By KASHISH VARSHNEY ’21
I can’t say I’m an expert TV show critic, but I love watching TV. One show that I’ve currently started to watch is The Good Place. I haven’t had the opportunity to binge the entire show, so I can’t discuss the story to its full extent but I’m reliable nevertheless. And for those of you who have lived under a rock for the last twenty years, “binging,” according to Dictionary.com, refers to “a period or bout, usually brief, of excessive indulgence, as in eating, drinking alcoholic beverages, etc.; spree.” This is how we, as modern viewers, consume content. It does take away from the mystery element of TV, but sometimes, it’s better to know what happens to a certain character right after watching the previous episode, rather than waiting to find out if that character will die in the next episode. Instant gratification is, indeed, the hallmark of modern viewership.
(If you haven’t watched The Good Place, then don’t read this review, because, spoilers).
The Good Place debuted in 2016 on NBC and starts with Eleanor Shellstrop, played by Kristen Bell, finding herself in “the Good Place.” She meets Michael, played by Ted Danson, and the “man” that runs the neighborhood that she will live in. He explains to Eleanor the concept of the Good Place, portrayed as a heaven-like paradise, and how she died. He then introduces her to her soulmate, Chidi, played by William Jackson Harper, and gives her a tour around her new neighborhood and house.
An important detail to note is that Chidi and Eleanor enjoy each other’s company, talking excitedly about anything that comes to mind. They discuss their respective countries and jobs. However, this chatter soon comes to a screeching halt, as Eleanor tells Chidi that the memories Michael showed her are fake. After analyzing her character and morals from when she was alive, Eleanor realizes she isn’t supposed to be in the Good Place. This is one of the best twists I’ve ever seen. I like to pride myself in being able to figure out plot twists pretty early into an episode or movie. While watching shows, I try to pick at the “What ifs?” What if he’s the demon? Or, what if she’s the one that killed the father? Or, what if they all committed the murder? So for a detail in the plot to slap me in the face is quite rare. This plot twist threw me for a loop and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.
Although I’ve only gotten through four and a half episodes, I already love the show for its quirky vibe that I cannot shake. It clings to you, providing you a good mood for the rest of the day.
The try-hard character, Michael, to me, is one of the most relatable characters of the show. I honestly have no idea if Michael is a man because he seems like a bureaucratic official of the Good Place. However, I love the fact that he has a meltdown every five minutes because anything he plans or designs fails. His tribulations add a relatability factor to the show, which allows the audience to connect with the characters. I find that when I can connect with a character, I tend to like them more.
Another relatable character is the main character herself, Eleanor. Although she isn’t the character the audience thought she would be, I’ve grown to like her rather quickly. She has a unique personality and highlights the struggles of being human. The people living in the Good Place are supposed to be to be almost perfect. In contrast, Eleanor has many flaws, and we obviously can see this when she tries to curse, but ends up saying words like “Fork!” or “Shoot.” She was a jerk when she was alive and lied to everyone in her life. She was also selfish, which contributes to the questioning of morality and its effect in the afterlife. Although all of these characteristics make her seem like a bad person, she didn’t deserve to go to the Bad Place. I love how the show critiques this aspect of good and evil by showcasing human qualities, like selfishness and vulnerability.
I’m excited to see where this show will go and can’t wait to continue watching, so I will end this review with one of my favorite quotes from the show thus far. Eleanor Shellstrop questions the equality of the Good Place and the Bad Place with humor: “I was a medium person. I should get to spend eternity in a medium place. Like Cincinnati.”