entertainment 6 months ago

‘The Good Place’ Recap: Cuts Like a Time-Knife

Rolling Stone — Alan Sepinwall

A review of “Chidi Sees the Time-Knife,” this week’s The Good Place, coming up just as soon as I describe the plot of the Entourage movie to William Shakespeare …

And so here we are, right back where it all started.

Sort of.

Other episodes this season (“Janet(s)” in particular) have offered us tastes of the supernatural craziness The Good Place specialized in before this season’s detour back to mortality. But none of them plunged quite as deep into the insanity as “Chidi Sees the Time-Knife,” which begins in a Steve Ditko Doctor Strange panel come to life and ends with Michael, Janet and the rest of Team Cockroach setting up shop in a new neighborhood in Mindy St. Clair‘s backyard.

This is The Good Place at its very best: a marriage of utterly surreal comedy with very grounded concerns about the best way to live one’s life. So on the one hand you have the titular event involving Chidi, not to mention Tahani spending much of the episode being threatened by something called neednoggle that at times appears to be a cute scarf. And on the other, you have Jason, of all people, convincing the Judge that life on Earth has become much too ethically fraught for the points system to function the way it did in centuries past. (Maya Rudolph’s voice practically went to the register she uses as the Hormone Monstress on Big Mouth when the Judge complained, “”Also, I guess I’m black. And they do not like black ladies down there! Crap, y’all! This is bad!”) Janet’s feelings for Jason remain an issue, but now they’re complicated by the presence of Derek, who has, like Janet, become   much more functional (upstairs and down) after hundreds of thousands of reboots. It’s the same stories the show has been telling all season, but with that added layer of weirdness that was mostly absent during our time in Australia and elsewhere.

That Michael has been allowed to build a new neighborhood is something of a reset, too. Eleanor even has Michael rebuild the Icelandic primitive clown house, because that’s where she and Chidi fell in love the first time. But the arrangement is new: it’s in the Medium Place, the four humans are now helpers rather than guinea pigs, and Michael and Shawn both have oversight power(*). The stakes appear to be the same as before: if Michael is proven wrong, he’ll be “retired,” Janet will be turned into a marble, and the humans will be tortured forever. But Shawn adds an unsettling new twist: he has built a Michael-shaped suit for the other demons to wear (starting with Vicky), so that Eleanor and the others will believe their good friend Michael is the one torturing them for eternity. It’s a cruel enough twist to render Michael nearly catatonic, and potentially scotch the whole experiment before it even starts.

(*) It does raise the question of why Paul Scheer or somebody else from the Good Place isn’t involved. But based on what we saw of the committee last week, the Judge may have deemed them too indecisive to be helpful here. 

Because The Good Place burns through plot so quickly, the timing of this particular set-up being introduced so close to the end of a season, but not at the end has me wondering if it’ll last very long at all. But the last few episodes — starting with “Janet(s),” and not coincidentally all set in the afterlife — have felt like the show fully has its groove back. Whatever’s coming in the finale, I can’t wait to marvel at it.

Some other thoughts:

  • A while back, footage of William Jackson Harper teaching Ted Danson how to floss leaked on the interwebs. Here, we finally see the purpose of that lesson, as Michael does it while stalling for time with the Judge. Would have been even more fun if it was a complete surprise, but it’s the kind of physical comedy Danson has always done so well.
  • Shawn explaining why humans are terrible: “Limp Bizkit, slavery. I rest my case.”

What did everybody else think?

Previously: Heaven Can Wait