The Good Place Season 2: Episodes 1 and 2
The first season of The Good Place was so forking good I was a little nervous to see what would happen with a second season, now that the cat's out of the bag.
[GIGANTIC SPOILERS AHEAD. OH SO MANY SPOILERS. GO WATCH THIS SHOW RIGHT NOW SO THAT THESE WON'T BE SPOILERS.]
While I was intrigued by a memory-wipe induced do-over, and was frankly down to watch our four garbage people aka heroes (jk, Chidi is not garbage, Chidi is the love of my life) navigate the same obstacles again, the premiere of Season Two did not exactly go that route. Instead, it spent one episode on "Attempt #2" and then blew through about a hundred fresh starts in a whirlwind montage of goofy insanity, and it was pretty forking funny.
We learn that Michael has the demon Shawn's permission to run "Attempt #2" of his complex, custom-designed torture scenario—but this time it absolutely MUST WORK, or Michael will be "retired" (aka destroyed). In episode 1 ("Chapter 14 & 15/Everything is Great!"), Michael pairs Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason/Jianyu with different soulmates, torturing them separately. Eleanor gets a hunky mailman, but he won't listen to her long enough for her to reveal she's not the right Eleanor. Chidi has two "soulmates," and has to choose one, but then is told that there's been a mistake and his soulmate is the one he didn't like. It's all very cringey and classic Chidi angst. Jason gets paired with another monk, which Michael explains is because they have twin souls. Watching Jason wander around with a silent monk, drinking yak's milk and then spitting it back out into the glass, is one of the best things about this episode.
Tahani's storyline, in which her soulmate is extremely short and she is forced to live in a tiny treehouse, is also particularly funny. When she decides to dress casually for the welcome gala to try and connect with her soulmate, she says she looks like a "plumberess" and then asks "Is that what you call a female plumber? Or is it a toilet sweep? Or a clog wench." I am still giggling over this line, long live Jameela Jamil for her ridiculous delivery.
[SIDEBAR: there was a lot of controversy over the casting of Disney's live action Aladdin over the summer. I think they've landed on people but can someone tell me if Jameela was ever considered for Jasmine and if not WHY?!? She's got huge eyes, hair for days, is generally a living Disney princess...so. Anyway.]
Our heroes suffer separately, unaware that their memories have been wiped, but Michael still doesn't have complete control of the situation. Something is off, because Eleanor has the note that says "find Chidi," so she spends the episode trying to do that rather than getting drunk, bitchy, and rowdy. She finds Chidi, he recognizes the book the note was ripped out of. (To which Eleanor replies "is that some kind of nerd pickup line? Because it's only kind of working." I ship this so hard. #CHELEANOR FOR EVER.)
Basically, Eleanor figures out the good place scheme within one day, and Chapters 14 & 15 come to a close. In "Chapter 16/Dance Dance Resolution," Michael lies to Shawn, saying Attempt #2 is going great, but instead surreptitiously restarts Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason's souls again and again, and is thwarted every time. The demons acting as townspeople are getting frustrated, especially Vicky, who played "Real Eleanor" in Attempt #1. She's disgruntled at the less-than-meaty roles she is given in subsequent Attempts.
This episode plants the seeds of possible Season Two plot lines: Michael has lied to Shawn, which could be really bad! The natives are restless, so to speak, and want to go back to the old way of torture. Biting, squeezing, twisting. ("This job is weird, it's all talk, no twisting.") And no matter the circumstances, the four human souls keep coming together over the course of hundreds of attempts—furthering their relationships by hundreds of years (though they can't remember any previous iterations).
But the joy of this episode is its whiplash-like speed. We watch as Michael blows through a series of Attempts. Sometimes we just see the moment when he introduces Eleanor to her soulmate—a different person every time. Once it was just a golden retriever. (Real talk, even though I think the idea of Eleanor/Chidi is a bit more fleshed-out, I would definitely have appreciated a whole season with Tahani as Eleanor's soulmate.)
Sometimes we see a montage of Eleanor realizing they're in the bad place—and the thing that makes her realize it. (Chidi struggling to wrangle a pig, the gang in a bunch of religious-looking cloaks, the gang watching a clown through a window, etc.) Every single one of these moments is an episode that I would love to watch in full, but there is something delightful about these brief windows into alternate storylines.
But eventually, Vicky and the other demon's demands win out. The demons go on strike and Vicky threatens to reveal Michael's failures to Shawn unless he lets her take over. Meanwhile, Chidi and Eleanor go on a trip to the chowder fountain (SO MANY GOOD HELLISH FOOD JOKES IN THIS EPISODE), overhear the striking demons discussing the situation, and realize they're in the bad place. They flee to Mindy St. Clair's house in the neutral zone, where Mindy reveals that, yes, they've actually been there many times. AND she reveals that she has taped Eleanor and Chidi doing the dirty AND saying "I love you." Once again, #CHELEANOR!
Eleanor decides to stand up to Michael, pointing out that they keep besting him, but is shocked when Michael instead says he wants to partner up with the humans against Vicky.
So, with several callbacks to Season One jokes (such as Jason's framing a girl for boogie board theft) and a few hilarious montages, The Good Place has successfully burned through the old scenario and set up a new one, with even higher stakes. I'm for it! The only thing missing was Jason/Janet stuff...but I have a feeling this will resurface with time.
Favorite line - Jason: This guy can't hold a camel to Pillboy.