This The Good Place review contains spoilers.
The Good Place Season 4 Episode 6
The Good Place season 4 has a problem and its name is Brent Norwalk.
One of the purest joys of The Good Place’s run (and recent television history for that matter) is the twist at the end of the show’s first season – a twist only made possible by the believability of the original premise. Eleanor’s realization that she was in the Bad Place held weight because it was a bold guess. Why wouldn’t the Good Place be inhabited by an ethics professor and a rich socialite who can afford to donate oodles of money to charity?
This experiment, however? The moment Brent Norwalk opened his mouth, I would know exactly just where I endedup on the celestial spectrum. And frankly, it’s a little weird that John, Simone, and Chidi haven’t yet. At least in “A Chip Driver Mystery,” The Good Place once again rolls up its sleeves to dive deep into the work that goes into creating a better human….even if that human is Brent.
While The Good Place season 4 has been all about the hard work of self-improvement (something that Michael once again hammers home in his conversation with Bad Janet), the show hasn’t put too too much of that onscreen. While last week largely dealt with the emotional and physical labor spent on an experiment gone awry, this week finds the gang engaged in damage control.
That damage comes in the form of…who freaking else: Brent. Michael sits down with Bad Janet in her Hannibal Lecter-like chamber within Good Janet’s void. After a lengthy and expressive fart from Bad Janet, Michael tells a story of what gives him hope about humanity. That story stars very bad naturally, with Brent “You went to Rutgers, right?” “No! Princeton!” Norwalk announcing he is going to write a novel.
Like all other background or supplemental Good Place jokes, the details of Brent’s novel, Six Feet Under Par: A Chip Driver Mystery is chock full of brilliant little details. Brent asks (commands) Simone, Tahani, and Chidi to read it and they discover that Chip Driver’s love interest is Scarlett Pakistan who has “legs like Jessica Rabbit like in that movie.” There’s also a cowardly character named “Four-Eyed Igbee.” Chip solves the murder on page 10 and spends the rest of the novel golfing.*
*Side note: I genuinely think this is a brilliant idea for a novel series. Not the racist characterizations of minor characters part, but the part where the detective solves the mystery in 10 pages and then the rest is just about him fine-tuning his golf game.
Naturally, Tahani, Simone, and company are upset, not just with how terrible and offensive this novel is, but also with how needy Brent is for “complos” about it. The novel is like a little bomb thrown into the neighborhood that slowly tears everyone apart. It stresses Chidi out and when Jason tries to help him be spontaneous, John walks in on them and learns “Jianyu’s” secret. Michael takes Brent golfing to teach him a lesson that it’s ok to fail…and it almost kind of works!
But in the end, Brent’s straight up mind-numbing arrogance and annoyance wins out and Simone and everyone else has no choice but to unload on him. Brent reacts like a wounded animal, calling Simone a “bench,” and professor Chidi straight up decks the dude.
Back over in frame story land, Bad Janet not unreasonably points out that this little tale seems like an example of why humanity sucks.
“Humans are B-B-B-Bad to the bone,” she says.
“Well I think they are G-G-G-Good sometimes and you should give them the B-B-B-Benefit on the doubt,” Michael responds.
Michael has hope because of what comes after the Chip Driver debacle. Eleanor, Tahani, and Jason, when faced with another failure and the prospect of Brent’s infinite awfulness, do the same thing they always do: get back to work. They immediately start brainstorming solutions to the problem and how they can get Brent, Simon, and John back closer to the good side of the spectrum. Michael smiles as he looks on and then later releases Bad Janet and sends her back to The Bad Place.
This final season of The Good Place has struggled with inertia at times. Seasons 2 and 3 of the show were wildly dynamic, springing from set to set and concept to concept every few episodes. It seems we had grown accustomed to that and had forgotten what the show’s first season was really like. Again, it’s all about work. As Michael tells Janet and the episode confirms, “What matters isn’t if people are good or bad. What matters is if they’re trying to be better today than they were yesterday. You asked me where my hope comes from. That’s your answer.”
Hard work isn’t sexy. That’s what we have to continually remind ourselves of as The Good Place suffers through the Brents of the world (and if you can’t tell by now, I obviously know a few Brents). The Good Place hasn’t reached the thrilling heights of its middle two seasons just yet but the work is being put in, and the work still matters.