This The Good Place review contains spoilers.
The Good Place Season 3 Episode 10
In 1534, Douglas Wynegarr of Hawkhurst, England gave his grandmother a dozen roses for her birthday. He picked them himself and walked them over to her. She was pleased. For this action Douglas was awarded 145 points by heaven and hell’s collaborative points system.
In 2009, Doug Ewing of Scaggsville, Maryland also gave his grandmother a dozen roses. He lost four points in the same system? Why? Because he ordered the roses from his cell phone that was made in a sweatshop. The flowers were grown with toxic pesticides and picked by exploited migrant workers and then delivered from thousands of miles away, creating a massive carbon footprint. The profits of said flower sale ended up in the pocket of a racist billionaire CEO who sends his female employees unwanted dick pics.
The world is too small and every decision has hundreds if not thousands of unintended consequences that will make the world even smaller and even worse. For this we are all damned to an eternity hell. Welcome back to The Good Place! Thursdays, 8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 CT on NBC.
Yes, The Good Placeis back after a brief (briefer than usual, in fact) holiday hiatus, and thank God it is. Because as evidenced as the story of the two Dougs, the show remains as morally complex and sensitive to the human experience as ever. Just one month ago, in the brilliantly conceived and executed “Janet(s),” The Good Place revealed that no human being has been granted entrance into the Good Place for centuries. Now “The Book of Dougs” describes why.
Previously Michael has operated under the assumption that The Bad Place has somehow infiltrated the accounting department and hacked the points system. Now, however, he realizes that the point system didn’t need to be hacked.
“Everyday the world gets a little more complicated and being a good person becomes harder,” Michael says.
Or as Tahani puts it about an unrelated matter: “There are so many unintended consequences to every action!”
In “The Book of Dougs,” The Good Place’s patience and sensitivity towards humanity comes through once again. The story of Doug Ewing of Scaggsville, Maryland and his dozen roses is undoubtedly familiar to many viewers. I, myself, would like to think I’m a decent person but I’m composing this review on a device made in a sweatshop and am hooked up to an Internet connection provided by a multinational conglomerate with a healthy hatred for antitrust laws.
The world has become complex and if nothing else it’s nice to hear a character played by Ted Danson acknowledge that. But The Good Place isn’t trying to exonerate its viewers’ first world guilt. It’s simply trying to present the next step in an incredibly compelling story. And that it does beautifully.
“The Book of Dougs” is such a winsome half hour of television. Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, Jason, Michael, and Janet have arrived at the Good Place but they’re still not quite all the way in yet. They’re merely in heaven’s mailroom, something Eleanor isn’t too annoyed about as she did have a “mailmen from heaven” calendar (Michael urges the group not to engage with Eleanor re: this memory).
The Good Place’s mailroom isn’t exactly where the gang wants to be right now but at least it’s a nice change of pace from the past few events of their lives (and after lives). They do have to stay undercover as humans who have won a contest to see heaven’s mailroom but tricking the employees of heaven is like shooting fish in a barrel as it turns out.
In fact the mailroom’s only employee is Gwendolyn…oh sweet Gwendolyn. Gwendolyn fully believes that the humans have won a contest, that Michael is an accountant, and that Janet is a “Neutral Janet” and not a being so full of conflicting emotions she’s afraid they’ll come out of her butt. Gwendolyn even politely leaves the room to investigate a dog not barking simply because Michael asked about it, leaving Michael to set up a meeting with The Good Place Committee on a rotary phone.
Of all the working Joes and Janes of the afterlife that The Good Place has introduced us to, Gwendolyn may very well be my favorite. As portrayed by Nicole Byer (of Netflix’s Nailed It!), Gwendolyn is a being completely devoid of suspicion and simply delighted to meet these new humans.
“You two are very attractive,” she tells Jason and Tahani at one point. “Are all humans this attractive?”
No, Gwendolyn, they are not. Perhaps the biggest belly laugh The Good Place has gotten from me this season is Gwendolyn’s excited “If I could believe it? Watch this…I BELIEVE IT!” Bless her.
Gwendolyn isn’t the only Good Placer we meet this week though.The Committee turns out to be made up of five diverse, unbearably accommodating dweebs (one of whom is Paul Scheer, which is nice. Now there is only June Diane Raphael to go for the full How Did This Get Made? trifecta). “The Book of Dougs” isn’t a series or even series finale so it’s clear that Michael isn’t going to get through to these people, the only question is why.
As it turns out, he doesactually get through to them. The Committee is very concerned with Michael’s findings. Concerned enough that they’re going to fast track the creation of another committee to investigate this. That will take a scant 400 years…followed by another 1,000 years for the committee to investigate itself for signs of bias.
“Michael. We have rules; procedures. We’re the good guys. We can’t just do stuff,” one of the Committee members says. The Committee’s annoying and counter-productive adherence to rules and regulations serves as a friendly reminder from The Good Place that “good” isn’t necessarily the goal here. Sure, the characters still want to get into The Good Place because it beats the hell (heh) out of the alternative. As viewers, however, we’re not on the side of “Good,” we’re on the side of human. Human by nature means imperfection, and of course…unintended consequences
The mailroom setting of “The Book of Dougs” serves as the perfect proving ground for the show to tease the unintended consequences of human actions right before Michael learns about them. The clearest representative of this is Tahani. Jason is still dealing with having learned that Janet is in love with him. He asks Tahani what to do because obviously our sweet boy doesn’t know, himself. Unfortunately, it appears that Tahani doesn’t know either.
All Tahani wants to do is to set up her husband with the robot-like assistant of the after life. And it proves even harder than that already hard sentence suggests. Having Jason confront the issue only makes things worse. Creating a “Death Did Us Part” certificate for her and Jason proves to be too convoluted. And tearing said certificate is a no-go.
“It’s a nice gesture. I feel both pitied and put on the spot,” Janet says.
Elsewhere in the mailroom, Eleanor and Chidi are having similar issues. Eleanor and Chidi have fully embraced being in love, which is the kind of miracle one would expect to be the ending of their respective stories, particularly since it took them 800 lifetimes to fully realize their feelings. In reality, however, finding love is just the beginning. When Chidi invites Eleanor on a date to forget their current troubles and then changes into a heavenly mail carrier uniform he found, Eleanor bursts into tears.
What’s wrong? Does Eleanor not like the outfit?
“I love the outfit!” she cries. “I’m just furious and this is the happiest I’ve ever been!”
Eleanor can’t quite deal with the powerful feelings she’s suddenly confronted with. She had no idea that finding love didn’t mean the extinguishment of all anxiety. It just means that anxiety transfers over to a fear of losing love.
That’s what makes “The Book of Dougs” work so well. The truth that Michael uncovers from the two Doug Stories tells the viewer why the Good Place’s system is flawed. The actions of our human characters (and Janet) show us why the system is flawed. What points system could possibly account for the behavior of creatures that cry when they see other people cry because they want to be involved?
The world may be small but the universe is big and positively everything is far above humanity’s pay grade. There’s no way we could get ourselves into heaven anymore. We must rely on the kindness of celestial strangers. Hopefully Michael is able to convince The Judge of the flaws in the system at next week’s detente in the Inter-dimensional Hole of Pancakes. Chidi will be in his finest mailroom attire.