Recap: The Good Place Ep 2.1

We recap the season two premiere of NBC’s oddball genre comedy The Good Place, a favorite around here. Season One is available on Netflix if you want to catch up.

Avast! Thar be spoilers below, you have been duly warned.

Season one of The Good Place, a wildly original network comedy about the afterlife, ended on a bang with the twist reveal that our heroes have in fact been in the The Bad Place all along–in a high-concept, experimental iteration masterminded by architect Michael–and are not accidental admissions to the Good Place, as Eleanor and Jason had ample reason to believe. Before their memories were erased and Michael reset the scenario, Eleanor wrote herself a note (“Find Chidi”) on the title page of one of his philosophy books, ripped it out, and stuffed it into digital-girl-friday Janet’s mouth.

The first ep of S2, “Everything Is Great!” picks up about where we left off. Michael is putting the final touches on the neighborhood, nervously teleconferencing with his boss about the need for absolute success, and leading an employee briefing with all the town’s phony inhabitants about the new order of things–Chidi and Eleanor, and Tahani and Jason, are no longer matched as soulmates–and in some cases, their new roles. (The meeting itself is a brilliant meta-commentary on the tweaks that happen between seasons on network series, in terms of rearranging the pieces, introducing new elements, and sudden shifts in secondary characterizations.) There’s some staff dissatisfaction, ranging from concern new characters are insufficiently motivated to a persistent disappointment on one player’s part that biting is not permitted. The group goal is to get through the plot of the pilot episode again, leaving Eleanor paranoid and distressed over clearly not belonging here, so that she can repeat her drunken meltdown at the party and cue the chaos sequence with the giant shrimp and Ariana Grande song again.

But too many other factors have been tweaked as well for things to go according to plan. Tahani is matched with an ascetic, style-less and short charity doctor, in a tiny house decorated with her sister’s artwork, and her former “soulmate” Jason is paired with another silent monk who follows him everywhere, copying everything he does. Poor Chidi is immediately presented with a love triangle–guaranteed overload for him–and everyone is quickly so miserable that things rapidly spiral out of control and demand another reset, but not until the four have found one another again and Eleanor and Chidi make another significant connection. Michael frantically cleans up after the mess, and there’s no note this time, but it seems unlikely, heading into the next ep, that the note was the only problem.

This was a great ep, playing well to the dynamics and strengths of the superb ensemble cast, and there were several spit-take-worthy moments and lines. Structurally, the scaffolding is there for the potential twist that Michael–becoming increasingly undone with anxiety as everything around him spins out of control, from the behavior of the four to ineptitude on his staff’s parts–has joined his former tormentees in The Bad Place and is not yet aware that this is so. Red herring or not, it will be fun to watch for clues going forward.

What did you think? Strong sophomore start or no?

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