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‘The Good Place’ Pulls a Twist, Sticks the Landing

Season Two Premiere Review

{shortcode-f6a695768eb48ef6dcedf3caf055f99dc9345c48}This Review Contains Spoilers for “The Good Place” Season One.

It can be hard for a show to recover from a major twist, and it’s hard to think of a more earth-shattering twist than the one that “The Good Place” revealed in its Season One finale. The NBC comedy follows Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) and three other people who have died and gone to the “Good Place,” as well as Michael (Ted Danson), the seemingly-benevolent designer and guide of their particular neighborhood. Produced by Michael Schur, the creator of both “Parks and Recreation” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” “The Good Place” stood out from the vast majority of broadcast television with its unique premise and delightful cast of characters.

However, the finale of Season One engendered as much anxiety as it did excitement. The last ten minutes of the episode turned all the events that preceded them on their head with the revelation that the whole world of the show was a lie, right down to the title. Eleanor and her friends had not been sent to the “Good Place” by mistake. Instead, they were quite correctly sent to the Bad Place. The entire first season had been a carefully concocted scenario designed to get the protagonists to torture each other, with everyone’s flaws and neuroses building upon the others.

The premiere of Season Two picks up right where Season One left off. Michael has wiped everyone’s memories and reset the entire scenario. While Eleanor is still very much the lead, Season Two continues building up the secondary characters. All four of the humans get relatively equal weight in this double episode premiere. Everyone has their own brand-new, diabolical torture: Tahani (Jameela Jamil), for instance, is called on her life-long bluff of humility, while the supremely indecisive Chidi (William Jackson Harper) is finally given a choice he can make, only to have it snatched away from him at the last second.

But by far one the best decision Schur and his creative team have made in resetting their show is to focus more on Michael as a character. He was given plenty of screentime in the show’s first season, and has always been one of the funniest and most charming aspects of the show. Given that audiences only ever saw him through other characters’ eyes, however, his true opinions and intentions were masked. Now that his angelic mask has slipped, we are able to see and understand so much more of him and his demonic assistants.

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Sadly, with Michael playing a more prominent role, Janet (D’Arcy Carden), the omniscient guide to the “Good Place,” has been reset with the rest of the artificial paradise. This means her budding insane-yet-adorable marital bliss with Jason (Manny Jacinto) has been, at least temporarily, forgotten by both parties. She’s still a hilarious and weirdly relatable character, but so much of her personality was built on the tweaks Michael made during Season One, as well as her relationships with the other characters. With the reset, all these have been forgotten.

Schur and his writers have made a bold decision in terms of the direction of this season. The end of the premiere is yet another (unauthorized) reset. It seems unlikely that they will be able to pull this off more than a few more times, but the double header premiere, “Everything Is Great!,” certainly sets up a “Groundhog Day” approach to the show’s second season. Thus far, the showrunners have handled a strange and difficult concept expertly, but with every twist, reveal, and total reset, they are only making an already tough job tougher. For now, however, it seems wise just to trust the creators of “The Good Place,” and enjoy the ride.

—Staff writer Ethan B. Reichsman can be reached at ethan.reichsman@thecrimson.com.

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