Thursday, December 6, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Good Place' - Janet's Void May Only Worsen the Identity Crises Felt by the Humans in 'Janet(s)'

NBC's The Good Place - Episode 3.10 "Janet(s)"

With Janet's help, Michael hatches a plan.

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on this week's episode of NBC's The Good Place.

"Janet(s)" was written by Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan and directed by Morgan Sackett

D'Arcy Carden is an absolute treasure. The entire premise of this episode relies on her performance and ability to pull off an incredible feat. She is asked to embody four of her fellow cast members. She essentially has to play Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason as they die on Earth and come to her void that exists outside of time and space. It's such a trippy premise that works insanely well because the audience can still clearly differentiate between the various versions of Janet to know which one is which. That's impressive. It comes from the time spent with these characters and simply just having fun with some of the crazy things that they get to do. This episode still requires certain plot points to be met on the various journeys that the main characters are on this season. Eleanor and Chidi have to discuss about being in love during one of the previous simulations. Meanwhile, Tahani and Jason discover that Janet was once married to Jason and may still be in love with him. All of this falls onto Carden as well. She has to play all of these conflicts instead of the normal actors. It still all has to be believable too. The audience has to see Janet but understand that it is truly Eleanor or one of the other humans. That was clear the moment they all showed up wearing the same Janet outfit. But it was also clear when JasonJanet and EleanorJanet decided to swap places for a moment in order to see how ChidiJanet was coping with everything that has just been discussed. Plus, it incites such a powerful and profound conversation about identity. These humans are all having identity crises while in the body of someone else. Sure, it continues to show just how sexually attracted to all types of people Eleanor is. But it also throws everyone for a loop as well because they are forced to question what's real and what's not. Is something that happened in the past that they can't remember still a core part of their identity? Eleanor needed to have the memories of her falling in love with Chidi restored for her to know that that's a thing that once happened. But she has experienced that time all over again. Chidi has not. He doesn't even see himself as the same person now because of all of the different timelines. Yes, these humans have been tortured for 300 years. They've also been brought back to life on Earth. But they may not be the same people as all of the previous versions. That's so complicated and can twist everyone up into knots. Of course, that's a key part of Chidi's identity. He's not in crisis at the moment because he has always been struggling with these profound ideas about how the universe exists and how people should view it. However, Eleanor no longer recognizes the person that she has become. She is chasing after a guy who has made his feelings known about he feels about her. She doesn't know whether to trust her instincts now or what she saw in a previous simulation. It's literally up to Chidi to remind her of who she is. That's such a powerful and sweeping moment when they kiss and return to the versions of themselves that they and the audiences recognize. It starts with Eleanor going through a loop of different identities. It morphs into two Janets kissing. It ends with this couple making their declaration of love with it not being undone just as quickly. That's a huge achievement for the show.

Janet is also busy in the subplot with Michael as they go to the accounting department of the afterlife to figure out if the Bad Place has somehow tricked the system to ensure that the majority of humans are damned to be tortured for all of eternity. That's absolutely horrifying. It appears to be confirmed here as well. The head of the department is played by Stephen Merchant, who provides the show with a nice touch of the U.K. version of The Office by playing someone who is the boss but needs to schedule his enthusiasm about anything. He is glad to show Michael and Janet how the system works. And yet, the entire point system appears to be rigged because no one can ever really get enough points to get into the Good Place during the span of their lives. It's been over 500 years since anyone successfully got in. That's mind-boggling to Michael. That is clear evidence to him that the Bad Place has tampered with the system somehow. But everyone in the accounting department is too oblivious to the faults of their own system. This is the way that things have always been conducted since the beginning of time. There can't be any problem in the system. If there were, then someone would have caught it by now. As such, the humans seem destined to face the punishment that has long awaited them. They exit Janet's void because she too is experiencing an identity crisis that could essentially kill her and all of the humans in the process. But it's meaningful that she tells Michael that he has to be the one to fix all of these problems. The gang simply can't keep going to different portions of the afterlife in the hopes that someone will understand their plight and do the right thing to improve the situation. Instead, it's Michael's responsibility now. That's such a dramatic moment that is punctuated perfectly with him knocking the piece of cake out of the accountant's hand in order to escape to his office. That also means the show is heading to the actual Good Place for its final episodes this season. That's such an enticing note to end this episode on. It should make the audience very excited and intrigued to see what could possibly happen next after this insane but creatively rewarding episode.