‘The Good Place’ Has Started Tackling Privilege And It’s Way Too Real
Earth is a mess, y'all.
In this season of The Good Place, we’re barely allowed to rest, to take stock. It’s one wacky portal to another weird locale, a kind of metaphysical chase sequence, with our characters desperately trying to find shelter and take stock.
It’s given the season a somewhat choppier feeling than previously, but has helped give birth to some truly spectacular episodes: ‘Janet(s)’ anyone? There’s a method to the madness, and a willingness to keep pushing the envelope of what we expect from The Good Place.
I’m living for it, personally.
In the latest episode, the gorgeously titled ‘Chidi Sees The Time-Knife’, we get potentially the strangest of all settings — a surreal extra-dimensional nexus, a neutral point to meet up with the judge again. The IHOP (Interdimensional Hole Of Pancakes) probably doesn’t mean as much to us in Australia, where we don’t have the popular pancake franchise restaurant, but I’m able to get the humour via context clues.
*There will be spoilers in this article*
Highlights of the IHOP include Chidi seeing the time-knife, as advertised, and Tahani accessorising a terrifying intra-dimensional slug.
But also, more importantly, Michael presents his new theory — that life on Earth has gotten too complicated for the point theory to work anymore. And friends, it’s a big mood.
Let’s Get Real About Philosophy
The Good Place has been both lauded and derided for its philosophy 101 attitude. Horrifying philosophy nerds who tweet semi-ironically about Deleuze find it all way too basic, whereas pretty much everyone else who isn’t fucking painful thinks it’s a cute, funny and surprisingly effective way to popularise theory. The Trolley Problem episode was a great way of illustrating a pretty dry subject, for example.
The show always excels when they take philosophy out of the theoretical and into the practical — and in this episode, we see that ethics become murkier when lived and experienced. Thematically, it’s what the show has been moving towards all season, and it’s very satisfying to watch.
— no context the good place (@nocontexttgp) January 20, 2019
Essentially, The Judge is not moved by Michael’s argument, but is swayed when JASON of all people manages to accurately summarise the reality of privilege. In yet another classic anecdote about his 80 person dance troupe, he talks about how annoyed he was by a member constantly being late (the ethical no-no), but then finding out that the explanation for this was that he was supporting a family with three jobs (check that privilege, yo).
So, the Judge goes down to Earth and experiences life as a human, and gets a quick crash course in how shit stuff is — and how shitter in can be for specific people or minorities. “Earth is a mess, y’all” she says. Maya Rudolph is perfect.
“Also, I guess I’m black. And they do not like black ladies down there! Crap, y’all! This is bad!”
the judge flirting with chidi was one of the funniest parts about the good place yesterday pic.twitter.com/aPMjACkVFm
— christina (@amysfrenchhorn) January 18, 2019
The Communist Manifesto
Over the last two episodes, there’s been an example used to show the inefficiency — or perhaps futility — of the ethical point system that The Good Place relies upon.
It’s the simple act of buying a tomato, but with all the ethical consequences extrapolated.
“These days just buying a tomato at a grocery store means that you are unwittingly supporting toxic pesticides, exploiting labor, contributing to global warming. Humans think they are making one choice, but they are actually making dozens of choices…”
It’s a good illustration of why ethical philosophy is more blurred than absolutes — but it’s also a great illustration of why ethics are a privilege under capitalism.
When the system is broken, our personal responsibilities become a lot blurrier. Being a good person under capitalism is a very different game! It doesn’t give you a free pass, but it does shift who the onus actually falls upon, who is culpable (hint, it is the rich).
Hooray for socialism.
Guys did The Good Place just become the clearest articulation of how the global supply chain under late capitalism steals personal morality from everyone who wants to buy a tomato.
— Rachel Riederer (@readerer) January 20, 2019
So, after realising what a crap-show life on modern Earth is, the Judge reaches a resolution.
It will basically be to set up a new “test Good Place” with four randoms, in the backyard of Mindy St. Claire’s house in the Medium Place. Whatever this whole scheme is probably sets us up for the series finale. I think, personally, that there will be something of a twist. Very bold of me!
Next week’s finale is called ‘Pandemonium’, which is a state that means “wild uproar or unrestrained disorder; tumult or chaos” — but it’s also a Latin word which denotes, as in Milton’s Paradise Lost, “the place of all demons”. Maybe the Bad Place folks are gonna get involved again?
The Good Place no ha vuelto de broma pic.twitter.com/3NSM32mVNJ
— Jose🔻 (@atomjvd) January 20, 2019
But whatever — I love the cocaine snorting, should-pad rocking Mindy St. Claire, I love the Medium Place, and I love Janet’s boyfriend-son Derek. And baby, Derek is back. And Derek is doing well! He’s been rebooted thousands of times, so he’s starting to get more developed — which means he’s more coherent AND fancy. He’s had a glow up!
And this manifested as Derek wearing a tux and holding martinis, and things that are almost martinis, like a glass of olives. It’s good. It’s funny. It’s perfect comedy.
— Kate Hicks (@Go_Plan) January 18, 2019
Jason Mantzoukas is perfect.
This Is A Bad Place
It will be interesting seeing watching Team Cockroach take on the role of gods, to an extent, and overseeing a new Good Place project (if that ends up going forward). Being responsible in that way takes the impetus over into societal ethics, rather than personal.
But — whatever happens, this episode was a very sneaky callback to the show’s most famous line: “This is the bad place”. Except instead of the humans having this revelation, it was the Judge, working out that Earth might not be THE worst place, but it is definitely a bad place, sometimes.
The Good Place nails it with Chick-fil-A 😂 pic.twitter.com/hONslDiKhe
— mgoblurg (@mgoblurg) January 18, 2019
The Good Place is currently streaming on Netflix. The finale is next week!
Patrick Lenton is the Entertainment Editor at Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton.