The Good Place: Season 3 created by Michael Schur (NBC, Fremulon, 3 Arts EntertainmentUniversal Television)

Starring Kristen BellWilliam Jackson HarperJameela JamilD’Arcy CadenManny JacintoMarc Evan Jackson, and Ted Danson.

SPOILER WARNING FOR PREVIOUS SEASONS

Our Moral Obligation

What do we owe each other? For the last few seasons, The Good Place has been asking us this question. As our systems and institutions become more intertwined where does the responsibility of one person end and the responsibility of another begin?

A simple act of enjoying a song requires a laundry list of ethical repercussions. Is the artist a good person? If the artist isn’t a good person, is it the kind of “bad” that creates good art and is justifiable or just pure evil? Even if the artist is a decent person, how is the record label? Is the CEO embroiled in scandal? Does the company treat its employees well? If the company is ok and you decide to buy the album, are the materials used to manufacture the CD, vinyl, or cell phone upon which you stream the music ethical? Is it sustainably sourced? Are the subcontractors that are mining these materials treated fairly?

You see, enjoying a song involves an iceberg of repercussions below it. So, what do we owe each other? What is our ethical mandate in a system so interconnected? Can anyone be a good person in these circumstances?

With this premise in mind, The Good Place continues its ambitious path in Season 3.

Let’s Try This Again

Granted a do-over from the impeccably cast judge of the universe, Gen (Maya Rudolph), the core quartet of characters Eleanor (Kristen Bell), Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil), and Jason (Manny Jacinto) earn a chance at redemption, an opportunity to live a better life on earth.

While things begin swimmingly for each of them, the reality of life grinds them all back into their bad habits. Reformed demon, Michael (Ted Danson), finally recognizes one constant in all of his previous attempts that pushed these characters on the path of virtue. Eleanor and Chidi always found each other.

Going to earth, illegally, he gives them the push they need to meet up. And yet, the bad demons, led by Sean (Marc Evan Jackson), also head back to earth to influence this test in the opposite direction.

The fate of the four hangs in the balance.

Situational Comedy as an Ethics Vehicle

While The Good Place is hilarious and compellingly written, the element that makes this series transcendent television is its ambitious attempts to shoehorn ethics into a sitcom.

Behind all the hilarity and absurdity, The Good Place is making a fascinating argument about the difficulty of being a good person in a world this interconnected. No matter what we do, our actions have unintended, often deleterious outcomes. So, what do we owe each other? The most radical element of The Good Place is the suggestion that despite all the evidence, we might as well try our best to be kind to each other, to do the right thing even if it doesn’t help you in the long run. That reason alone qualifies The Good Place as must-see TV.

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