Thursday, October 6, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Good Place' - Chidi is Exhausted by All of Eleanor's Antics in 'Category 55 Emergency Doomsday Crisis'

NBC's The Good Place - Episode 1.05 "Category 55 Emergency Doomsday Crisis"

Eleanor's eagerness to learn ethics from Chidi becomes the full-time job he never wanted. Michael and Janet focus their attention on a neighborhood emergency.

The Good Place has done an excellent over the last few weeks of fleshing out its cast of characters. Last week had the phenomenal reveal that Jianyu isn't a Buddhist monk but actually Jason, a Filipino bro from Florida. That twist really helped amp up the comedy. Now, whenever Jason appears on the screen, everything that comes out of his mouth is so funny while also being absolutely ridiculous. That was a fun addition to the show. "Category 55 Emergency Doomsday Crisis" hopes to do the same with Tahani and Chidi. They've each been integral parts of the season so far. But this episode helps provide even more context to their past lives on Earth and how being in the good place wasn't what they were expecting. Tahani and Chidi are the same in that they were partnered with people who aren't suppose to be here. That has caused them a great deal of stress this season. And now, all of those emotions are finally spilling out and breaking them apart. Seeing those cracks really helps both of them become even more endearing as characters.

Helping Eleanor become a good person and earn her place in the neighborhood has been a full-time job for Chidi. It isn't what he signed up for. This isn't what his picture of the afterlife would be. He wanted it to be a relaxing time where he could live out all of the fantasies he never got to do on Earth. Of course, those fantasies are just going out to the middle of a lake and enjoying a glass of wine and a book of French poetry. His dreams are so different than Eleanor's. He doesn't what to use the good place to expand his horizons. He has his comfort zone and isn't willing to embrace change just yet. He loves being a professor of ethics. It's what he's good at. It's comforting to him. But it's starting to be a little overwhelming as well. He needs to help Eleanor otherwise he risks this whole neighborhood being destroyed. Her actions have already caused so many problems. The sinkhole from last week is only getting bigger. She may be making progress but it's very slow. Plus, he has a new student to teach in Jason who may be even more challenging.

However, Eleanor is changing. It's a big deal to her when she lets someone go ahead of her in the line for frozen yogurt. That's never something she would have done on Earth. She would have selfishly held up the line just to spite the people behind her who are trying to rush her. And now, she has more choices than ever before. It's a very funny scene that opens the episode. It shows that she is changing. She's being a better person without even thinking about it. When she does though, it's still problematic. She races home to tell Chidi about what she did but then she doesn't want to go back because she ran all the way to share the news. She ultimately decides to go back because she's a good person. But that's a conscious decision that forces this new mentality while in the store it was just like a reaction. So, she still has a long way to go. She still wants to take shortcuts to reach the final destination. She loves the teachings of utilitarianism because it's simple. It's a theory with its flaws. But it's a concept that Eleanor and Jason grasp onto very easily. Chidi doesn't have to spend too much time explaining it or how it applies to their new lives.

And yet, Chidi doesn't want to just immediately jump into the next lesson or read the essay that Eleanor has written. The school part is important but Eleanor's actions are even more so. She still is a selfish person. That's a difficult orbit to be around for a long period of time. Eleanor has come to define Chidi's life. He doesn't know how that happened but it has. He wants to spend time away from her to find himself again. And yet, he can't do that. The sinkhole forces everyone to stay inside so Michael and Janet can fix it. Plus, Eleanor and Chidi need to welcome another couple into their home, Bart and Nina. That further risks exposure of Eleanor's secret. So, Eleanor and Chidi have to be united even though they couldn't be further apart. This new couple proves to be very beneficial though. They don't care about digging deeper into Eleanor's psyche. They are much more interested in Chidi. They see him as the repressed one hiding a secret. The truth is he has never had a lasting or committed relationship. He was eager to spend eternity with a soulmate perfect for him. Eleanor isn't what he wanted. Eleanor is pretty sure they aren't even soulmates. She was a mistake that messed everything up for him. She recognizes that and wants to make it up to him. It's a nice gesture in the end when she gives him his dream of being on a lake reading poetry. It shows that these two really could be good for each other after all.

The afterlife isn't what Tahani expected either. She finds herself still competing to be the best even though she's already made it into the good place. She learns that she just barely made it in. She looks at the neighborhood rankings to learn that she's second to last. She has always been a very outwardly good person. She needs people to see her as a good. She needs that appreciation and gratification. It has been annoying and condescending to Eleanor. She views it as a moral superiority that she can't stand. But now, the audience gets the context that it's what Tahani has had to do her entire life. When she was on Earth, she was always competing with her sister, Camilla. It was all so effortless for Camilla. She always got all of the attention. She got their parents' praise and the approval of the public. Meanwhile, Tahani struggled just to measure up to that success. She was conditioned to think that it was a disappointment when a charity fundraiser only raised 5 million dollars. Camilla is able to instantly match that the moment she arrives. A meal with her is equal to the sum total of everything Tahani has done. It's in this desire to always be the best that fuels Tahani even now in the good place. The rankings are final and cannot change. She's already made it in. But it doesn't feel like happiness though. She still finds herself striving to be the best and make this situation absolutely perfect even though perfection seems to be eluding her at every possible moment.

Tahani isn't able to help Michael and Janet fix the sinkhole. In fact, she just adds to the problems they have to deal with. But the sinkhole does repair itself and the neighborhood is able to go back to normal. However, the timing of when the sinkhole fixes itself is very weird. The sinkhole first opened up because Eleanor punched a cake to keep Jason from revealing his true self to the neighborhood. It also makes sense that a kind and good gesture on her part would be the thing to fix it. But Eleanor isn't able to give Chidi his relaxing afternoon on the lake until after the sinkhole was fixed and the citizens could go outside once more. So, was the sinkhole fixed because Eleanor felt bad about all the pressure she has put on Chidi? That would seem to be the easiest answer. However, it's a big deal when Michael proclaims he has no idea what caused or fixed the sinkhole. That puts urgency in his story to figure out what's wrong with this neighborhood. That's a quest he includes Eleanor in. It should make for a fun and interesting episode next week. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Category 55 Emergency Doomsday Crisis" was written by Matt Murray and directed by Morgan Sackett.
  • Eleanor makes a joke about Bart and Nina possibly being swingers and how she and Chidi should just go along with it to cover up their secret. And yet, that's actually true. This other couple does try to get intimate and Chidi runs away as fast as possible to process everything he has just said.
  • The reveal that the sinkhole can cause other side effects with human wasn't all that necessary. Sure, it's weird when Tahani's eyes start bugging out. It helps explain the lockdown in the neighborhood. But a sinkhole is dangerous enough without adding this extra layer.
  • Apparently, Chidi's teachings have convinced Jason not to reveal himself to the neighborhood. He's attending class and then just goes back home to continue living as Jianyu to everyone else. Plus, he gets to enjoy all the waffles Tahani has for the neighborhood brunch.
  • Both Eleanor and Jason are near the top of the list in the neighborhood rankings. So, their inclusion in the good place wasn't just some clerical error. It could indicate at some huge issues with the overall system.
  • Tahani never felt like a good person on Earth because Camilla was always better at absolutely everything. But now, Tahani is in the good place while the fates of the rest of her family are unknown. 
  • Ted Danson, Jameela Jamil and D'Arcy Carden all had different line readings of "category 55 emergency doomsday crisis." And yet, all three were funny for their own distinct reason.