Hellishly funny, yet ethically inspiring, season three of The Good Place is a perfect philosophical comedy. In a way, nothing has changed; the corny jokes and feel–good humor still prevail.
At the same time, however, the plot is distinctly unfamiliar. The ingenious writers who brought us Parks and Recreation, The Office, and Brooklyn Nine–Nine—headed by creator Micheal Schur—find infinitely creative ways to turn the action.
It is in this unique way that we’re bonded to the relatable and whole–heartedly human characters (even those that aren’t supposed to be human), and learn about what it means to be good while laughing about the insanity that is the modern world.
In the ridiculous yet infectious universe of The Good Place, demon Michael (Ted Danson) is in charge of an experiment dedicated to test–driving a new type of hellish experience. Demons take a break from typical fire and brimstone torture to workshop a new kind of “bad place,” and Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Jason (Manny Jacinto), and Tahani (Jameela Jamil) are the oblivious test subjects—until they’re not.
Just as the first season ends, Eleanor has a eureka moment, and realizes the Good Place is anything but good. The combination of the four humans—selfish Eleanor, indecisive Chidi, narcissistic Tahani, and oblivious Jason—is meant to create the perfect torturous experience. But it instead pushes Eleanor to seek help from Chidi and to want to learn what it takes to be a good, ethical person.
Season two chronicles the repeated failed simulations of the Good Place as the demons try to adjust their methods. Michael finally comes to terms with his unsuccessful experiment and instead tries to learn what it means to be good as well. He and the humans escape to see “the Judge,” (Maya Rudolph) the one responsible for all the human souls, who agrees to a new experiment. In order to see if humans really can change and become good, the four are sent back down to earth with wiped memories and allowed to live their lives as if their deaths never happened.
This is where the new season—which premiered on Sept. 27, 2018—begins; Michael intercepts the deaths of each human and comes back exhilarated by earth’s finest attributes—traffic, pigeons, and a place that was at once a Pizza Hut and a Taco Bell.
Of course not all goes as planned, and it soon becomes clear that the four need each other to become better people. Michael, with the help of his assistant Janet, returns to earth against the Judge’s wishes and attempts to bring the four together, going undercover to ensure they’re united. He is able to orchestrate this through Chidi’s thesis on whether near–death experiences change behavior for the better, and his research study brings our beloved characters to Australia. Relief doesn’t last long though, as a different demon named Trevor (Adam Scott) has plans to sabotage them. He goes down to earth and tries to entice Eleanor, Chidi, Jason, and Tahani to go back to their old ways. His shenanigans include bringing matching t–shirts and extreme clinginess (really, really evil stuff). The Judge catches on to this inference and is not happy, to say the least. Michael and Janet flee to earth and pledge to stay there until they prove the humans can become better people. Time will only tell what happens from here, but all I know is that we won’t be able to predict it.
The Good Place is the perfect feel–good show because it makes viewers laugh while they think about the ridiculousness of life on earth. It also notably inspires philosophical thinking. Seeing the characters try so hard to be good people encourages us to look inwardly and ponder what we can do better. Not many shows fall under the Philoso-Comedy genre, but The Good Place nails this balance. It shines a spotlight on philosophy, which traditionally is not part of popular culture, and makes it accessible and entertaining to the average person.
The Good Place’s humor and set–up outwardly seem like they could come from the imagination of a six–year–old. However, digging deeper reveals a much more significant message. If someone like Eleanor was supposed to end up in the Bad Place, tortured indefinitely along with the world’s worst criminals and deviants, how is the system fair? The binary and arbitrary Good Place/Bad Place point system is reminiscent of many religious systems’ views of the afterlife.
Yet the idea that people are dynamic and have the capacity to change for the better becomes undeniable as the show progresses and even as we look around in our own lives. Thus, the proposition that we should rebel against systematic injustice emerges, an idea from which we certainly can benefit as we navigate the modern world.
With references to dank memes, Logan Paul, and moral philosophy all in one place, it’s hard to not love this show. The wonderful cast hits it out of the park, bringing the vision of the writers to life and making the show the great success it is today. So, for heaven’s sake, go watch the next episode!