Thursday, January 24, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Good Place' - Eleanor and Michael Welcome the Newcomers to the Neighborhood in 'Pandemonium'

NBC's The Good Place - Episode 3.13 "Pandemonium"

Various events occur, in a certain specific order.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. Premieres and finales may feature longer reviews. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season finale of NBC's The Good Place.

"Pandemonium" was written by Megan Amram & Jen Statsky and directed by Michael Schur

The finales of The Good Place have all followed a simple pattern of establishing a hard reboot in order to morph into a new status quo at the top of the following season. In the first season finale, Eleanor realized that the four humans were actually being tortured in the Bad Place which led to Michael wiping their memories to start the experiment all over again. In the second season finale, Team Cockroach made their appeal to the Judge based on the idea that they got better in the afterlife only for them to start over again on Earth with their deaths undone. And now, the third season concludes with a brand new experiment being carried out in the afterlife overseen by the Soul Squad. It's actually surprising how much of the heavy lifting was done in the penultimate episode. That was the episode in which this new premise was established. Sure, there are a few twists here of note. Michael has a panic attack which forces Eleanor to step up and pretend to be the architect of the neighborhood. The new humans selected by the Bad Place for the experiment actually have personal connections to the four humans who have already bounced around throughout the afterlife. Both of these decisions are very intriguing and present new situations that can quickly become morally complicated. They see it as the latest trick done by Shawn and the Bad Place to prove that humans are incapable of change. They will still revert back to their natural instincts no matter where they end up. Tahani can certainly feel that impulse when it comes to the first of the newcomers. John ran a gossip blog that covered Tahani - most notably her mysterious death in Canada. He is a broad character type that the show has never done before even though it seems like it could get tiring very quickly. He exists mostly to irritate Tahani. And yet, Tahani doesn't allow him to get the best of her. She still aspires to be the person she has evolved into being thanks to her friends. That's what then sets up the next tragic twist. The person from Chidi's life brought to the afterlife is Simone. That's such a glorious twist. She was a fantastic addition at the start of the season who was quickly tossed aside after the Soul Squad joined Michael and Janet. She was contained to the Australian portion of the season. However, her dynamics with Chidi and Eleanor were very amusing. And now, it threatens the entire experiment. Any innocent slip up could be the thing that damns all of humanity moving forward. That was the fear that paralyzed Michael. It's the fear that motivates Chidi into taking his next step as well despite how personally devastating it is for his relationship with Eleanor.

This season has actually pulled the trigger on Eleanor and Chidi as a romantic couple. In the past, the show has always either hinted at it being a possibility or saying that it occurred in some other reboot that has no bearing on their present. It's also a direction that has divided fans of the show. Some people are completely onboard with Eleanor and Chidi as actual soulmates. It works so phenomenally well because of the chemistry between Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper. However, there are other fans who are perfectly reasonable in the idea that the characters simply work better as friends who care deeply about each other and the moral progress they are making in this crazy world. As such, reaction to this finale may depend entirely on which of these camps the individual viewer falls into. This season may have been too experimental in some instances which kept it from gaining momentum. However, the creative highs as well as the handling of the romantic coupling of Eleanor and Chidi were mostly successful. And so, the season does earn that climatic beat of Michael showing the two of them a film made up of memories they shared together during the numerous reboots. It's so completely sweet and romantic. It's an emotional sequence because Chidi has come to the decision that he should be rebooted once more in order to preserve the safety of the experiment. He should revert back to his life being over when that air conditioner crushed him. That means that the humans will no longer be unified in what they remember from their respective pasts. Chidi is the only one who will be rebooted. They can't run the risk of Simone somehow questioning everything and thus tainting the experiment. She is a smart and capable person. Sure, the other three humans having memories of their time with her in Australia could be just as complicated. So could the fact that they had lives on Earth that tied into the experiences from the other humans joining this neighborhood. This finale only introduces the two new humans with connections to Tahani and Chidi. They're still waiting on the newcomers from Jason and Eleanor's worlds. That's bound to be just as complicated. As the past has proven though, this may not be the new status quo for a long time moving forward. Eleanor and Chidi have the strength and confidence that they will find each other again. This won't be the end of their story together. It's just even more tragedy in the moment in the hopes of making the entire universe a better place. The lives of these four humans are no longer the only thing at stake. Now, it's the fates of all humanity should Michael and the gang succeed in this new endeavor. Nothing can compromise that even though it makes this such an emotional finale as well.