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The Good Place 3x01 “Everything is Bonzer” Review

The Good Place 3x01 “Everything is Bonzer” Review

During the hour long premiere, The Good Place backtracks to the moment during the Season 2 finale when the Judge sent the humans back to Earth in the seconds before they died and catches us up on all their lives in the intervening year, shows us how Michael pulled just enough strings behind the scenes to steer everyone in the right direction, and conspires to have the entire gang reunited in Australia by the end of the episode, where Chidi is a professor and has decided to write his thesis on how near death experiences can change one’s desire to do good, with the help of his girlfriend in the neuroscience department.

But we’ll get to that in a moment.

The Season 2 finale already showed us how Eleanor’s life progressed in the year since she had a near death experience: she made the initial decision to become a better person and stuck by it for a couple of months, but when it didn’t result in any payoff reverted back to her previous “trash bag” habits — until she ran into Michael at the bar, looked up Chidi’s speech, and took an impromptu trip to Australia.

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Eleanor isn’t the only one whose life followed this trajectory post-near death; in fact, they all did. After agreeing to help Eleanor, Chidi tells her his own story, in response to her question about why he agreed to help her. For Chidi, it wasn’t nearly dying that prompted him to turn his life around (that only convinced him that he shouldn’t use air conditioners, since the freon is so bad for the environment); it’s an encounter with Simone, a neuroscientist, whom he approaches about whether his inability to make decisions is because of a problem with his brain.

Simone allows Chidi to take an MRI, which only proves that his brain is, in fact, very healthy, and forces Chidi to realize that he’s the only one who can decide...to make decisions. For several months, Chidi follows this new philosophy with great results, until he shares it with a colleague (remember the guy with the red cowboy boots?). Making the decision to go to the gym for the first time in awhile, Henry ends up in the hospital with two broken legs, a concussion, and a viral video on YouTube of him wetting himself. On top of that, Chidi learns that blueberry muffins, which he’d been deciding to eat for breakfast for the past couple of months, are bad because the migrant workers at the blueberry plantations get treated poorly.

Spiralling back into his old indecisive self, Chidi is at the library, checking out dozens of books in hopes that he’ll find a new topic to write his thesis paper on, when he runs into Michael — this time disguised as a librarian. Michael tells Chidi that to help oneself, sometimes one must help others, and that he should offer to help the next person who asks for it. Enter Eleanor, who shows up in Chidi’s office several hours later asking for that very thing.

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After escaping her own near death experience, Tahani decides to spend some time at a Tibetan monastery, where she can do good for the world while staying out of the spotlight. But when someone from a news channel shows up and offers to do a story on her, Tahani can’t resist the call of fame, and the next time we see her she’s famous again, and the author of a book ironically called Out of the Spotlight. Michael shows up, posing as a slimy investor who calls Tahani out on being fake and doing good only for the fame and money, and he rattles Tahani so much that when Chidi calls, asking if she’d like to take part in his experiment, Tahani says yes.

And Jason starts a dance troupe (Dance Dance Resolution) after his near death experience, but after they don’t win a single competition and run out of money to pay the rent on their studio, he resorts to stealing again. Michael approaches him on a wharf about starting a dance troupe in Australia but Jason has already realized he needs to do more than participate in amateur dance competitions and, after hearing his story, Michael instead offers to fly him down to Australia to meet people who are like him.

Of course, Michael wasn’t supposed to do any meddling in the humans’ lives, beyond the first contact when he saved them all from death. But he can’t stand to sit back and watch as things go wrong and, convincing himself that he need only nudge the humans in the right direction — or get Chidi and Eleanor back together, or ensure all four of them end up in the same place — Michael bribes and lies to the doorman who guards the portal to Earth to allow him to enter again, behind the Judge’s back.

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Michael’s multiple trips to Earth give the demons (who have been trying to hack into the Judge’s system) back door access, allowing them to send one of their own down to Earth and setting up for the final scene of the episode: the four humans are reunited in Australia to take part in Chidi’s experiment, but Trevor has also shown up and plans on taking part, too.

This episode was much better paced than the Season 2 premiere, which similarly needed to spend some time explaining the plot twist of the previous season’s finale. In my review of 2x13 “Somewhere Else,” I expressed my concern with how the show would handle the character arcs of everyone aside from Eleanor, in order to get the audience to a place where the show could move forward. Balancing between present day interactions and flashbacks — sprinkled with interferences from Michael — was a great way to keep the story moving while not feeling like we were getting bogged down in backstory.

One thing I really liked about this episode, that we didn’t get to see in the Season 2 premiere, was the natural moral progression of each character. While each character regressed to some extent to the person they were before they almost died, they all recognize (with a little push) that they can and should try to be better. What was previously an entire season arc took place in just this single episode: Chidi is passionate enough about his new project that decision making comes easily, Eleanor offers Tahani the pullout sofa in her motel room without a second thought, Tahani only agrees to participate in the experiment if it will help people, and Jason realized even before Michael came to see him that he needed to do more to be good than just dance.

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It makes me excited about the trajectory for this season: while Seasons 1 and 2 were about improving oneself with the intention of getting into the Good Place, this season none of the characters even know the Good Place exists and are becoming better simply because they want to. I also can’t wait to see what this means for Michael this season; last season he developed from an evil demon to one who genuinely wants to do good, and so far he’s maintained those traits (he desperately wants the humans to succeed! He brought the doorman back a personal gift from Earth for no reason! His excitement at being able to visit Earth was so pure!). Will Michael continue to play the role of “guardian angel” or will his role become something more concrete?

While the humans were reunited faster than I thought they would be, I am wondering about Michael and Janet, who are essentially trapped in another dimension. Will they also find their way to Earth? I’m thinking yes — with Trevor-the-demon showing up on the scene to mess things up at the end, I don’t think Michael will be able to stop himself from meddling. And I think seeing Janet in an Earth setting, since she’s neither a robot nor a human, could provide for some good comedic material.

Regardless of what happens next, “Everything is Bonzer” was a solid premiere that set up what is sure to be an interesting season.

Footnotes:

  • “I’ve made my decision. I want to...start crying.” Chidi is...so relatable.

  • I liked the explanation for Chidi speaking French in Season 1 (and presumably 2) and English so far in Season 3. So often on a show minor plotholes like that get swept under the rug. Also, if anyone speaks 5 languages fluently, it’s Chidi.

  • Simone slots nicely into the role of “The Other Woman” who will prevent Eleanor and Chidi from getting together until the end of the season, but...I love her. She’s a science nerd and she has a great sense of humour. Can we keep her forever?

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  • Why are the demons working on computers from 1982?

  • “Looks like Michael’s been caught with his hand in the human jar.” I love this show for its combination of the exploration of moral ethics with absolutely ridiculous dialogue.

  • Out of all of them, Jason possibly reverted the least to his old self. The only reason he went back to stealing was to pay the rent on his dance studio!

  • Speaking of Jason, he continues to be completely underestimated — he’s the only one Michael tried to trick into going to Australia, and yet Jason was the one who didn’t need a push from Michael at all to do the right thing. (He just needed the means to get to Australia.)

  • I’m really excited about this season, if only because the scientific thesis presented in this episode (how people’s brains change after they have a near death experience) is absolutely something I would want to study myself.

  • I feel a strange joy when American shows take place somewhere that isn’t America. I hope they hang out in Australia for awhile.

  • Will this be the season we finally actually get to see the Good Place?

  • (For a show called The Good Place, we sure spend a lot of time in places that isn’t it.)

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

Sam’s episode rating: 🐝🐝🐝🐝.5


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