This The Good Place review contains spoilers.
The Good Place Season 3 Episode 4
What would you do if you found out you were hell bound?
That’s the kind of big existential question that The Good Place was created in part to explore. Earlier this month, The New York Times did an exhaustive feature on Michael Schur and his ambitious TV endeavor. In it, Schur said that the central idea of The Good Place has always been simply the question “what does it mean to be a good person?”
That’s a hard enough question to begin with, impossible in fact. None of us have the answer to it and despite how high I am on this show; I can’t see The Good Place producing on a universally accepted answer in the end. This question is particularly hard because goodness doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There are seemingly an infinite number of experiences and various life configurations that a human being can endure. “Jeremy Bearimy” just happens upon one of the most philosophically complex: what does it mean to be a good person when it’s already been divinely ordained that you’re not?
Seeing Michael and Janet about to exit this plane via a transdimensional door has more brutal implications that we first imagined. Things are much more complicated than Michael having to explain how he can be Zack Pizzazz, Gordon Indigo, a friendly barman, and a wise librarian all at once. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t at first try.
Michael goes with the cover story that he is FBI Agent Rick Justice and Janet is his partner Lisa “Frenchie” Fuqua. They’re with that special demon fighting task force within the FBI that you always hear about. Unfortunately that story doesn’t quite stick.
“I used to work at a place that was raided by the FBI pretty frequently and these jamokes aren’t feds,” Eleanor says.
“Serious question: should we kill them?” Michael asks Janet.
After Janet talks him out of it, Michael decides the only remaining option is to tell the truth. So he does. It then becomes clear why Michael tried so hard to make Rick Justice work in the first place. Discovering the rules of the Good Place and the Bad Place’s strange point scoring game automatically precludes you from participating in it. You can’t do good things to receive your “good person” points if you’re aware that you’re receiving good person points when doing them.
That’s a sound enough argument, I suppose. Though it does seem unnecessarily harsh to condemn these people to the Bad Place on a technicality like this. What is the Medium Place for if not for this exact scenario?
Regardless, to the best of Michael and our understanding, this is the new reality for the gang. It’s up to them on how to react to it. Spoiler alert: they don’t react very healthily.
The Good Place’s greatest tool is undoubtedly its moral complexity. The mere fact that it wants to ask questions like this gives it a simple leg up in this unbearably crowded TV comedy economy. It bears repeating, however, that this also may be one of the most purely hilarious shows on television. Despite (or probably because) the grand eternity-ratting implications of its premise, “Jeremy Bearimy” is also potentially the funniest episode of The Good Place Season 3 yet.
It starts with the very title. What or who exactly is Jeremy Bearimy? Oh, that’s just how time works in the after life. The humans are rightly confused as to how they could spend over 300 years in the Bad Place only to return home to their usual lives. That’s because while time may move in a straight path on Earth, it moves in a more roundabout way elsewhere. The closest approximation of the Good and Bad Places’ timeline resembles the words “Jeremy Bearimy” written in English cursive. What’s the dot on the “i” for? That is Tuesdays, Julys, and sometimes nothing, obviously.
This is honestly the kind of delirious madness that makes turning on a television worth it. Hell, it’s worth waking up in the morning for. Even better though are Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason’s reactions to the news.
William Jackson Harper gets to flex his comedic muscles like never before in “Jeremy Bearimy.” Hearing that his whole life’s pursuit has been completely pointless and all that pain in his stomach meant nothing completely and utterly breaks Chidi. We’re talking taking his shirt off to go grocery shopping and screaming “God is dead!” in drug dealers’ faces levels of emotional devastation here.
In seemingly no time at all, Chidi is cooking chili in front of his class, while adding Peeps and M&Ms to the concoction and wearing the “Who What When Where Wine” women’s t-shirt he picked up at the grocery store. His students are understandably concerned. They ask for some with their upcoming exams so the now nihilistic Chidi decides to give them a rundown of the three major approaches to modern ethics. It just so happens that his three friends are following them to a “T.”
