THE GOOD PLACE: “Existential Crisis” Roundtable

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This was a big week for Michael, realizing his own mortality, ironically a possibility created by his own choice to deceive his boss. What was the best part of his existential/mid-life crisis? What are the implications of a Michael who relates to humans on such a fundamental level?

Lexie: “Janette” in a blonde wig, though the 80s sports jacket and convertible comes in a close second for me. I like that half of the show depends on “We’re going to let Ted Danson act as crazy as he likes and see what happens” because this is a formula that really works for them. But Janet in blonde has to be my answer because I adore her and her pleased and helpful smile and how she pops up unexpectedly and usually BEHIND the person she’s trying to help. Janet is secretly a troll. But as for Michael relating to humans, I don’t know what the implications will be, but I can’t wait to see them play out in real time. Ha. Demon as a name is a little racist. I love it.

Roz: I also loved Janette in the wig with the 80s feel, but I hope that this crisis will actually lead to him know how to torture people with empathy while still being miserable. Like with any lie that is better with some truth in it, empathy might help all this torture if the idea of torturing small groups at a time.

Cara: Oh my god, Janet IS a troll. I loved the way Janet kept using Michael’s requests to point out just how much she was patronizing him. I love douche-y midlife crisis Michael, and how he managed to take his existential crisis and turn it into something that made Eleanor and Chidi crazy, as well as making Vicky miserable too.

Melissa: My favorite result of Michael’s crisis was how it messed with Vicky. That opens up a whole new world of possibilities for torturing her on the sly. And yes, Blonde Troll Janet was amazing. D’arcy Carden is doing to much with what could have been a one-dimensional minor character. We love you, D’arcy!

We had further insight into Eleanor’s life on earth, and she actually used her experience to help Michael. What did you learn from these glimpses into Eleanor’s life?

Lexie: I learned that crying in Bed, Bath, and Beyond is more universal than I previously suspected. Also I like that the mom’s wine glass had a straw.

Roz: Mary Cherry! I think knowing that Leslie Grossman is Eleanor’s mom helped to understand where Eleanor developed so many bad habits. But clearly if your mom has to lie in explaining a dead dog, Eleanor wasn’t going to have much of a chance to not be a jerk.

Cara: Does every visit to Bed, Bath, And Beyond inspire existential dread? Because I feel like the answer is probably yes. Eleanor’s mother is wonderfully terrible, and hilarious. “Let’s call him what he was, a fart in the shape of a man.” She’s so awful that you can’t help but feel some sympathy for Eleanor and how she ended up as such a jerk. I think this is the first time we saw Eleanor show any weakness when she was alive.

Melissa: Mary Cherry! This explains so much about Eleanor! (Don’t @ me that these are different characters; Leslie Grossman was clearly channeling Mary Cherry.) This isn’t our first sight of Vulnerable Alive Eleanor, but it is the first time we’ve seen that side of her without Horrible Alive Eleanor stomping all over our sympathy.

Tahani had her own existential crisis when she realized that she was being tortured “through event planning mishaps…and it worked”. Are we finally seeing some self-awareness and growth?

Lexie: Finally? I take umbrage with this. Tahani has been reset multiple times and has had less exposure to Chidi, who seems to be the catalyst for change in all of them as evidenced by the fact that only a few lessons in philosophy and ethics have sent Michael into a spiral that made stock market bros from the 80s proud. As an audience, we expect more growth from Tahani because we’ve seen her arc from the beginning, but she hasn’t. It was just at the end of last episode that we saw her confront her death and being set on this road. On the tail of this comes the realization this episode that the skills that she used to cope with being in her sister’s shadow all her life, skills that ultimately wound up with her in the Bad Place, are completely and utterly null and void in a world where Vicky can literally conjure BEARS. This could lead to the greatest and most entertaining spiral seen on TV because my bae Tahani al Jamil does not do things in half-measures. What I’m saying is that I cannot wait. Team #NarcissisticMonster for life.

Roz: I’m glad we’re seeing growth on Tahani’s part, but I think Lexie really got it; Tahani and Jason have less access to Chidi’s lessons, but I like that they are slowly growing.

Cara: We’ve seen Tahani realize that her sense of superiority over others and selfish motive for the charity she did is what got her in the bad place, but this is the first time I think we’ve seen her question the things about herself that she holds dear. We may very well be in for some exciting times with Tahani.

Melissa: Point taken, Lexie. However, Cara is also correct in that this is the first time Tahani has recognized that something she saw as a skill worthy of extreme praise was, in fact, not that significant. Sure, throwing a stellar event is a valuable skill for various reasons; but does it merit the kind of boastfulness and pride Tahani claimed, especially when it served an ulterior motive to gain attention? I think that’s what she realized in this episode, and it paves the away for her to really grasp Chidi’s lessons, much like Michael’s confrontation with his own mortality opened him up to becoming a better person. Demon. Whatever.

Supplemental to Tahani’s breakthrough we have Jason providing unfailing encouragement, support, and even a little insight. Discuss.

Lexie: Jason’s tent is lopsided if he grades on a scale of 1-13 and 8 is the highest. Like there are seven numbers on one side of the ten and five on the other, and I know the writers did this on purpose to mess with me. I have to do a self-assessment for my end of the year for my day job and I’m seriously considering using his five categories to rate myself. I think I deserve at least a couple 7s, and an 8 in dopeness.

Roz: He really is a puppy who’s good at reading emotions and I think we need that. And then Tahani also needed that sexual healing. But let’s have more of Jason as not the butt of all jokes.

Cara: Jason is precious. Aside from the minor distraction of a kangaroo pouch, he was at Tahini’s side and helped her get through a tough day. This show may have some of the best characters and character dynamics out there. It doesn’t matter who is interacting with who, they all work so well.

Melissa: Great description, Roz. He really is like a puppy. He may get distracted by shiny objects and squirrels and kangaroo pouches, but he’s loyal and sweet and loving and understanding. Now I just want to give him a snuggle! Although I assume he prefers Tahani’s snuggles ifyouknowhatimean.



Second place is Janet in the wig.

Roz: Janet in the wig!

Cara: For me it’s Michael. That midlife crisis was epic. Plus, even in his desperate situation, he’s finding ways to get back at Vicky, while still making the four real humans crazy. But, I think Janet in the wig was an essential part of the midlife crisis.

Melissa: Michael for me, too. Ted Danson pulled off both the angst of the existential crisis and the absurdity of the mid-life crisis with equal skill.

Second place is Janet/Janette.

Favorite line, scene, or joke?

Lexie: That Guam is not real. I KNEW it was a conspiracy all along. And that Eleanor thinks valedictorians are called velociraptors. I had 12 in my graduating class and velociraptors would have made that ceremony so much more exciting.

Roz: I had this When Harry Met Sally flashback at how the post-coital scene looked between Tahani and Jason, but now I’m worried about my love of Jason and Janet.

Cara: Michael as earring-wearing midlife crisis guy rolling up to the party and bro-ing his way all over the party was amazing. Line wise: “Basically, Michael just smoked a big bowl of ennui, and now he’s having an existential crisis” is a line I really wished I had thought of while writing literary criticism in college. Also, I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s double J all the way. Jason and Janet 4 Ever!

Melissa: The velociraptors line really got my funny bone. I also got a kick out of Eleanor asking Chidi “which of these confusing French books will fix Michael.” They still have a long way to go!

The Good Place airs Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c on NBC.

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