Monday, July 29, 2019

TV Show Review: The Good Place - Season 3


Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Laughs, stuff to think about
Cons: The first few episodes a little slow
The Bottom Line:
Humans back on Earth
Can they prove they are good now?
Deep thoughts while you laugh




“Can You Believe My High School Voted Me Most Likely to Die Young and Unaccomplished?”  “You Did Die Young and Unaccomplished.”

One thing that has impressed me about The Good Place is the writer’s willingness to reframe the premise of the show each season.  Yes, the show is about four humans in the afterlife, but how they explore that, and what it means to be good or bad, is constantly changing.  Nowhere is that more obvious than in season 3.

Before we go on, I need to issue a giant SPOILER WARNING.  No, I won’t be spoiling season 3.  But to discuss season 3, I will need to spoil a big twist in season 1 and some twists in season 2.  Trust me, you will still enjoy this show even knowing what is coming, but it really is best going into the show completely spoiler free.  So go back and watch the earlier seasons if you haven’t already.  And, when you are ready to move on, come back to this review.

All ready?  Then let’s move on.

Season 3 picks up where season 2 left off.  Our human characters, Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), and Jason (Manny Jacinto) are back on Earth with no memory of their deaths or anything that has transpired in all the reboots of the Good Place.  Michael (Ted Danson), demon turned friend, has been allowed to reset the timeline as if these four haven’t died in an experiment to see if they can prove they can become good and earn their way to the real Good Place.  However, Michael and afterlife assistant Janet (D’Arcy Carden) can’t stay on the sidelines and keep pushing these four to be better.  It starts by getting them all together in Australia to study philosophy under Chidi.  What will happen when they meet up?  Will they be able to improve themselves?  Will Michael and Janet stay out of things?  Or will they get caught trying to help the humans?

In any other show, I would expect this premise to take up an entire season, and that’s close to what the show has done in the first two seasons.  Instead, the show spends a few episodes doing this and then blows that up and moves on to something else.  And then they do it again.  These changes all make sense as we follow the characters on their journey, so it’s easy to keep up with the natural progression of things.

Frankly, I felt the season got stronger as it went along.  Part of that is because I find some of the best scenes of this show are also when Michael is interacting with the humans, something he didn’t get to do much of during the early part of the season since they were supposed to be on their own.  Plus, I love Janet.  The more we see of Janet, the better, in my opinion, and she got several chances to shine in the second half.

Which brings me to a mini rant.  D’Arcy Carden was completely robbed when the Emmy announcements came out this month.  There is an episode where she has to play not only a couple different iterations of her character but also play Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason.  And she absolutely nails it.  That was by far the best episode of the seasons, and it is thanks to all her hard work.  Heck, she should have won best supporting actress with no contest.  Once you watch the episode, you’ll understand.

Now, this isn’t to take away from the rest of the cast.  Ted Danson has been nominated again (as has the show in general), and he deserves his Emmy nomination.  The rest of the cast is equally strong.  It really is an ensemble show, and each character is given several chances to shine over the course of the season, and the actors all nail their showcase scenes.  Considering some of the things the writers throw at the characters, that’s saying something, too.

Speaking of which, the special effects are still strong.  Yes, a half hour comedy that is strong on special effects, and they nail it.

In case you’ve missed it, yes, I did still find the show funny.  There is at least one scene an episode that has me laughing out loud, and I’m chuckling at things the entire episode.  But the show also makes you think.  I will issue my standard disclaimer – I don’t agree with the show’s theology about the afterlife, but they still raise some interesting questions about good and bad and what that looks like.  I especially am intrigued by what they are trying to say on the show.  I feel like we are building to something, and I want to know what it is.  I certainly found it interesting that they appear to be concluding that it is impossible for humans to be good enough to get into the Good Place, something that Christianity teaches.  I suspect their solution is going to be very different from the truth, however.

If you haven’t heard, it has been announced that the upcoming fourth season will be the final season of The Good Place.  The writers feel like this will allow them to go out on top while telling the story they intended to tell.  I’ll miss the show, but I am glad to see they aren’t going to drag things out.  If they were interested in doing that, they certainly could have milked several things in this season for a few more episodes.

But now is the perfect time to catch up.  Like the first two seasons, season 3 is only 13 half hour episodes, so you can easily get caught up in what is left of the summer.  And you will get addicted enough to do so.

While I did feel the early episodes of the season were a bit slow, the season still built to something fun and funny.  It’s easy to recommend season 3 of The Good Place.  Be prepared to laugh and think while you get ready for the final season of this smart and funny show.

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