Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Good Place is Back with Twists, Laughs, and More Blake Bortles Jokes [Contributor: Jenn]

(Image credit: NBC)

The Good Place became one of the breakout and darling hits of NBC, with good reason. Its sharp, bright humor was a stark contrast to so many dark and cynical comedies that have circulated television in recent years. While dark comedies have value and some truly are exceptional, there is something to be said for watching a show where characters learn to become better versions of themselves through unlikely friendships.

I've had the privilege of watching the first four episodes of the newest season of The Good Place (the premiere on September 27 is an hour and therefore two episodes), and am constantly impressed with this show's ability to tackle overarching plots while also seamlessly blending in the smaller plotlines of the season. Expect there to be some time jumps (that are well-handled), and revelations that will ensure you stay off Twitter if you're unable to watch a live airing of the episode.

I won't spoil anything for you, but I'm going to talk about a few of the reasons why this season of The Good Place is still great.


Like any good Mike Schur comedy series, the heart of The Good Place has never been the actual afterlife. While the jokes are funny and there are meta references aplenty, what keeps audiences returning to the comedy series is its heart and core — namely, the relationships between Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, Jason, Michael, and Janet. In season three of the series, we get to see Michael and Janet's connection and dynamic develop, while we also watch the relationship between four virtual strangers re-develop.

The great thing about The Good Place is that even though the characters have already been through resets before, watching them rediscover their friendship is never dull or wearisome. I feel like in a show with literally thousands of resets, we should be bored by now. We should be exhausted of the same game. But we're not. Or at least, I'm not. And I think it's because with every reset, there is a purpose. The Good Place delivers incredibly well-developed twists that are character-centric and advance the plot. They're not just cheap ploys. Because of that, watching Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason find each other on earth and learn to be better versions of themselves doesn't feel like a rehash of the past two seasons — it's new.

And that's truly what allowed me to realize the core and heart of the show was the characters. I knew this, of course, but in season three of The Good Place, we're largely back on earth where there are no flying shrimp or trains to a "medium place" or cosmic tricks. Because the core characters are so well-developed though, this fact doesn't feel boring or dull. We watch our characters study and succeed and fail and experience their own sets of difficulties that can only come through being alive and breathing in a less-than-perfect world.

(Image credit: NBC)

What drew us all in to The Good Place was the brightness of it all — the beautifully weird, wonderful world that Mike Schur and his team imagined. But when this make-believe fades away, the characters themselves still shine brightly. In a lot of ways, we're getting to glimpse them for the first time; or at least we're getting to glimpse the characters in their new/old earthly lives. I love that Eleanor is still the deeply-sarcastic loner, but we do away with watching her eyeroll through Chidi's lessons and see what led her to want to become a better person by actually SEEING her become a better person. We get to watch Chidi's life actually unfold, as he deals with decisions and consequences of decision (or indecision). We see a different side of Jason on earth in certain moments than we've seen in the past, and we get to understand more about Tahani as a person — including a kind of compassion and truer happiness than we've witnessed thus far.

What really is fun (and I don't think this is spoiling anything) is that Michael and Janet have their own stories but are constantly overlapping in fun, unexpected ways with the rest of the characters. Speaking of: I love the way that Ted Danson has played a very complex being like Michael. There's a sort of desperation in him that you'll witness in this season's first few episodes that begins to unravel a little into madness.

(Image credit: NBC)


But what would heroes be without villains? The Good Place has always been great at constructing external villains while also reminding its audience that internal villains (or at least forces of opposition) are just as damaging. You'll see both in season three, and I think the most interesting thing to me thus far is that some villains are clear-cut but some villains — like our personal insecurities, pasts, the struggle to try and be a good person in a very flawed world, and traumas — are a lot more difficult to spot and label as "bad."

Take note of some of those internal villains, because they're really what shape the core characters and cause them to make some of the decisions they do. 

(Image credit: NBC)


Have we run out of Blake Bortles references yet? Nope! Don't worry — there are plenty of them within the first few episodes alone. As is customary in The Good Place, some of the funniest jokes are the ones that take a re-watch to spot. (See if you notice some of those when characters go to an American-themed restaurant in Australia.) What makes the show funny is its absurdity, coupled with realism. Nothing brings those two things together quite like season three which boasts jokes and one-liners and physical comedy from everyone (Chidi loses sleep during one episode and what results is that William Jackson Harper gets to deliver some of his funniest lines and physical comedy bits to date). 

The Good Place's comedy is still diverse in form — Jason is funny because no one plays well-meaningly dumb quite as perfectly as Manny Jacinto. Tahani is funny because of her matter-of-fact way of delivering lines (shout-out to Jameela Jamil for a lot of things, like "I Weigh" but also her ability to name drop as Tahani with flair) and inability to relate to anyone because of her status. Chidi's ability to go from zero to panic button is still funny, and no one can do "Arizona trash bag" snark quite like Kristen Bell. Ted Danson's wonderful, as always with Michael's intense energy, and D'Arcy Carden gets to do some fun work as Janet adjusts to new people and scenarios.

The Good Place is still absolutely delightful — with twists, laughs, and even more jokes about Florida. I'm just as enamored by it as I was two seasons ago, and I think you will be too.

Out-of-context quotes and funny things:
  • " ... Sorry, I've been flying for like, 40 hours. This is Australia, right?"
  • Ted Danson has an Australian accent in an episode for a bit and it's great, and then a British accent for another.
  • "One of them is hot enough to be on The Bachelor AND smart enough to never go on The Bachelor!"
  • "Good luck, dad. Nope, also weird. Just go."
  • "Are you from Florida?" "Jacksonville." " ... Yeahhhh."
  • "Do you think taking a spider in an MRI machine will give you superpowers?"
  • There's an American-themed restaurant in an episode that nails everything terrible about America.
  • "That is... technically an idea."
  • "I guess I could kick him with my soft feet."
  • You'll come to understand why The Greatest Showman exists and why the Jacksonville Jaguars are actually good in our version of reality.
  • There's a giant stuffed bear named "Blake Beartles" in an episode. That is all.
Be sure you don't miss the one-hour season premiere of The Good Place called "Everything is Bonzers" on September 27 at 8 p.m.


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