The Good Place: Season 2 created by Michael Schur (NBC, Fremulon, 3 Arts Entertainment, Universal Television)
Starring Kristen Bell, William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D’Arcy Caden, Manny Jacinto, Marc Evan Jackson, and Ted Danson.
Do We Owe Each Other?
What do we owe each other? Day by day. Hour by hour. Minute by minute. Our actions emerge in the context of relationships to others. Our decisions determine our relational orbits. The choices of a parent influence the expectations of life for the child. The management style of the boss alters the psyche of the employee. So, what do we owe each other when our decisions influence each other so greatly?
Well, any movement forward, with even an ounce of empathy, suggests what we owe each other is deep, profound, and necessary. If we want to live in a world where humans flourish, we owe it to each other to seek those ends collectively.
While you might be thinking it odd that I’m spending so much time on moral philosophy in a review about a network comedy, the zany and impeccable show, The Good Place, focuses its second season on this question.
SPOILER WARNING FOR SEASON ONE TO FOLLOW. IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED THE SHOW, GO DO IT ALREADY.
Season 2 begins where the cliffhanger of Season 1 ends. Having just discovered the good place is actually the bad place designed to torture our protagonists psychologically, our benevolent demon, Michael (Ted Danson) hits the reset button on our protagonists Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tehani (Jameela Jamil), and Jason (Manny Jacinto).
With pressure from Michael’s boss, Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson) to not mess up again, the first couple of episodes blitz through 800 variations of this menacing simulation, each time one of the four discovering the malicious intent underneath the surface.
Facing an unpleasant demise himself, Michael and the four humans decide to team up and try their best to game the system. Michael “pretends” to torture the humans, and the humans study moral philosophy from Chidi hoping to become better people so they just might be able to convince the bureaucratic powers of the afterlife to approve a transfer to the real good place.
Humanity = The Fruitless Attempt to Do Something Good in the Face of Long Odds
During this study, Michael soon discovers the inherent tension and beauty of the human existence. And the four humans begin to understand the importance of relationship and community in living well and ultimately living right. The whole team initiates an understanding about what they owe each other.
Unfortunately, they are still in hell; when Michael’s superiors learn about what is happening, the humans have little hope for a happy ending. But, what is humanity except a fruitless attempt in the face of long odds with the hope that something turns out when it likely won’t. Don’t we owe it to each other to at least try?
The Good Place is the best show on television, not only because it’s zany humor and impeccable casting force consistent belly laughs, but also because of the depth of its philosophical pursuits. The show asks the most meaningful questions we can ask about human existence. And, with the showrunner’s continued ability to push the narrative into unexpected places, Season 3 should continue this run of brilliance.
Verdict: 5 out of 5