Fork yeah: The Good Place is back. This season, as we follow the show that is so devoted to understanding what it means to be good and bad, we will be applying the NBC comedy’s own standards and practices in determining the Worst Person of the Week. The weekly winner — well, “loser” is probably more accurate — will be judged by their ethical choices rather than any subjective measures. Think of us as another Sean, only less into encasing traitors in slimy cocoons. At the end of this ethical exercise, we’ll also hand out episodic awards for more frivolous things. Let’s get started with Thursday night’s two-part premiere, “Everything Is Bonzer!”
While the core of The Good Place explores what it means to be a good person and how its human characters can better themselves — lest they suffer an eternity filled with “butthole spiders” — the one, um, entity that’s endured the most change over the course of the series is Michael (Ted Danson). Michael is, in colloquial terms, a demon (though he objects that that word is a “little racist”), but in two seasons he’s gone from joyously torturing the show’s human quartet to becoming their unlikely savior.
By the end of Season 2, Michael had successfully convinced Judge Hydrogen (Maya Rudolph) to give Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Jason (Manny Jacinto), and Tahani (Jameela Jamil) a second chance back on Earth, in a new timeline when none of them had been killed and sent to the Bad Place. And while Michael was allowed to physically hop down to Earth to save the four of them from their deaths, the judge ruled that that act would be the extent of his interference — otherwise, per the judge, “the results will be tainted.”
The judge’s logic makes sense: If you told anyone that anything short of saintlike behavior would result in eternal damnation, of course they’d change their lifestyle, primarily out of (quite understandable) fear. But selfishly motivated acts of goodness are not, in fact, acts of goodness.
In the Season 2 finale, Eleanor, without knowledge of the stakes, strived to do the right thing more often over the course of several months — she quit her telemarketing job and was honest with her friends, even at the expense of angering them — before the strain of constantly being good wore her down. And as evidenced in “Everything Is Bonzer!” Chidi, Tahani, and Jason underwent similar lifestyle changes that bore fruit for only a short period of time before they reverted back to their old ways.
Naturally, then, Michael can’t resist giving the humans a gentle nudge in the right direction. “In the afterlife, they all got better because they helped each other,” he explains to Janet (D’Arcy Carden) in the Season 3 premiere. By separately convincing Eleanor, Jason, and Tahani to seek out Chidi in Australia for a repeat of their moral philosophy lessons, he provides the ideal setting and the best possible chance for them to attain entry into the Good Place.
The problem is, Michael has tainted that process, making him our Worst Person of the Week — in this case, Worst Eternal Being in a Corporeal Meatsuit of the Week. To be clear, Michael’s intentions come from a place of decency, but showing up in Jacksonville as dance manager “Zack Pizazz” and telling Jason to change his life by heading Down Under has the adverse effect of nullifying the judge’s experiment. Sure, the judge is currently caught up in a 300-episode binge of NCIS — “I’m not a human woman, but that Mark Harmon can get it” — but it’s going to be hard to keep anything a secret from the most powerful being in the universe for too long.
Michael might be considering a certain branch of virtue ethics that considers whether one should be objectively virtuous or strictly adhere to rules or orders (a legit example of this is considering whether Batman should kill the Joker in The Dark Knight), but like the show’s literal interpretation of the Trolley Problem last season, the fates of Eleanor, Chidi, Jason, and Tahani aren’t going to come down to philosophical theorizing about a situation. If, or when, Michael is caught by the judge, the humans could face eternal damnation because of his actions. Not good!
Michael’s meddling in the humans’ efforts to get into the Good Place had another ripple effect: The other demons got a back door through the judge’s system because he kept going down to Earth. That means, as Chidi rounds up the subjects for his new university thesis — which examines whether near-death experiences can change a person’s ethics — the demons were able to sneak in a sleeper agent. Trevor (a delightfully slimy Adam Scott) is back, posing as one of the test subjects, and that can mean only one thing for our humans: a lot of forking trouble, all of which could’ve been avoided had Michael stood pat and not interfered. Or, better yet, just thirstily binged NCIS alongside the judge.
And now for some weekly superlatives.
Best Food Pun: There weren’t a ton of options this week, but this is a damn good, punny name for an Australian muffin stand:
The Most Jason Quote: “Claustrophobic — who would ever be scared of Santa Claus? Ohhhh, the Jewish!”
Most Strangely Joyous Human Discovery by an Eternal Being: Michael, upon returning from his first visit to Earth: “I saw this place that was at once a Pizza Hut and a Taco Bell!”
Best Parody: Tahani going full Vogue by answering [checks notes] 582 (!) questions for “International Sophisticate Magazine.”