Going on holiday hiatus in a ‘Good Place’
NBC’s “The Good Place,” created by Michael Schur of “Parks and Recreation” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” continued its third season on Thursday, Dec. 6. The episode “Janet(s)” features the excellent comedy, heavy emotions and intriguing world-building that the show has become known for. The series focuses on the idea that in the afterlife, there is a Good Place and a Bad Place, and when people die, their point-totals of good and bad actions determine where they are sent.
Main characters Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto) are all dead at the start of the series and are led to believe they have made it into the titular Good Place.
However, Michael (Ted Danson) is revealed to be a demon, and all four of them were really in the Bad Place all along. By the end of the second season, Michael, having a change of heart, convinces the afterlife to give the four a second chance and returns them to Earth. Michael and his omniscient assistant Janet (D’Arcy Carden) join the group as guides.
In the previous episode, the gang was confronted by the villainous head of the Bad Place, Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson) and his team of demons, who want to prevent the four humans from making it to the Good Place at all costs. In the final scene, Janet suggests that she take them into her “boundless void” for safety.
That was where the characters found themselves at the start of “Janet(s),” the midseason finale, inside a blank, white void of nothingness.
However, there’s a unique twist to this episode. As a side effect of being humans inside Janet’s void, all four of them end up resembling Janet. For the majority of the episode, they all are played by Carden. Carden deserves an enormous amount of praise for this episode. She captures the vocal quirks of each actor and character excellently – the blunt trashiness of Eleanor, the neurotic worry of Chidi, the uptight snootiness of Tahani and the innocent idiocy of Jason. It may be too soon to say, but Carden definitely deserves some sort of award for her work in this episode, if not an Emmy.
While Michael and Janet head to the accounting department of the afterlife to investigate unjust methods of judging humans, Eleanor, calling back to two episodes earlier, asks Chidi about when they fell in love in the afterlife, during one of Michael’s “reboots.” Chidi, having no memory of this, dons his moral-philosophy-professor hat once again and argues that the Chidi that fell in love with Eleanor wasn’t really him, but just another version of him.
Eleanor accuses Chidi of “barfing Wikipedia” as a cover for his true feelings, which turns out to be correct as Eleanor begins losing her sense of self, causing her to rapidly change appearances (and actors) and Janet’s void to collapse.
Chidi reminds Eleanor who she is, culminating in the two kissing, in a spectacular transition from Carden kissing herself, to Carden kissing Bell, to finally Harper kissing Bell, thereby stabilizing the void.
While the four humans wait in Janet’s void, Michael and Janet head to the accounting department of the afterlife, where the good/bad points are calculated and humans’ fates are determined. Michael strongly believes that the Bad Place has been tampering with the point system, upon discovering that Doug Forcett (Michael McKean), the ideal good person, would be sent to the Bad Place. The head accountant, played by Stephen Merchant, informs him that this is impossible, but drops the bombshell that no one has actually made it to the Good Place in 521 years. With accounting being zero help, Janet tells Michael that he must be the one to change the afterlife, instead of searching for someone else to have the answers.
Toward the end, Janet can no longer hold the four humans in her void and barfs them up. The group then flees up a suction tube leading to the real Good Place, whisking them away to their goal for the past three seasons. Upon arriving, Eleanor sums up their euphoria in the final words of the episode, “Holy forking shirtballs, we’re in the Good Place!”
The Golden Globe-nominated series returns Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019 on NBC.