The Good Place 2.12: “Somewhere Else”
Michael Schur (director and writer), David J. Miller (cinematographer), Eric Kissack (editor)
Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D’Arcy Carden, Manny Jacinto (cast)
Season two of The Good Place concluded last week, and everything I’m about to say is a spoiler! All the usual warnings apply.
At the end of season one of The Good Place, viewers were staggered to realize that Michael possessed a reboot button all along. Season two took us through many reboots, memorably including far too much chowder. Then it settled into a groove, in which Michael teamed up with his band of human experiments to try to keep his failures a secret from his boss, and a madcap escape plot led them through the Bad Place. By the end of the season, the humans were pleading their case in front of the immortal Judge Gen, the truly wonderful Maya Rudolph.
Now, at the end of season two we learn there was an even bigger reboot button just waiting to be pushed. Michael persuades the judge that humans just need “a push” in the right direction to be good people, and she allows the experiment of sending them back to their lives, narrowly escaping death instead of being killed, and then, surprise—it’s not a surprise—there is an ethics lesson.
At the end of the second season I can say with confidence: this show loves both reboots and ethics lessons.
Judge Gen tells them all, “You’re supposed to do good things because you’re good, not because you’re seeking moral dessert,” a concept that evolves throughout the rest of the season finale to become an interrogation of people’s motives for kindness and ethical behavior.
After Eleanor’s reboot brush with death, she tells her terrible friends about it and they are suitably terrible. She decides to embark on a path of self-improvement, and we are treated to a betterment montage. After some hiccups and another brief intervention from Michael, she stumbles onto some online videos of Chidi, talking about, of course, ethics. He says, “We are not in this alone,” which resonates so much for Eleanor that she flies around the world to his office. The season ends with her meeting him in life for the first time.
And there’s the thing: when Eleanor was hiccuping in her attempt to become a better person, it was because she was alone in her attempt, surrounded by terrible friends and a terrible boss, and a terrible trumped up lawsuit. There’s a perfectly nice environmentalist there, too, but she doesn’t really connect with him.
When Michael had the idea for this reboot into life, it was because the judge’s other suggestion was to separate the four humans into medium places for an uncertain amount of time, and being separated in that way was unacceptable to them.
Right before that, the audience had been treated to, in quick succession, interpersonal payoff conversations between Eleanor and Tahani; Jason and Janet—who is now more than a Janet, perhaps we can call her Janet Plus? Janeter?; and Chidi and Eleanor. If I had had a checklist of conversations I wanted to see happen, every entry on it would have been checked off by the end of these quickie conversations. It was very efficient, and it also conveyed just how much these characters rely on each other, and trust each other, and look out for each other after all they’ve been through together.
No wonder they refused a medium place where they’d each be alone for maybe forever. This show is about how much having good friends who are working to be good people can help us become good people ourselves. You don’t abandon your friends who are trying so hard.
And so, for now, they are back on earth, living. While we need to wait until the third season to see how Jason and Tahani are doing, I can only imagine this show will move at its signature lightning speed to reunite them with Chidi and Eleanor post-haste.
Of course, I’m looking forward to the third season, but I must admit that I am kind of already anticipating the end of the season with dread. Michael has already revealed that he can reboot the humans’ minds in the Neighborhood, and that he and the Judge can reboot them into their lost lives on earth. (Or a simulation thereof? Who knows?) What is left? If the show gets picked up for a fourth season, will the end of the third season see Michael rebooting, like, the universe?