The Good Place 3x04-3x06 “The Snowplow,” “Jeremy Bearimy” and “The Ballad of Donkey Doug” Review
I finally got the chance to catch up on this season of The Good Place, and man, do I ever wish I’d had the time to do so earlier. Season 3 has been so good so far, and every time I get concerned they’re heading down a path I’m not too excited about, they twist it around and head somewhere else instead.
Trevor was handily written out at the beginning of “The Snowplow” (thank God, was he ever annoying), one of the first steps Michael took as he began to lose sight of their purpose and focus only on the end goal; Michael’s insane bid to break into the Judge’s office and reset the timeline on Earth so they could start again was halted before he even made it through the door (which gave me a big sigh of relief, the last thing I want to see is more resets); and Eleanor’s predictable spiral back into being a selfish, horrible person was stopped by no one other than...herself, proving that this time around, she really has changed.
The three most recent episodes, which I’ll attempt to review all at once, were full of meaty material, moral missteps and existential crises, and a healthy dose of philosophy class. Not to mention the show’s standard fare of zany dialogue and physical gags. Let’s get into it.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
In Episode 3x04 “The Snowplow”, Michael can’t bring himself to stop meddling in the lives of the Brainy Bunch, doing everything he can to keep the four humans together and not trusting that they will continue to learn and grow without his help. He justifies his actions with a “snowplow” metaphor: he and Janet are just acting as a snowplow, clearing a path in front of the subjects and making it easier for them to reach salvation.
At first, Michael’s actions are small and easily justifiable: helping Eleanor win the lottery (using Janet’s entire knowledge of the universe) so that she doesn’t have to get a job and thus take time away from her studies certainly doesn’t hurt anyone. Keeping Tahani and Jason from hooking up is only preventing either of them from getting hurt later, and stops Janet (who is still in love with Jason) from getting hurt now.
But Michael’s desperation to see that all four of the humans are saved — after all, it’s not just their souls that are on the line, but his and Janet’s continued existence — makes him blind to the consequences of his actions. Like many well-meaning people before him, Michael does increasingly morally-grey and risky things for the sake of achieving his end goal.
He messes in the life of Tahani and her new fiance, Larry Hemsworth (the fourth, grossly overshadowed Hemsworth brother) to try to stop them from moving to London. When Chidi and Simone call an end to the experiment for at least a year while they analyze the data and apply for grants, he convinces Eleanor to make a speech beseeching the group to stick together, which backfires horrifically.
And worst of all, he has an unspecified plan that involves arson and injuring five innocent bystanders. This one strikingly reminded me of last season’s episode “The Trolley Problem”; Michael’s willingness to hurt five people he doesn’t know to save the four he does especially speaks to how far he’s drifted away from all the moral gains he made last season.
Michael’s final bid involves sneaking back into the afterlife, breaking into the Judge’s office, and resetting the timeline on Earth back to the moments when each human was originally supposed to die and trying again, doing things right this time. It’s a harebrained scheme, especially since — as Janet points out — they have no idea how to even go about resetting the Earth timeline and will probably get caught.
Not only that, but this is now the Michael we knew at the beginning of Season 2, resetting his experiments with reckless abandon, hoping that he’ll land on one that achieves his ends through pure chance. His motivations are different now — instead of wanting to create a version of hell that will uniquely torture the four humans for the rest of eternity, he wants to save their souls and stop them from being tortured for the rest of eternity.
Ironically, him trying to save them is what ultimately condemns them to inescapably being stuck in the Bad Place forever.
Michael’s character development was my favourite part of last season, but having had him reach the point of sacrificing himself for the greater good when he gave himself up to Shawn and the other demons, I was curious about where they could go with him from there. Having him regress in some ways to the demon he was before — while still maintaining his good intentions — was a fantastic move, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of his journey this season looks like.
“I will face God and walk backwards into hell.”
(Yes, this is a dril quote, but I will never stop loving it.)
Through Michael’s endless and increasingly desperate meddling, the Brainy Bunch accidentally overhear him and Janet talking about the points system that gets people into the Good Place and see a portal into the afterlife, which leaves Michael and Janet with no choice but to tell them the whole truth.
Unfortunately, learning about the points system now means that none of the humans are eligible to enter the Good Place; all of their motivation to be good has been corrupted, so they can no longer earn any more points.
Discovering that they’re doomed to spend eternity in hell once they die, no matter how much good they achieve in their lifetime, has a different and opposite effect on each of the humans. Being on the third season now, I feel like both the show and the audience has a good grasp on who these characters are, which makes little moral studies like this one (similar to the season premiere, where we saw how each character reacted to their individual near-death experiences) fascinating to watch.
Not only that, but each character reacts in a way different perhaps to what would be assumed, but each reaction still feels perfectly in character and speaks to how much the characters have grown. “The Snowplow” zips through an entire year of moral growth in about 15 minutes, and yet reaching this point still feels entirely earned, thanks to the solid character work done in seasons 1 and 2.
Tahani decides once and for all that she wants to stay out of the spotlight, and makes a $2 million anonymous donation to the Sydney opera house. Jason, who accompanies her, helps her take this idea even further, and the two of them begin handing out bundles of cash to random people they meet on the street. Eventually, Tahani decides to hand over her entire £131 million fortune to Jason, who she knows will utilize it better than she ever could. The bank refuses to let Tahani transfer that much money, especially not into the account of someone like Jason, so the two of them decide to get platonically married so that she can give him half her fortune.
