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Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Jake Lipson, Sep 18, 2019.
Hilarious episode. The best of the season. Jason, Eleanor, Janet, Michael: all superb this week.
Are you sure it was hilarious? Maybe that just what they want you to think.
Welcome to the Bad Place.
Population: YOUR MOM
The most interesting thing about tonight's episode was that it made Bad Janet a bit more three-dimensional.
Brent, though, is an interesting challenge. What do you do with someone who is genuinely a bad person? Here is someone whose life experiences have not equipped him to handle anything other than validation. Before he can develop empathy, he needs to understand adversity.
Tonight's episode reinforced something that I've been wondering for the past few weeks.
When the experiment ends, do all four humans have to have made progress in order for Michael's theory to be proven correct? Or if, for example, Chidi, Simone and John improve, but Brent doesn't, does Brent's lack of improvement doom the whole human race? Or would the Judge see these results and think "Well, Michael is right -- the system is broken and humans are capable of improving -- but some people do still belong in the Bad Place?"
I think to "win" the experiment, all four humans need to be in net positive territory in terms of points.
The wildcard in my mind is whether Michael has planted the seeds for a rebellion in the Bad Place itself, irrespective of the judge's ruling. We've seen from both various demons and Bad Janet that their delight in causing humans misery is rooted in an ironclad belief that humans are terrible and deserve it. If they denizens of the Bad Place no longer believe that to be true, the whole foundation of their belief system collapses.
So even if Eleanor's legal argument fails, Michael's populist argument might succeed.
This episode also specifically mentioned that this Bad Janet has been in Good Janet's void for six months. I'm not sure how long she was impersonating "our" Janet, but it was probably a good while. When Eleanor was interrogating Michael about whether or not he was Vicky in a Michael suit, she said that his pep talk to her in the second episode was "a month ago."
The Judge gave them one year of Earth time to conduct the experiment before she would issue a ruling, and they've already burned through at least seven months based on the timeline that we know.
Therefore, it seems likely that the end of the experiment is not the end of the series, because we still have eight episodes to go. It appears that the show is going to have to pivot and reinvent itself again.
Spoilers below for this week's episode, but I think spoilerizing the entire post is counterproductive to discussion, so just don't read any further until you've seen it.
With the end of tonight's seventh episode, we are exactly halfway through the final season. (They added an extra episode, the 14th this season, so that the series finale runs an hour.)
And it looks like the show just blew up its premise again because the experiment that has provided the basis for the first half of the season is now over.
This is so good I just want to post this clip so we can all enjoy it again:
I loved the callbacks to the first season finale here. I expected one of them to figure out that they weren't in the Good Place sooner or later, but I didn't expect it to be in this way. I'm also really curious to see what happens because Simone and John when they went off to abandon Brent and Chidi. That's quite a reversal from Eleanor and Jason going back to rescue Chidi and Tahani from being sent to the Bad Place in their stead.
It's also really impressive in terms of the writing -- and probably not good for the human race -- that Brent appears to have not improved much, if at all, since the beginning of the season. Score one for the Bad Place?
I assume the Judge will have to issue her ruling now, but I have no idea where the show goes after that, and we've got as much left as we've seen already this season.
I love that the show continues to be willing to reinvent itself.
its Zero o'clock in the sky somewhere
A toilet full of broccoli
They see what they see, man
In other news, the series finale has been scheduled for Thursday, January 30, 2020.
It will be an hour-long episode (#13 and #14 this year as previously announced) and a post-show interview special with the entire cast hosted by Seth Myers, so a 90-minute block altogether.
What's interesting to me is that none of the three humans selected for this experiment have meaningfully improved over the course of the year. Simone is as rigid as ever in her worldview, John is still a nasty gossip, and Brent is still The Absolute Worst™. The only one to meaningfully improve over the course of the season is Chidi, who had already gone on a journey of self-improvement that he couldn't remember.
But think back to when the Judge initially evaluated the four of them. At that point, Eleanor was the only one who had meaningfully improved. It took Chidi and Tahani a lot longer to improve. And Jason might still be too oblivious to have meaningfully improved.
The clock ran out mid-confession for him. Was that the turning point, or just more of his self-involved bullshirt?
Yeah, you're right. Brent has always been the toughest nut to crack, but this latest episode also dismantled any progress that Simone and John appeared to be making. John might have gotten somewhere if he had been able to keep Jason's secret, which he apparently did for the time elapsed between the previous episode and this one, but it didn't matter because he blew it this week. Simone's failure to expand surprised me a bit, because we've seen her be more generous with Eleanor and the others last season (like after Eleanor blew up at Tahani's engagement party to Larry Hemsworth.) But of course she doesn't remember that, and even if she did, it wouldn't matter to this experiment because her points from her life on Earth still got her into the Bad Place. But of course the difference between helping Eleanor after the party and helping Brent this week is that Eleanor was already someone Simone was close to and liked from working with her on the study, whereas Brent is, well, Brent.
Michael's hypothesis when Chidi proposed the experiment was that the humans would improve because they would bond, support each other and become better people, which is what the original four humans did. I think their failure to improve speaks to their failure to really connect on the level that the original four did. Brent had no reason to improve around the others because he didn't really care about them. So the group splintering rather than banding together to rescue Brent from the sinkhole is significant because it relates to the failure of Michael's original hypothesis. If they did improve -- which, as you say, it doesn't look like they did -- it wasn't because they care about each other. Eleanor wanted to come back to save Chidi and Tahani from going to the Bad Place because she learned to care about what happened to them. Brent doesn't care about any of the other subjects, and they don't care about him, which is key to their apparent failure.
