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‘The Good Place’ Review: “Janet and Michael”

Erin Graham ’19 / Emertainment Monthly TV Editor

This week’s The Good Place explores Michael’s (Ted Danson) and Janet’s (D’Arcy Carden) relationship almost exclusively, giving the two characters the space they deserve to interact and develop.

With earthquakes and glitches happening left and right, Michael and Janet work to discover the link between Janet’s inability to do her job and the problems arising in the world. Janet manages to pick her nose and pull out her operations manual. The show always crafts its humor in this brilliant manner: it’s a childish, playful comedy manifested in a way that lacks condescension and asks the audience to laugh, anyway. Looking through the manual, Michael realizes he should conduct a series of tests on an all-too-willing Janet.

Michael endures a series of memories in this episode, two of which reveal that Janet has been with him since the very inception of his ambitious “Bad Place posing as the Good Place” plan. Janet wonders if these glitches are happening because she ate frozen yogurt when she wasn’t supposed to, but after another flashback, Michael admits he’s been lying to her since the beginning about everything and that this amalgamation of deceit is no doubt the cause for her brokenness. Janet doesn’t agree because otherwise she would have broken this entire time, not just recently.

Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto) burst in, Tahani finally able to admit that she and Jason are a couple. Janet is quick to praise the couple and admit that she’s happy for them, only for the room to suddenly fall apart, causing Michael and Janet to realize that she’s able to lie now. After hundreds of reboots due to Michael’s failure, one reboot being the one where Janet married Jason, Janet has gained complex abilities like lying and falling in love. Thus Janet constantly approving of and offering to help with Jason and Tahani’s blooming relationship when she herself still loves Jason has all been one big string of lies, leading to all the issues. Janet and Michael determine Janet must die for this to go away.

The rest of the episode is predicated upon Janet’s and Michael’s sudden admittance of their humanness: Janet feels pain because of lost love and feels the need to lie, while Michael, an actual demon, cannot bring himself to murder such an old friend, and this is where the episode succeeds.

The first half of the episode features the usual Good Place jokes, which isn’t an insult: the show cleverly uses its own format to voice universal experiences that endear the audience. Sometimes the dialogue feels a bit too contrived, too perfect: for two characters who aren’t human at all, they reach universal human understandings almost a little too quickly. However, Michael’s jab at frozen yogurt being a treat but also a bummer lands well, as do most of the jokes poking fun at the human experience. This is the show’s strength, but so is its serious introspection on what it means to be human at all. Michael can barely admit that he can’t kill Janet because they’re friends. Janet tells Eleanor (Kristen Bell) she isn’t a person, but Eleanor insists that she is because Janet understands the pain of unrequited love. The episode cleverly excludes the human characters in the main plot in order to address humanity from a robotic and demonic perspective.

This episode questions what it means to be human, what it means to love and to lose, and still manages to make us laugh at a nose-picking joke and wanting for more. A classic episode of The Good Place indeed.

Episode Grade: A-

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