Thursday, October 31, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Good Place' - Michael Tells a Story About Humanity's Ability to Improve in 'A Chip Driver Mystery'

NBC's The Good Place - Episode 4.06 "A Chip Driver Mystery"

One of the new residents creates a division in the ranks.

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. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of NBC's The Good Place.

"A Chip Driver Mystery" was written by Lizzy Pace and directed by Steve Day

Michael tells Bad Janet a story. It's one centered around humans being capable of change and showcasing the desire to be better. It's not fundamentally a story about the new human experiment though. Every single day Eleanor, Michael, Tahani, Jason and Janet believe that they are making progress with their new subjects. And yet, it's hard to believe that Chidi, Simone, Brent and John have made any significant improvements. It's not vital to spend time with them or even to be aware that Chidi is teaching them about philosophy. That was so important to Eleanor, Tahani and Jason at the start of the series. And now, they are the ones running this experiment. They are the ones deciding the fate for all humanity. It's a huge burden placed on their shoulders. They deal with it by tackling every issue as they appear. It's a job they delve into every single day. This episode ends with a message of hope. It shows that the original experiment is still producing bountiful results. The new experiment deals with such a crushing defeat though. Eleanor and company were operating with the suspicion that manipulating the motivation for doing good deals would be enough to make Brent be willing to do them out of habit. However, he is still the self-centered misogynist he was when he first arrived in the Good Place. Simone brings up a very valid point about not having to deal with racism or sexism in the afterlife. She shouldn't have to be the bigger person. She should be enjoying the freedom that comes from full acceptance and equality in the afterlife. This place is suppose to be better than the failings of Earth. It's disheartening to think that that behavior can still be rewarded in the end. None of the new humans have grown suspicious about the experiment. They don't think that they are secretly being tortured. That comes with the idea that all of them believe themselves to have earned their spots in the Good Place. With Brent, that is somewhat delusional just because of how big a monster he is. That has always been the most pressing concern for the people in charge. They knew he would be the toughest nut to crack. They hoped that there was redemption and vulnerability within him that would come out eventually. Six months have gone by though. And now, he presents the world with a novel he has written that is cruel to everyone he knows in the afterlife. It's wildly offensive. Everyone understands that right away. And yet, he doesn't see any reason why he should apologize. It's a disaster. One that threatens to undermine everything going on in the neighborhood. Chidi becomes self-conscious about never doing anything spontaneous. That itself leads to John learning that Jason isn't actually a Buddhist monk. It may be fun to see people dancing for a bit. But it still eventually builds to Chidi punching Brent in the face. That is startling and may even prove just how extreme the failures are in this experiment. However, the humans aren't defeated. Instead, Eleanor is hoping to bounce back with creative solutions. Tahani and Jason feel the exact same way. Their human spirits are no longer crushed. They operate with the belief that people can improve so long as they believe they can be better. It's hard and stressful work. It may not pay off in the end. It may rob people of their humanity as well. The new humans aren't as engaging to watch as the originals were. That has been a problem this season. It's unclear just how much the audience is suppose to care about Simone, Brent and John as well as what will ultimately happen to them. And yet, the focus remains proudly on the main characters. That final action reveals that everyone truly is hoping for the best and putting all of their efforts into ensuring it's all possible. That inspires Michael to take action. He needs to believe that Bad Janet isn't beyond redemption either. She may be. But Janet has evolved so much through being rebooted. She has grown more human even though she has all the information out there in existence. Bad Janet has access to the same information. She just has bad motivations. That's what gives her the name of Bad Janet. And yet, enough reboots may be enough for her to question what is possible as well. That is the existential question of the series. Michael feels enlightened. But again, this experiment could eventually only make things worse for all involved if it fails.