It’s almost the end of The Good Place, but for the Soul Squad things look like they’re just beginning. As Eleanor (Kristen Bell) and her friends get ready for the next (and hopefully final) phase of the afterlife, Michael (Ted Danson) wrestles with a feeling of helplessness over losing the thing that made him special. Did the episode work? Honestly, it kind of depends on what happens next.
There were some things that really worked about “Mondays, Am I Right?” and others that really didn’t seem to land. Coming so close to the end of the series, it was weird having an episode that seemed like it was moving too fast and too slow at the same time, drumming up old problems for no reason while fixing new ones at breakneck speed. Of course, it’s still The Good Place, which means even its biggest mishaps are still light years ahead of many other shows.
In one corner, you’ve got Michael, Tahani, and Janet instructing the Bad Place architects on the new system they’ll be adopting. This allows for some excellent comedic work, as the Bad Place architects can’t comprehend a system where they’re not flattening penises or making chainsaw bears. In comes Vicky (Tiya Sircar) to save the day. As an actress and self-proclaimed “strong, independent acid snake in the skin-suit of a strong, independent woman,” she knows how to get under someone’s skin (it’s also in part due to her experience running Michael’s fake Good Place, but luckily the show doesn’t feel the need to explain this to us). Not only does Vicky manage to trick Tahani with a flawless, non-chainsaw bear-filled simulation, she also helps the others see how to do it too. It’s all about flattening the penises…in their hearts.
I loved that The Good Place brought Vicky in this way. It shows that Michael’s experiment has had an impact on people and demons alike—perhaps in ways even they don’t fully understand. Vicky is a fascinating character and I’m glad to see she’s stayed on the series for as long as she has. Every time she talks about her “method” I want to die on the inside, which I imagine is not an accident.
However, the mood is soured a bit when Michael gets all sullen because Vicky succeeds where he failed. In a sense, I think I get where Michael’s coming from—or rather, where he should be coming from. It’s kind of a metaphor for parenthood. Being a parent is about raising someone who, if you do your job right, will one day surpass you. You’re laying the groundwork but have to stand by and watch as someone else exceeds it. It’s heartbreaking. I just wish the show made the conflict more clear. As it stands, it just feels like Michael is bitter because he did all the work and now is left with no direction while someone else gets to slide in and take all the credit. It just doesn’t track with the Michael we’ve known for so long—but there could be a good (place) reason for this situation, which I’ll explain further down.
However, the real weirdness belongs to the Eleanor and Chidi storyline. Even though Chidi is totally “shut up, I’m confident now,” he still falls back into old patterns after he and Eleanor realise they can look up the other’s entire life history. They’re supposed to figuring out the first candidates for their new Good Place test, but spend much of their time looking at each other’s books and talking about how insecure it makes them feel. Eleanor is worried that Chidi is going to judge her for all the shit she’s done. Quite the contrary: Chidi is impressed at Eleanor’s resourcefulness, but he’s concerned she’s going to get bored of him in the Good Place. For the second week in a row, it’s surprisingly Jason who gives Chidi the exact advice he needs, wrapped in the typical Jason-ness: “chess mate.” The whole situation felt like a step backward that we didn’t need right now, as these characters have known each other over hundreds of lifetimes.
Of course, there is a way this will make sense. You see, the episode ends on an idyllic note. Vicky is running the new Good Place test, masterfully keeping everybody on track like a wedding planner on par with Jennifer Lopez. And Team Cockroach is finally going to the Good Place, having accomplished their mission, ascending in the balloon that failed to take them so many episodes ago. Even though images for next week’s episode, “Patty,” appear to show them in the Good Place, I’m not convinced.
We have three episodes left (over the next two weeks). And as we saw with Michael, Tahani, Eleanor, and Chidi, they’re all still holding onto some of the mistakes of their past (and Jason’s, you know, still Jason). I felt the way the problems were brought up was a bit contrived, but it showed they still exist. They’re not fully ready for the Good Place and I have a feeling they’re going to be tested after all, just like they were when they first arrived in the afterlife. The only question is: How will they do?