Tahani decides to give virtue for virtue’s sake a shot. This is actually pretty telling for Tahani’s mental state in her second time around on Earth. She still behaves like a cartoon because all of the characters do to a certain extent. But it’s kind of striking still to see the level of unhappiness raging within her. Let’s not forget that just one year ago, she got rid of all her belongings and made an earnest attempt to live an ascetic monk lifestyle. Now when confronted with the news that no amount of money, fame, or influence will get her into heaven, she just decides to give that shit away.
Tahani donates $2 million to the Sydney Opera House and insists that it be anonymous. Jason has an even better idea for all of Tahani’s millions though (which amounts to 131 million British pounds to be exact). Give that money to passersby on the street. Since, I’m not a distinguished professor of ethics, this seems like a pretty novel approach to Tahani’s damnation. As we eventually find out thanks to Chidi’s unhinged lesson: this is virtue ethics. Even though all hope may be lost, Tahani is trying to prove that she has moral character even if only for herself.
Jason, whether he knows it or not (and he most certainly does NOT know it), is partial to the consequentialism school of though. While Tahani was at first content to give a big chunk of her money to an opera house that probably doesn’t even need it, Jason from his time on the mean streets of Jacksonville knows that there is a world of people out there who could use Tahani’s money – the morality of an action is to be judged solely by its consequences, you see. Little does Jason know that one of those consequences will be getting married to Tahani. At first she tries to give him all of her money but the bank simply won’t allow it. “We’re technically supposed to shut down the bank if someone from Florida even walks in,” the banker says. So she settles for giving him half instead.
Eleanor, American that she is has perhaps the most stubbornly American approach to her new damned existence. At first, Eleanor is content to try to swindle a local bar out of free birthday margaritas. This almost backfires because the bartender is simply too nice to give a shit. It’s clear that this American woman is clearly going through something. Eleanor is prepared to head to the airport to leave Australia forever…and then she finds a wallet.
She wants to pocket the cash from the wallet and move on with her life but she just can’t seem to. She has to return it because…she just has to. Deontology, as Chidi will explain over his big pot of peeps and M&Ms chili, is an approach to morality through duty or obligation. The right thing is simply the right thing. You know it; now do it, you lazy asshole. Whether she’s aware of it or not, this is the school of thought that Eleanor has been following her whole life. That little voice in the back of the head knows what the right thing to do is – she just has to trust it.
Trusting that voice appears to be a particularly good move this time around. Despite the journey to return the wallet becoming a big chore (“Ha! That address is right by the bar that I picked you up at.”), the payoff is massive. Fred Booth is ecstatic to get his wallet back, not because it contains his money or his ID, but because it has a hand-written “good lucky, daddy” picture that his daughter drew for him.
“A lot of people wouldn’t have tried so hard to give this to me,” Fred says. “I hope she ends up like you when she grows up.”
The Good Place has benefitted immeasurably from its time on Earth. Not only does the scope feel bigger (which is weird given that heaven and hell are technically infinite), but more importantly it gets to incorporate other people. Michael has been so singularly focused on the eternal souls of Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason that he’s neglected to fully appreciate just how unfair the system is for everyone else.
While the humans are off, lost in their feelings, Michael sits down to a computer to write his manifesto (one agonizingly slow keystroke at a time). He’s doing it because he knows his experiment has failed but he wants to leave some reliable research for the next demon or angel bold enough to try.
It’s people like Simone and now the loving father Fred Booth that show us that there are a lot of good souls on Earth primed for saving. Thankfully, Eleanor comes to a similar conclusion.
“The six of us are doomed. But I think we have one move left. We can try,” Eleanor tells Michael, Janet, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason when they all find themselves back at the University. The stupid little voice in the back of Eleanor’s head couldn’t help but notice how happy she made Fred Booth with her simple act of kindness. The Good Place isn’t an option for them but it is for billions of other people. The Brainy Bunch is now the Soul Squad.
So far The Good Place Season 3 appears to be following a similar path to Season 2. The first quarter of the season is a madcap, creative exploration of new ideas before the show eventually settles on one and lets its characters live within a new status quo for a bit. If the Soul Squad is to be our new normal, then this season is in great shape. There are a lot of souls out there. Perhaps they can start with poor Larry Hemsworth.