TL;DR – Season Two took the series in a fascinating direction, that left you wondering where the series would go next. It puts the human in humanities.
Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars
I have to be honest that I was a latecomer to The Good Place, I had heard about it in passing of course, but Season One just wasn’t really accessible for me, and when Season Two started and was on Netflix I was snowed under with other projects. Then one day I had a couple of hours free so I watched the first couple of episodes to see what all the fuss was about, and in true Netflix binge style I has soon watched all of Season One and what was available of Season Two and couldn’t believe I had to wait a week for the next episode. So now that Season Two is over, we are going to take a look back at Michael Schur’s sophomore’s outing. Now because we are looking at the season as a whole, there will be [SPOILERS] for all of Season Two and of course Season One, so if you have not watched either season can I recommend that you go binge watch everything and then come back.
So to set the scene, at the end of Season One we got one of the biggest twists on TV, up there with Lorca being [Redacted] in Star Trek Discovery (see review). For you see, Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jianyu (Manny Jacinto) were not in The Good Place at all, indeed all season they were actually in The Bad Place all along. It was all a ruse because Michael (Ted Danson) had the idea that it would be better to have humans torture each other than have demons do it. So at the end of last season, Eleanor worked it all out but Michael’s boss Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson) gave him a do-over, a second chance, a round two, a, ok you get the idea. However, Shawn assumes Michael will fail spectacularly and the consequences of that would be dire. Well while they were debating Eleanor came up with an idea to help her in the next reboot, and quickly writes down find Chidi on a note and gives it to the neighbourhood’s Janet (D’Arcy Carden) for safe keeping. Then with a click of fingers, everything is reset and the gang wakes up thinking this is day one.
One of the things I truly adore about The Good Place is just how smart a show it is without also being pretentious. The show falls in a very interesting place where it is a show about the afterlife, but it is not really a show about religion. Instead, it is using its premises to tell us a story about philosophy and ethics. This very much could be an Ethics 101 class, in the vein of one of those bad educational TV shows that end up with you using that new math problem that you learned at the start of the show to win the day. But it is cleverer than that, and part of that is because they know the material incredibly well and they have spent the time to create fascinating characters that are all very different yet complement each other really well. So while you are being entertained by characters as they try to escape the situation you are also learning about Kant, Scanlon, Dancy, Kierkegaard, and so many more. But the show does not stop there, there are so many influences at play here from the literary Alice in Wonderland to the sci-fi with the AI Janet discovering her humanity. It is nice to see people exploring the Humanities much the same way popular culture has with the natural sciences recently, and with more care and integrity than say Big Bang Theory.
Another area where the show excels in is the cast, both in the creation of the characters, and also in the casting and acting. There are two things this cast needs to be able to show, firstly that they very well could torture each other for all eternity, but also that they could bond and grow past this natural feeling and become better people. That is such a specific dynamic to pull off and it is amazing to sit and watch it happen, especially when they get reset so many times but it still doesn’t lose any of its impacts. It is also another answer to the debate that people don’t want to see diverse casts of TV, which of course is ridiculous at its very core, but just in case people need examples here it is. It is a cast where we have a 50/50 split along gender lines, cast members from diverse ancestries, and really none of that should matter in the 21st century but it still does. The whole cast has an amazing ability to play off each other, creating a wonderful chemistry which is something they can maintain because they have mostly kept things contained, mostly. It is this rapport that leads to hilarious moments like that one reset when Jianyu discovers that they are in the Bad Place or Shawn’s “I just remembered, I’m a naughty [redacted]”. It is also why I keep coming back because you want to see them succeed, escape The Bad Place and better their lives.
One of the things I have found fascinating is how they barely stop for a breath as they barrel along the season. So as I mentioned at the end of Season One the big secret was the note that Eleanor secreted away. Well, that note lasted all of halfway through the first episode of the season Everything Is Great! From here we take off into a world of morals and choices as the team have to decide whether to side with Michael or turn him in. Then we get the prospect of Michael becoming a more ethical person/demon, Vicky (Tiya Sircar) pulling a coup, Janet being rebooted so many times that she has discovered more about herself, Shawn returning early to ruin everyone’s plans, and that is only the first half of the season. We then have the team escaping the neighbourhood for the real Bad Place in a mad attempt to see The Judge (Maya Rudolph) and get them to change their place in the afterlife. So many things happened in only 13 episodes, indeed more happened here than in many hours long 24 episode seasons. It is also a season that didn’t mind changing the whole premise of the show if it needed to do. So much of TV is very risk adverse, you can’t risk upsetting your fanbase by hooking the wrong two characters up let alone changing the very nature of the show, and it feels refreshing here.
Now, this, of course, leads us to the final episode of the season Somewhere Else, which had the unenviable task of following up last season’s big twist episode. It does this by not having its own twist per say, but instead by doubling down on the very system of the afterlife. For you see if people can get better after they die, does that not mean that everything about the afterlife cannot be based solely on their lives before they died. The Judge is not convinced, believing that there was always an ulterior motive, a reward, thus voiding their work. So after a moment of discussion and mention of a little push, she clicks her fingers and they are sent back to the start, not the start of the neighbourhood, but moments before their deaths. We see Eleanor better her life, only for the world to [redacted] all over her and slip back into her old ways, that is until she runs into an old and wise bartender who points she in a certain direction leading her to find Chidi in the real world, or this new reality, or well I’m not sure what it is. This was such a great way of following up the finale from last season. When you are known for big twists it can get easy to slip into the trap of just doing twists that they have to be bigger and bigger each time, and in the end, it is unsustainable. So by resetting the game but yet still pushing these characters together, they have set up a fascinating start to the new season and the possible implications are interesting indeed.
In the end, do we recommend The Good Place Season Two? Yes of course we do. Now yes they have a particular view of the afterlife and that might be a deal breaker and that’s perfectly fine. However, what you get with this show, is some of the best writing in TV at the moment, characters you just want to see succeed, and a fascinating insight into ethics, morality, and what it means to be human. It also has the core message of trying to be a better person and to do some good in the world, and frankly, we need more of that in our world, now more than ever.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you seen Season Two of The Good Place yet?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Good Place
Directed by – Trent O’Donnell, Drew Goddard, Morgan Sackett, Beth McCarthy-Miller, Dean Holland, Jude Weng, Linda Mendoza, Julie Anne Robinson, Alan Yang, Dean Holland & Michael Schur
Written by – Jen Statsky, Joe Mande, Megan Amram, Dan Schofield, Andrew Law, Josh Siegal, Dylan Morgan, Kate Gersten, Cord Jefferson, Christopher Encell, Tyler Straessle & Michael Schur
Created by – Michael Schur
Starring in Season 2 – Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto, D’Arcy Carden & Ted Danson with Tiya Sircar, Marc Evan Jackson, Maribeth Monroe, Jason Mantzoukas, Maya Rudolph & Dax Shepard