TV

The Good Place’s Season 4 gets off to a flying start

Team Cockroach’s final test begins

Chapter 40: A Girl from Arizona, Part 1

Starring Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D’Arcy Carden, Manny Jacinto and Ted Danson

Last year, we finished the third season of The Good Place with Team Cockroach attempting to revamp the entire points system on which the real Good Place rests, as all humans were going to the Bad Place. To achieve this, four humans have been selected for another experiment to see whether they can be improved just like Chidi, Eleanor, Tahani and Jason were previously. Sean (Marc Evan Jackson at his deliciously evil best) is the one responsible for selecting these humans, and the season three finale saw two of the human subjects appear in “The Good Place”: Simone (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and gossip blogger John (Brandon Scott Jones). As it turns out, these two were sent to torture and distract Chidi (William Jackson Harper) and Tahani (Jameela Jamil) respectively, ultimately leading to Chidi deciding to have his memories wiped: a heartbreaking decision that had huge ramifications for Eleanor (Kristen Bell), just as they had fallen deeply in love.

The experiment that they have elected to run, however, is not plain sailing and the group are soon faced with the difficulty of this challenge. The two new Neighbourhood residents are far from easy. First, there is the criminally dull Linda (Rachel Winfree), whose hobbies include knitting and listening to birds. When given the opportunity for anything in the word, including a baby elephant made of pure light that speaks universal secrets (conferring on us the unsettling knowledge that “Shirley Temple killed JFK” and “Stone Henge was a sex thing”), Linda decides upon a peppermint. Her lack of enthusiasm is immediately frustrating and unsettling to both Eleanor and Michael (Ted Danson), so improving her point total shan’t be an easy task.

Next, we have misogynist Brent (Benjamin Koldyke), who looks far too comfortable at being accepted into the Good Place even though it is palpably obvious that he does not deserve to be there. Brent recounts how before his death, there was something of a MeToo movement against him in his office from some women who “need to loosen up”. His immediate reaction upon seeing Janet (D’Arcy Corden) is that she is the secretary, and even former demon Michael isn’t keen to talk to him. Eleanor immediately takes a disliking to him, and the fact that we’re stuck with him for the rest of the season is already making my skin crawl.

Simone is also causing problems. Convinced that everything that she is experiencing is the side effect of her brain shutting down from a life threatening accident, Simone is keen to test the boundaries of her new surroundings, including pushing people into swimming pools and wearing outlandish outfits wherever she moves. Until she accepts that this is her new reality, there is no hope of improving her point total. Eleanor is forced to make an incredibly difficult decision in introducing Chidi and Simone to each other, despite knowing their potential for falling for each other.

An unsettling third-act plot point is that dull, uninteresting Linda is in fact the demon Chris, sent by Shawn to sabotage the experiment. Upon this reveal, Judge Gen (Maya Rudolph) insists that Chidi be the final subject in the experiment. Shawn is none to impressed by this suggestion, saying that it is like “studying for a test and then acing it”, and terming it “cheating”.

Meanwhile, Jason (Manny Jacinto) and Derek (Jason Mantzoukas) are driven to distraction over the mutual interest in Janet. Despite Jason’s best efforts, he is increasingly distressed by Derek’s overt assertions that he will win Janet and destroy Jason, leading Jason to push Derek’s plunger and set off an urgent sky message of Derek proclaiming, “Attention! I have been Derek-ed! Murder is me!”.

With Chris placed back on the train to the Bad Place, Eleanor and Team Cockroach are once again ready to complete the experiment to save the entire afterlife.

Mark’s Maundering Musings

For a programme as brilliant as The Good Place, it’s such a shame that so much of the final season seems to be devoted to the betterment of arbitrary subjects (admittedly two of them are Chidi and Simone, who we do know), but considering the other two we are meant to be invested in the improvement of are Brent and John, the people we are really more invested in the improvement of are Team Cockroach. It’s a shame for the final season to be so bogged down with these plot devices and semantics.

Speaking of which, I cannot seem to shake the feeling that the experiment upon the core four never really stopped in the first place. This is definitely bad news for Jason who, despite finding genuine connection with Janet, must have lost some points over his murdering of Derek. It would make sense for the other characters, however, especially as Eleanor – a serial slacker – is standing front and centre in the effort to save mankind.

Seeing Linda punch Michael and Eleanor in the face before taking flight and attacking several Good Place inhabitants was just the sort of unexpected bizarre moment I have come to expect from The Good Place.

Janet seems to be stretched really thin by the creation of this new neighbourhood – in a way that she never experienced in the original Good Place. She is getting very good at passive aggression, which is funny in its own way, but let’s hope she’s back to her normal before too long.

I am frustrated by the plot device of memory wiping in The Good Place at this point. While we have this huge amount of knowledge, I am hugely confused to this point as to what the characters remember and what they don’t. I vaguely remember Eleanor being granted her memories from the reboots back last season, but I’m unaware if any of the others remember anything from before they were brought back to life. It’s tricky to root for a romance between Chidi and Eleanor when they have yet another memory wipe to get over. Here’s hoping that they find a way to get back all of their memories before the series is over.

I’m slightly suspicious that we didn’t see Janet deposit Chris in the train. What if she’s been replaced by a Bad Janet on the train, sent to sabotage the experiment once again? I wouldn’t put it past them…

Line delivery of the week

So many to pick from, from Tahani attesting that Patrick Stewart was a previous racquetball partner, to Jason’s imitation of Derek’s mean eyes, plus Chidi’s insistence that reading lights are really good for reading, I have to pick:

Well, you might!

Eleanor, after Chidi tells her that he won’t forget her name.

The delivery is absolutely spectacular and is funny while also being quite heartbreaking considering what Eleanor is going through.

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