‘The Good Place’ Mid-Season Review: Humanity is Worthy of Saving, But How?
All right benches, listen up! The final season of The Good Place has just reached its slightly past halfway mark, and you know what that means — shirt has gone down! After tonight there is only one episode left before the December break! The grand experiment is over! Yes, there are spoilers in this review! How many exclamation points can I use? A lot!
But like seriously, major spoilers ahead so stop reading if you care about that.
After rescuing Brent and Chidi from the pit, Brent finally has his big reckoning and apologizes (for probably the first time in his life) right as the experiment ends. Later, at the hearing with The Judge, she reveals the results: Out of the four humans (Brent, John, Simone, and Chidi), John, Simone, and Chidi all improved while Brent got a tiny bit worse. Shawn and the Bad Place declare this a victory for themselves, and the Judge is inclined to agree — until Michael points out that Brent actually improved significantly right at the very end. Not only that, but the love and support that the four original humans provided to their friends and loved ones back on earth caused them to get better as well. This proves Michael’s theory (and that of the show as a whole) that humans are forever capable of improvement and that no one is beyond rehabilitation.
Meanwhile, to distract themselves from the deliberations, the original gang and Janet hold “the funeral to end all funerals” for each other. Each taking a turn to celebrate their lives in the way that they most want. (And dragging along a frozen Chidi in a hilarious nod to Weekend at Bernie’s). Tahani has hers on a private jet, Jason has his in a swimming pool (because in Jacksonville, FL, it is traditional to have your funeral in the place you were born), and Eleanor has everyone don sweatpants. They each speak to what makes the honorary “dead” person important, and how their presence in each other’s lives has helped them to improve. They have provided each other with the strength, positivity, determination, and hope that they were missing during their time on earth.
This serves to drive home Michael’s point that humans, if provided with the right emotional support, are always capable of becoming better. Fortunately, the Judge agrees with Michael and decides in his favor. The point system is no longer tenable for the current complexities of human life. Unfortunately, she decides that the way to fix this is by scrapping humanity, and Earth, completely. She decides to end life as we know it and start from scratch. Luckily for the humans (and Michael) the Janets — yes, ALL of the Janets — intervene. Bad Janet read Michael’s manifesto, agreed with his findings, and then shared it with the rest of the Janets in their group chat. They take the Judge’s device and hide it one of their voids. This buys our gang some time to plan a different solution (maybe a new and better after life) to pitch to the Judge. This means one thing: it’s time to wake up Chidi and restore all of his memories.
This show, more than any other currently airing, is tackling the true existential crisis that we find ourselves mired in at the end of this decade. In the real world things are bleak, people are terrible, and we find ourselves driven to increasingly extremist, and rigid, points of view. Whether it’s politics, the internet, or the impending climate crisis, it’s easy to become a fatalist and say “maybe humanity has failed and we should give up.” However, this show takes the radical stance of rejecting that cynical finality in favor of hope. Hearing Michael, the former demon, declare that every human (even Brent) is capable of and DESERVES rehabilitation feels truly profound right now. That either we are all worthy of continuing to strive for grace or we as a species should be cancelled. Despite what you think about the reality of “cancel culture” (personally, I call it “consequences,” and every society and culture has had some form of it or other going back to the dawn of time. Getting exiled? That was medieval cancel culture, baby), and what you might think about certain…err…. political leaders and the crimes and atrocities they commit, it can be hard to stomach the philosophy that ALL humans are worthy of rehabilitation, that even the worst of us should be given the chance to get better. But I think it’s an important lesson for us, as humans (lol grandiose, I know), to take in right now.
It’s easy to be Simone when she abandons Brent in the pit. To say, (after a lifetime of dealing with abuse and prejudice from people in positions of power) that some people are not worth saving. To let them lie in the graves that they’ve dug for themselves. I feel that way often. But we have to accept that all of us (well, 99% of us at least) have also messed up, hurt someone, or done the wrong things. We are all, to use Eleanor’s words, “major fork-ups.” (Side note: fork-ups also exist on a spectrum. I’m not equating lying to your mother to cheating on your spouse, or cheating on your spouse to running concentration camps for children. But that’s a different conversation.)
This might be a tough pill to swallow right now in this, the year 2019. But I think it’s a necessary one.
The Good Place airs Thursdays at 9 p.m on NBC.