout its run, The Good Place showcased fancy visuals. The first taste of these sights was a game-changer. Following the initial run’s blaze of glory, the succeeding seasons build on this highly original concept. For a while, the novelty wore off, but the series presents a robust second wind. One could also argue that the show pretty much utilises mostly the same characters. The Australian setting was nice though, and the backstories from different characters was likewise refreshing. The Mindy character serves as the middle place. While a temporary fix at best, Mindy reinforces the notion of a middle ground between heaven and hell. The judge also adds colour as the serious magistrate well-versed in pop culture. Marc Evan Jackson is evil personified as Michael’s nefarious boss.

Jason is infatuated with Janet (D’arcy Carden), the walking reference book who also functions as a guide to the Good Place. Jason and Janet navigate tricky circumstances as both find love in nirvana. Their relationship is an interesting one, as they appear to be polar opposites. The tables are turned: Janet isn’t supposed to feel emotion. However, she creates Derek as a rebound after things turn south with Jason. Janet has become more than just an exhaustive reference; characters turn to her for advice. When Eleanor has fears about Chidi’s memory, Janet comes to the rescue. ‘But that’s part of the fun right? If there were an answer, I could give you to how the universe works, it wouldn’t be special. It would just be machinery fulfilling its cosmic design. But since nothing seems to make sense, when you find something or someone that does, it’s euphoria.’

Growth spurt

I might also add that there is a Bad Janet on the show, who thrives in the Bad Place. I must stress that all of the mainstays change for the better and grow as people as the series winds down. A flawed scoring system is a big part of the story. Michael and company are out to show that devils have been tampering with the points. Thus, Good Place is full of subterfuge and camouflages. The plot is replete with disguising devils and devious Janet’s. While Eleanor initially does good only to increase her rating, she eventually learns the merits of altruism. Chidi learns to trust others more, especially Eleanor. The series shows that the truth will always prevail, no matter the hurdles.

Right balance

I’ve pretty much gone through most of the show with only a couple eps left. I’ve seen a little of Bell’s work: in Heroes and her brief stint in Parks. I’ve also seen D’arcy in Barry; the rest of the main cast is new to me. Good Place has received 7 Primetime Emmy nominations, including five last year. The final season concluded on 30 January of this year. Michael Schur created the series. Rarely has the concept of the afterlife been explored so positively and extensively in a series. Upon viewing, audiences would have an enhanced perception of both good and bad place. The show had a right balance of serious, philosophical thought and light-heartedness.  

Rating: 4.8/5

St John’s
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