Chidi and Simone are the exception to this because they were romantically involved this year, so obviously she cares about him to some extent. But this episode demonstrated that even that bond wasn't as significant as Chidi thought it was.
Does it matter? I mean, in terms of his development as a human being, it does, but for the purposes of the experiment, the Judge gave them a length of time, so any improvement past that length of time wouldn't count unless she grants an extension, which I very much doubt she will be in the mood to do.
The evidence from before the clock ran out does not particularly point in Brent's favor. If you go back and look at the first season finale, when the group reacted to the reveal that they were in the Bad Place, no one reacted by saying they were a good person. They took a minute to be surprised, but Tahani accepted that her motives were impure because she just wanted to stick it to her sister; Chidi said that Michael was right about him hurting everyone he loves due to his rigidity and indecisiveness; and Jason was, well, Jason. Even confronted with the information that he had been sent to the Bad Place, Brent insisted he was a good person, which none of the original group really did. So I'm not really optimistic that he would have turned it around enough if he'd been able to finish that sentence before the clock ran out.
Listening to her in the latest episode, I found Tahani to be regressing a bit, being quite judgmental of people (clothes, habits, etc.). Maybe it was just disappointment that their efforts weren't bringing about the desired results, but that was a major takeaway for me from this most recent episode.
Tonight's episode was directed by Kristen Bell.
"Jason Mendoza didn't have an easy life. He once told me the closest he'd ever gotten to having a piñata on his birthday was when a seagull ate too many condoms on the beach and exploded."
That is BONKERS. This twist surprised me almost as much as "This is the Bad Place!" did in season 1. In season 1, it was surprising that they were willing to radically alter the premise to that degree, but once I sat there and thought about it, there were clues all throughout the season that led up to that twist. Rewatching the season confirmed it, as it was easy to pick up all the torture scenarios once I knew where things were headed.
But I don't think there has been anything established thus far that would have foreshadowed the Judge making such an extreme decision.
It's deeply ironic that someone who, since the dawn of time, has presided over the world, judging people for their morality, is okay with the mass murder of the human race. And she even said it directly to Eleanor, a human who would be among those extinguished, without so much as a flinch. How is it logical or ethical to say, "The points system is flawed," which she did, but then to take that out on the human beings who don't even know what the points system is, much less have any say in designing it? If they don't come to a conclusion on how to fix the point system, rebooting the human race wouldn't matter anyway because the system would still be flawed in judging the hypothetical replacement humans the Judge wants to create from scratch.
Whatever they figure out, they can't hold the Judge off for seven more episodes, so they're going to have to run with something.
If Chidi is successful in designing a new way to evaluate humans, would the Judge even listen to it? Or does she herself have to be overthrown in order for the human race to continue? Is there even a way to do that? It appears that she is basically God in this universe, because we haven't seen anyone above her.
Oh, man, I'm so excited for next week. For the first and only time this season, I actually won't be watching live because I'm going to Kristin Bell's other project next Thursday, so all of my primetime shows will be recorded. But this is the first thing I'll cue up when I get home and ready to watch.
As I was watching this latest episode, I began marveling how emotionally wrapped up in these characters and their fate I was. For four years we have watched their ins and outs and having them have to endure final judgment was VERY suspenseful (for a COMEDY yet!).
Have to bow low and long to the writers for sustaining our involvement and pulling our emotions so much for a series that hasn't had half the number of episodes that similar running comedies have produced.
I think that's because of how quickly they move the story along and how frequently the show reinvents itself. Even though the actual episode count is not that high, they have covered more narrative ground in four seasons than most shows do in eight. If this was a normal show where the goal was to produce as many episodes as possible, they probably would have dragged the premise out and gotten to the "This is the Bad Place!" twist somewhere in the middle of season 3. Then, they could have easily spent a whole season on Eleanor finding Chidi based off of her note in Janet's mouth during the first reboot. After that, there would have been ample ways to make the 800-some reboots last way longer than a single episode. They might have converted Michael to Team Cockroach around season 5, and gone back to Earth by season 7 or so. You could probably get a whole season out of Chidi's research project with the group, and another one out of trying to help people on Earth before being taken into Janet's void, so that would be season 9.
There's a way to produce a version of this show that was padded out with unnecessary filler, but it wouldn't be anywhere near as good as this one is. The fact that Michael Schur and the other writers have soundly rejected that path and refused to do that is admirable. The fact that NBC as a network has decided to allow them to do that is even more surprising. It definitely feels like we have had a long and substantial journey with these characters, and I mean that in a good way, because they have gone through so much despite the relative brevity of the show's run. I always thought this, but I noticed it especially when I re-watched the previous seasons in the week or so leading up to the season 4 premiere. It was astonishing to see again how daringly, frequently and thoroughly the show completely threw itself through a creative loop and yet still feels consistent in terms of the characters and their collective experiences together. And they're still doing it. An episode like last night's where Eleanor was asking an all-knowing Judge to clarify plans to "cancel" Earth wouldn't have seemed possible to me if you told me about it while I was watching the pilot for the first time three years ago, and yet here we are and it all tracks and works.
The whole show has really been a remarkable achievement so far. I hope, and have every reason to believe at this point, that they will stick the landing. Although I will miss spending time in this world with these characters when the show is over, I'm very glad that the show is getting to end on its own terms and curious to see what sticking the landing means for this particular show. Right now, I'm still getting the sense that it could be basically anything and I would probably accept it with these writers and this cast and this crew doing their usual terrific work.