This week brought us The Good Place premiere – that sets up the final season of the acclaimed comedy on NBC. Coming full circle, the episode returns the characters to an old stomping ground. Familiar story beats parallel the very first episode, while inverting character dynamics.
Going Back To The Start In The Final Season of The Good Place
We return to the neighborhood that Michael (Ted Danson) designed to torment the four humans of Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Jason (Manny Jacinto), and Tahani (Jameela Jamil). The neighborhood is once again grounds for an experiment. This time it is to see if other humans can improve their souls in the afterlife.
A Girl From Arizona (pt. 1) – parallels the pilot episode of the series. Only now Eleanor is the ‘Architect’ who welcomes newly deceased humans to the afterlife. She walks them around the neighborhood as Michael once did for her. She assumes Michael’s role: answering their questions, introducing them to Janet, trying to keep it all together. We even get to see flying lessons start up again. And in a remarkable display of self-improvement Eleanor does not try to fly. Even though she never got her chance the first time around.
Image via NBC Universal
The Good Place Premiere Focuses On Eleanor
The Good Place premiere sets up the final season with a focus on Eleanor. Sure the premiere establishes the four new human characters. But they do not get much character development or depth in this episode. It is clear that this journey still belongs primarily to Eleanor and Michael. The two of them have had the most significant redemption arcs of the series. Eleanor is dealing with the emotional fallout from last season’s finale twist. She throws herself into her new role as leader of the group. Her first task is to solve the mystery of the new humans, and figure out what makes them tick.
All we really know about the new characters is that they were chosen to torment the original four humans. There is John – a petty gossip columnist. Brent – a misogynistic jerk. Simone – who was already a pretty good person when alive. And a little old lady named Linda who just seems boring. We don’t get much screen time with the new characters. So we don’t know if they have the same kind of internal crisis about not belonging in the good place like Eleanor did in the pilot.
Of course Linda is quickly revealed to be a demon in disguise, sent by the bad place to wreck the experiment. In retribution, the Judge declares that the fourth human of the experiment will be Chidi. This makes sense within the context of the show, but raises (for me as a viewer) the kind of ethical question that The Good Place is famous for. How can a person change if they cannot remember the mistakes they made in the past?
THE GOOD PLACE — “Pilot” — Pictured: William Jackson Harper as Chidi — (Photo by: Justin Lubin/NBC)
How Will Chidi’s Memory Wipe Affect The Final Season?
The Good Place is a show that constantly plays around with the trope of eternal recurrence. Michael has reset the timeline hundreds of times. The characters constantly have their memories erased. This time is different however. The show made the decision to wipe Chidi’s memory last season because one of the new humans in the neighborhood turned out to be his ex-girlfriend Simone (an excellent Kirby Howell-Baptiste).
In an effort to remain neutral and not affect the results of the experiment, Chidi voluntarily undergoes a memory wipe. This took away not only his memories of Simone, but also his relationship with Eleanor and his experiences with every major character in the show. This means that all of Chidi’s character development has literally been erased, while the other core characters retain their growth. When we meet Chidi in the premiere of season four, he is the same character that viewers met in the pilot episode. The Chidi of last season is gone. It was a bold twist by the showrunners. But this also means that one of the original main characters is now a minor supporting role. Hopefully as the final season progresses, the show will focus on Chidi’s character growth like they did with Eleanor in season one.
The Ensemble Cast Is As Strong As Ever – Despite Having Little To Do
The other members of the ensemble cast also have little to do in the premiere, but are great with the few lines given to them. Tahani’s primary role is to support Eleanor, and voice her skepticism over the character of Linda. Janet (D’arcy Carden) is preoccupied with keeping the neighborhood running. She also appears to have developed a snarkier attitude because of the stress. Jason has the biggest subplot of the episode when he ‘murders’ Derrick (Jason Mantzoukas) in order to remove him as competition for Janet’s non-human affections. The character of Simone is often discussed, but doesn’t appear onscreen very much. Simone spends much of the premiere wandering around, declaring that the neighborhood isn’t real and that she is just hallucinating while in a coma.
When Jason suggests that Chidi could help Simone adjust to the afterlife, Eleanor is hesitant. She does not want to see Chidi and Simone reconnect, although the two do not remember one another or their relationship. She eventually relents and introduces them, despite her personal feelings. This is another example in The Good Place season premiere of Eleanor’s growth over the course of the series. She is no longer Chidi’s student, learning how to be a good person in order to fit into the neighborhood and not arouse suspicion. She is now the leader of the group, the human with the strongest moral compass and determination to do what is right no matter the personal cost.
(Featured image via NBC Universal)
Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.