By Laurence Boag-Matthews, 3rd year Liberal Arts
The Good Place (2016-) is back - and if this first episode is anything to go by, the high standard set by the previous three seasons will continue in the fourth.
The show is among creator Michael Schur’s body of work, alongside The Office - US (2005-2013), Parks and Recreation (2009-2015), and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013-). Marking Schur’s shift away from the ensemble sitcom type network comedy and into a more story driven show,The Good Place blends the carefree vibe of his previous shows with discussion of ethical and philosophical questions and theories.
The first season of the show began with Eleanor Shellstrop (Bell), being told she is in The Good Place - heaven - but she quickly lets her ‘soulmate’ Chidi (Harper) know that she belongs in The Bad Place. She teams up with Chidi, an ethics and moral philosophy professor, to try to become a person worthy of The Good Place.
Along the way we meet Tahani Al-Jamil (Jamil) and Jason Mendoza (Jacinto), and the twist at the end of season one reveals that they are not in the Good Place, they are in a successful Bad Place test designed to make them torture each other. This leads to them teaming up with demon Michael (Danson) and ‘not-a-girl’ ‘not-a-robot’ all-knowing being Janet (Carden).
The Good Place blends the carefree vibe of his previous shows with discussion of ethical and philosophical questions and theories
At the end of season three we left our team in a recreation of the first experiment, an attempt by Michael to prove to the Judge (Rudolph) that the points system by which humans are graded to get into the Good or Bad Place is flawed. Chidi and Eleanor had fallen in love but The Bad Place sent Chidi’s ex girlfriend Simone (Howell-Baptiste) to harm the experiment, leading to Chidi’s memory being wiped so he could continue without ruining the group’s chances of success.
This episode introduces the final human subjects in the experiment: almost painfully on-point man-baby Brent (Koldyke), and fully painfully boring demon-in disguise Linda (Winfree) who is outed to be Chris Baker (Guldan) in an absolutely hilarious flying fight scene. We also see the return of fan-favourite Derek (Mantzoukas), Janet’s son-slash-rebound-guy who declares war on Jason, and is ‘Dereked’ - rebooted - in rage, putting the experiment at risk as his face looms large in the sky.
We can look forward to an emotional rollercoaster this season
Finally, the main philosophical challenge of the final season premiere comes from neuroscientist Simone’s belief that the situation is her comatose mind hallucinating, so she can do anything she wants. It is interesting to consider the fact that for any one of the characters this could be true, and the whole thing may be a figment of one of their imaginations - though it wouldn’t make for great TV.
This episode strikes the delicate balance that Schur has managed to keep up for the show so far, a mix of silliness and emotional heft, mainly delivered by Kristen Bell’s portrayal of Eleanor struggling to see Chidi not remember her, and whether to allow him and Simone to meet, risking the possibility of them falling in love again in front of her eyes. Returning to the original 'Good Place' set is an interesting and effective device as it reminds us of how far the characters have come since we were last here, and by now we’re far more invested in their journeys.
Some of them - like Janet or Jason - have become completely different characters to those we met in season one, episode one. From what we have seen already, we can look forward to an emotional rollercoaster this season with Eleanor, Chidi and Simone already set up for conflict and heartache, while Janet and Jason’s relationship is under strain with her new role as creator and controller of the town.
If you like The Good Place watch out for The Good Place: The Podcast, hosted by Marc Evan Jackson - head demon Shawn - and joined by members of the cast and crew to discuss that week’s episode. It is a delight to hear how the show is put together and touching to hear how much everyone involved truly enjoys making and talking about it.
Featured: IMDb / Colleen Hayes
Are you looking forward to spending some more time in The Good Place this season?