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Monday, 1 October 2018

REVIEW: The Good Place lands back on earth but all is not as it seems

The Good Place is, without question one of the smartest comedies on television (or Netflix in our case). The show, which blew our tiny minds with its very clever finale of the first season which pulled the rug well and truly from under anyone who was even mildly invested. If you've never seen The Good Place stop reading here and binge the first two seasons which are available to Netflix subscribers now. If, like me, you've taken this show to your heart and have been waiting for the third season then please read on.


The reason the show is so clever is that showrunner Michael Schur keeps forcing his team to reinvent what the show is and the direction it can go. When we discovered that our four lost souls were actually in 'The Bad Place' at the conclusion of the first season, trapped in an experiment by evil Demon architect Michael (the magnificent Ted Danson) anything felt possible for season two. Micheal performed a series of 'reboots' in order to stop Eleanor (Kristin Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Jason (Manny Jacinto) and Tahani (Jameela Jamil) from coming together and foiling his plan. With every reboot, the foursome managed to eventually work out where they were and frustrated Michael was forced back to the drawing board. By the end of the second season Michael, a demon who is unable to comprehend human emotion finds himself viewing his human subjects as friends. This concept is an entirely new one to him. As the season drew to a close we find Eleanor, Chidi, Jason and Tahani back on earth with Michael determined to help them become better people and save them from eternity in The Bad Place.

I'll admit, I was worried about this third incarnation of the show. A lot of the joy of the first two seasons came from the fact that anything seemed possible in the Good/Bad Place. The world was colourful and surprising and I worried that seeing these characters in a more familiar and static setting could hinder the show rather than move it forward. In the first few moments of the season three's opener "Everything is Bonzer!" saw Michael save the lives of the four humans. Eleanor was pushed out of the way of the shopping trollies that had ploughed into her and sent her to The Bad Place. Chidi narrowly missed being flattened by an air conditioner. Michael swooped in to stop the statue of Tahani's sister from landing on top of her and Jason was set free from the portaloo that would've been his coffin if things had gone to plan.

In another clever little twist, all four humans were aware there fate had been saved. This forces all four of them to re-think their lives and decide (with an unknown nudge from their friend Michael) to change for the better. The final seconds of season two saw Eleanor track Chidi down in Australia where he was working as a professor. She finds him after Michael plants the seed of Chidi in her head. It's far more fascinating seeing these characters who we've already been on quite the journey with meet yet again!  Chidi, with help from Eleanor, has a charming new girlfriend in neuroscientist Simone. For that matter, this may be the most generous of spirit incarnation of Eleanor that we’ve ever seen. The lessons learned from a year of being good seem to have sunk in on a deeper level than just her playing enthusiastic wingman for Chidi.  Tahni joins the pair when she decides to use her near-death experience to turn her back on her privileged lifestyle. She masterfully deletes the numbers of Bono, The Edge, The Queen and The Rock from her iPhone.

The majority of the action might have been earthbound, but a worried Sean (Michael's boss and all-around bad guy) was desperately searching for any signs of the humans. His habit of placing anyone who irritates him in a cacoon is still as entertaining as it ever was. There's also a brief appearance from Judge Gen (Mya Rudolph) who allowed Michael to send his subjects back to earth and there's a sense the clock is ticking on Michael's experiment and that the humans could be back in their purgatory before too long. In a final little twist, the foursome is joined by the devil AKA Trevor (the always brilliant Adam Scott) and is unexpected arrival signals to viewers that their time on earth is clearly not going to run smoothly. The cleverest thing about The Good Place is that it keeps you on your toes. There's a reassuring sense that those behind the scenes are always strides ahead of the audience. It's rare, especially in a comedy, not to have a clue where a show is going.

My worries about the pace slowing with them all back in a familiar setting were of course unwarranted. The team working on the show have proved time and time again they know exactly where they're going and I'm happy to sit back and let them get me there. The true laugh out loud moments might've been lacking a little in this feature-length first episode but it really doesn't matter because this is a show that I'm sticking with and the rest of the week is just about killing time until the next one. It's good to have them back.

The Good Place streams every Friday on Netflix UK

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