This The Good Place review contains spoilers.
The Good Place Season 4 Episode 10
Once upon a time Jason Mendoza had a great idea. Back in season 4’s seventh episode, Eleanor, Michael, Janet, and company were trying to figure out how to spend their final hours with their test subjects before the experiment came to an end. That’s when Jacksonville’s favorite son posited that playing things safe was not the way to go.
“In football, trying to run out the clock never works,” Jason said. “It’s called prevent defense and you don’t take any chances, you just try to hang on to the lead. But prevent defense just prevents you from winning. You gotta try something,”
Now in its first episode back after winter hiatus, The Good Place has proven that it took Jason’s words to heart. It’s going to be all Hail Marys for The Good Place here on out. And on the first weekend of playoff football, “You’ve Changed, Man” is here to prove it.
Still, going for it all is a lesson that Team Cockroach has yet to learn as “You’ve Changed, Man” begins. As The Judge continues to marbleize innocent Janets (R.I.P. Disco Janet. You were too groovy for this world) and Earth’s time runs out, the gang’s first instinct is to compromise. This is understandable given both the time constraints and the enormity of having to develop a new afterlife system that will accommodate The Good Place, The Bad Place, The Judge, and humanity’s ideals.
Tahani’s set up to what seems to be a truly riveting story about LeBron James, Bruno Mars, and Dr. Ruth leads Michael to conclude that perhaps the introduction of a permanent Medium Place is a compromise that everyone can stomach. The Medium Place and Mindy St. Clair have often been The Good Place’s one-stop solution for many problems. Need to find a place for Chidi and Eleanor to run away to? To Mindy St. Clair’s! Need a spot for Derrick to live after the creation of the new neighborhood? To Mindy St. Clair’s! Need a neutral site to set up the terms of the new experiment? Mindy to the rescue once again!
But the use of The Medium Place has always been a cop out on one level or another and it’s a cop out here again. It’s after the two minute warning: prevent defense no longer works, remember? The compromise unsurprisingly turns out to be not good enough for Shawn, who despite gaining the souls of Eleanor, Jason, Tahani, Chidi, Michael, and Janet (not a soul) for eternity, would be leaving billions of other spider buttholes o the table. Shawn’s refusal to accept the Medium Place deal means that the humans must do what they should have done in the first place: something big. Thankfully Eleanor, Chidi, Jason, and Tahani know just where to look for inspiration.
Michael’s countless attempts at torturing the group inadvertently became a perfect system for rehabilitation. The humans were able to make mistakes, learn from them, and become better people in the torturous process. Why can’t the new version of the afterlife be just that? What’s brilliant about The Good Place’s answer for a new system of divine judgment is that it has already been arguing for it from moment one, whether we realized it or not. As the midseason finale revealed, there’s no such thing as one true “Answer,” the closest thing that any of us have is trial, error, and improvement.
Sometimes in shows this concept-oriented, the ending runs the risk of outmuscling everything that came before it. Everyone could have just as easily listened to Chidi’s Judith Shklar’s lecture and asked the Judge to recalibrate the points system or at least take the context of our actions here on Earth into consideration. In forwarding this potential afterlife fix, however, The Good Place opts for something deeper and more emotionally applicable to the series’ past. The show assures us that everything that happened to Eleanor and company truly mattered…not only because it made them better people but also helped create the model that will save the rest of us too.
It’s a brilliant plan made all the more brilliant by the introduction of a special guest to hear it. Look, Judge Gen’s obsession with early-to-mid 2000s television was already a gift to TV-obsessed Good Place fans (is there any other kind of Good Place fan, really?). But the introduction of actual Timothy “Raylan Givens” Olyphant is almost too perfect to bear. The Judge begins this episode by calling Olyphant “50 gallons of man in a 10 gallon hat” and then that 50 gallon sumbitch actually turns up!
Having Chidi prepare a coherent and persuasive argument for the afterlife while TV’s Timothy Olyphant looks on and asks relevant questions is the kind of inspired lunacy that only The Good Place can provide. And Olyphant distraction or no, Chidi’s argument really is ingenious. He correctly diagnoses that the problem with the current system is that one’s life on Earth is considered a test when in reality the afterlife, devoid of all corrupting Earthly variables, should be the test. Both Timothy and the Judge are moved by the logic in Chidi’s argument, but as Chidi once discovered after trying to lecture his parents out of a divorce: some people need something other than cold, hard facts to change their minds.
The title line for this episode seems as though it would be referring to Chidi, who is operating like an enlightened monk following his 800+ lifetime download. This version of Chidi has indeed changed. He’s fully self-actualized and more aggressively confident (and therefore aggressively sexier to Eleanor) than ever.
But in reality, the title is referring to someone else who has changed…man.
“Shawn, you used to be cool but you’ve changed, man,” Jason says to Shawn’s initial refusal of the Medium Place deal.
Shawn, being a demon and all, has little use for logic. His goal in life is simply to do what feels good to him, whether that be cramming spiders into buttholes, corkscrewing eyeballs, or peeing into The Good Place fountain (which resides just around the corner from “Foot Lager,” “Joanie Love Tchotchkes,” “Ponzu Scheme.” Never change, Megan Amram!). Just because he doesn’t engage with the afterlife on a rational level though doesn’t mean he can’t sense when something has gone wrong.
Michael savvily understands this. Shawn has gotten used to their escalating game of cat and mouse (or demon and human in this context) and he has grown comfortable in the fact that every time he throws up a roadblock, Michael will find a way around it and the game will continue. Now, however, the denizens of Places both Good and Bad have well and truly reached the end of the line. There are no last minute harebrained schemes to enact – just the cold, hard reality that the system is broken and needs to be replaced.
“One way or another, this thing is over,” Michael tells Shawn. “The only question is: what’s next? You wouldn’t have let me tried the first experiment if things were working.”
With that final pitch to Shawn, Michael succeeds in finally getting the demon to agree to a change and The Good Place itself succeeds in tying the end of its story to its beginning. Just like Chidi’s solution pays homage to the struggle he and his friends have already been through, Michael’s pitch to Shawn brings into focus that everyone involved here has known something was wrong with the system from the first moments of the series.
Michael, Shawn, the Judge, and all the many other celestial beings of the afterlife have known deep down in their gut that something wasn’t working this whole time (well save for maybe The Good Place dorks, they just always seem down for whatever). Drawing that revelation and admission from deep down within Shawn’s demonic guts is one of the best things that “You’ve Changed, Man” does for itself and the final few episodes yet to come.
Everyone, even Timothy Olyphant, is on the same page for the first time in The Good Place’s run. All it took was 800 lifetimes from four grimy human cockroaches, the marbleization of many Janets, and Justified season 3.