Recap: The Good Place S2E6: “The Trolley Problem”
Logline: What happens when idiot jerk Eleanor Shellstrop accidentally gets into heaven.
Verdict: Spoiler alert! Spoiler alert!
“If you steal a loaf of bread it’s negative seventeen points – twenty if it’s a baguette, because that makes you more French.”
With this week’s “The Trolley Problem”, The Good Place continues a subversive and structure-ripping second season with a zany and laugh-a-minute pace. The episode picks apart an ethics class taught as usual by former moral philosophy professor Chidi (William Jackson Harper), centering on the classic “trolley problem” designed by (c’mon guys, seriously, learn to forking read) British philosopher Philippa Foot.
The main narrative this week is a gleeful exploration of the tension between demon Michael (Ted Danson) and human Chidi, and how the former’s (literal) immortal arrogance prevents him from learning anything in the class. Michael quickly turns his need to understand the exercise “practically” into fun-torture for Chidi as he, Eleanor (Kristen Bell), and Chidi play an all-too-real simulation of the trolley problem. As Chidi is continuously showered with the blood of people he’s failed to save – complete with exploding bloody cowboy boots – Michael gleefully looks on, aware he’s back to torturing his new friend.
Michael even stretches the simulation, placing Chidi directly before the family members asking him why he let their beloved fathers and husbands die. The thorough exploration of the relationship between immortal, playful demon Michael and indecisive ethics professor Chidi sparks like hell, the two bouncing off one another with an afterlife of their own.
It’s yet another episode that zips along at breakneck speed (like the trolley in the trolley problem), all the while both exploring deep existential conundra and toilet jokes. Meanwhile, Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto) struggle on how to articulate their newly intimate relationship. The unfortunate fact, however, is that the main plot is brought down by the b-story’s lack of chemistry between Jamil and Jacinto. Their stolid therapy session with Janet falls flat due to that classic comedy conflict: plot vs. joke. The b-story’s function is to keep the multi-episode arc in tact: as the members of Team Cockroach use Janet as their emotional whipping boy, she begins to malfunction and threaten The Good Place itself.
Maybe the earth really did move for Tahani & Jason.