I enjoyed seeing Tahani and Jason get married again, under completely different circumstances than what led them to get married back in Season 1 — this season is doing a really great job of pulling at threads laid down in earlier seasons, but spinning them to have a different cause or outcome. I’m also really liking how they’re handling Jason’s character this season; in the past, he was too often used as the butt of a joke and nothing else (as is often the case with characters that are being portrayed as dumb), but now he’s providing real value and insight to the group.
Chidi, whom one might expect to be least affected by the revelation that nothing they do matters, since he always seemed to believe in doing good for the sake of good, is instead completely shattered. His inability to make decisions, which previously had been because he wanted to make sure he made the right moral choice, now manifests as him making decisions with no thought or drive behind them. He purchases $800 of goods from the store by sweeping items off the shelves at random, concocts a disgusting chili from beef, gummy bears, and other types of candy, and tells his philosophy class that nihilism is the only belief system that matters.
And initially, Eleanor seems to revert back to her selfish, only-look-out-for-number-one self. She lies about her birthday to a bartender in order to get a free margarita, and then proceeds to have a conversation with him about how everyone should only look out for themselves and in her society, only the things that directly help her matter.
But when Eleanor finds a dropped wallet under her barstool, she can’t quite bring herself to steal the money that’s inside. Instead, she takes a $58 cab ride to the address of the wallet’s owner, only to find out he moved (to a place next to the bar she was originally at) and is enlisted to take some of his other stuff back to him as well.
When Eleanor returns the wallet, the owner looks frantically through it to make sure nothing is missing — but he doesn’t care about the cash, he’s looking for a drawing his daughter made for him that he uses as a good luck charm whenever he’s having a tough day.
Seeing how much happiness a small action on her part brought to someone else, Eleanor calls a meeting of the Brainy Bunch and tells them her idea: that maybe it’s impossible for them to save themselves, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do their best to save others and increase their chances of getting into the Good Place.
This is a place I didn’t predict the show going, but I’m absolutely thrilled that they did. Doing good things for others without any expectation of receiving a boon in return is exactly what this show, at its heart, is about, and seems like a perfectly natural progression.
Team Cockroach ➡️ The Brainy Bunch ➡️ The Soul Squad
Man, these guys sure have a thing for team names. That being said, I love that they naturally come up with a name for their squad every time the end up working together, even when none of them remember the first time that happened.
Episode 3x06, “The Ballad of Donkey Doug,” was the most Jason-centric episode of the series thus far, as he, Tahani, and Michael fly back to Florida so Jason can attempt to save the soul of his father (who also happens to be Donkey Doug). Meeting Donkey Doug, it’s easy to see where Jason gets many of his traits from; it also seems pretty clear that Donkey Doug isn’t going to be easy to save. Like Jason originally, he has grand ideas that are actually useless and rely on acts of robbery in order to work.
But also like Jason, perhaps Donkey Doug isn’t unsaveable after all. Jason takes Pillboi’s place in Donkey Doug’s plan to rob several factories (having decided that Pillboi should be their first target, since he seems easier), and the police show up. Acting like a father for perhaps the first time in Jason’s life, Donkey Doug encourages Jason to escape out the back while he distracts the police.
So is anyone truly not worth saving? Although Donkey Doug is far from the worst person in the world, the Soul Squad sure were quick to write him off. Which is in fact the opposite of what Michael is trying to prove to the Judge: that people should be given second chances, that people should be allowed to prove themselves, and that it’s unfair for these people that Michael knows are good at heart to be sent to the Bad Place.
This is just the first time that belief has been applied to anyone outside the core group.
One persistent question I’ve had this season is how exactly they plan to have anyone — themselves or otherwise — stack up enough points to get into the Good Place, given that it was established in Season 1 that the Good Place isn’t just for anyone who had a positive point balance at the end of their lives, but rather just for the very best of the best. So far, it seems to me that the noble act of causing people to become better isn’t enough to actually save them from eternal damnation.
Hopefully, the show eventually answers this question the same way they answered my question about the timelines. Maybe Michael and Janet’s manifesto about all the changes they would like to see made to the system will actually reach the Judge’s hands and make a difference before anyone else gets unfairly damned.
That seems like a natural endgame for the show, although I do wish it was made textual more often that in this world, simply being good isn’t enough to get you into the Good Place. The show isn’t just about how people deserve to be saved, but that the entire system by which their goodness is judged is faulty in the first place.
I was extremely glad for the explanation about how time passes differently on Earth versus in the afterlife, because I was concerned as to how resetting the timeline on Earth would ripple out into the future if 300 years passed while they were initially in Michael’s experiment. My brain was just as broken as Chidi’s by the “Jeremy Bearimy” thing, though.
After several hundred simulations and one real-world case where Chidi is always the one to help Eleanor become a better person, I loved that Eleanor was the one to drag Chidi out of his depressive funk and convince him that they do have a purpose, after all.
I understand why Chidi had to break up with Simone, but I’m still extremely sad that it happened. I loved her, and hopefully she still shows up in some capacity. Also, does anyone want to talk about that simulation where he proposed to her and she said yes?
Bouncing off of that, the realization that none of them can tell anyone else the truth about the afterlife without risking them also being eternally damned was an interesting consequence of Michael’s mistake. I wonder if this secret will cause the group to become even more tightly-knit?
Pillboi’s and Jason’s extremely elaborate handshake while they were both sobbing was a thing of beauty.
Eleanor seems to be made more explicitly bi with every passing season (with Episode 3x06 including her ranting about Chidi how more men should be bi and nearly kissing Simone in a simulation), but do they ever plan to have her textually acknowledge it? Because they should, or else it’s nothing more than a poorly executed joke rather than actual representation.
The Good Place airs Tuesdays at 8:30/7:30c on NBC.