For the last three years The Good Place has been the best (and smartest) mainstream comedy on network tv by far, constantly surprising and telling a truly unique tale, and this third season has been just as strong as the previous two. Though there’s been the odd shock or downbeat moment along the way it’s also been incredibly upbeat and joyous, and even when our heroes have been in peril the ending of the episode has suggested a way out, how things might change and a reason to be optimistic. The same mostly applies here, but it can’t be denied that it’s a bit of a downer of an episode.
Things start off well, or at least kind of, when Michael (Ted Danson) has a panic attack at the thought of having to run the experiment once again and become as devious as he was when he was happily a member of The Bad Place, but Eleanor (Kristen Bell) comes to the rescue and poses as the architect of this brand new fake afterlife and despite a slightly shaking beginning takes to the role well, by the time she’s introducing newcomer John (Brandon Scott Jones) to the neighbourhood she’s brimming with confidence and both Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Chidi (William Jackson Harper) are convinced she will be able to pull it off, which causes Michael to rally around.
Of course nothing is ever that simple and it soon becomes apparent that Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson) and the rest of The Bad Place gang have subverted the plan by making the four newcomers the worst possible matches for our beloved gang, and so John turns out to be a narcissistic gossip columnist who made Tahani’s life on Earth hell, commenting at one point “You died in Canada?…That’s like the nip slip of dying”. Even worse is when the second arrival turns out to be Chidi’s ex Simone (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and that leads to him going in to meltdown mode as well.
And this takes us to what is the bleakest moment of the series yet, as Chidi realises that he’s never going to be going to be okay around Simone, that his anxiety will lead to the group being tortured forever, and there’s only one way out – wiping his memory back to the point of his original death, which includes the destruction of his feelings for Eleanor. The rest of the episode I found myself desperately hoping that they’d find a way around this, that Michael or Janet (or hell, even Jason) would devise a plan so that it wouldn’t have to take place, but alas it wasn’t to be. It’s a heartbreaking moment in the show, and Michael’s montage of Eleanor and Chidi’s best moments just goes to show how much we’ll be missing when the couple will no longer be together.
Now despite the many rumours and evidence to the contrary I’m no idiot. Or at least not a complete one, for I know eventually everything will be resolved. Judging by Michael Schur’s work on other shows I’m almost certain that he’ll eventually give us a happy ending, and though Chidi and Eleanor will probably have a difficult fourth season they will eventually be reunited. But it’s a real shame they’ve been separated once again as they have such amazing chemistry together, many rom-com couples seem to be a little fake or passionless but Bell and Jackson Harper are magnetic on screen, and the series will be a lesser piece for not having that element as a major part of it, at least for a while. It’s also something Schur has done before, so for the series to repeat itself is a concern, especially as it’s normally so fresh and inventive and I hope it’s not a sign of things to come.
This may sound like I didn’t particularly enjoy the episode but that’s not the case at all. As per usual it did have some beautifully funny lines, including Eleanor’s declaration that “Scared is the best way to be horny”, an ongoing gag about Drake and Ruth Bader Ginsburg secretly being a couple was superb, Eleanor’s comment about being tricked in to reading Paradise Lost because Chidi told her “Satan is my type” is still making me smile as I write this and though Jason (Manny Jacinto) was somewhat under utilised in the episode he did at least generate big laughs when it came to his concern that Chidi might forget all about pizza.
But despite all of the above I still can’t help but feel a little disappointed by the season finale as it ended on such a bittersweet note, and even one final twist, say, the revelation as to who the final two members of The Good Place are, could have helped eradicate this feeling. As it is we’re left with an eight month wait knowing that life for our gang is going to be all rather miserable, at least for a certain amount of time, and that’s not the kind of ending I personally wanted. Still, like Janet’s meaning of life speech I’m trying to remain optimistic that life will continue to surprise, and that sooner rather than later Eleanor and Chidi will be back together in a better place. Or even The Good Place.
Our review of The Good Place Season 3 Episode 5.