Recap: ‘The Good Place’ S2E7 “Janet and Michael”
Logline: Idiot jerk enters heaven by admin error, commits hijinks to keep herself there.
Verdict: Spoilers spoilers!
The Good Place typically follows Eleanor (Kristen Bell) accidentally getting into “the good place”, a heaven-like wonderland. Aided by actual-good-guy Chidi (William Jackson Harper), she tries to keep her actual jerk-ness a secret from the overseeing architect-and-demigod Michael (Ted Danson). Together with other humans Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto) they’ve embarked upon fun goofy hijinks with an added afterlife flavour. Unfortunately, an existential bombshell was wrought upon the itty-bitty humans as they discovered that, after socially torturing one another for a whole season, “this is the bad place!” In a twisted version of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit (seriously does anyone read anymore) it’s true that “hell is other people.” The Good Place has gone from a little indie comedy from Michael Schur, of Parks and Recreation, to become an actual ratings delight for NBC.
“Janet and Michael” is mostly a bottle episode between Michael and “not a robot” Janet (D’Arcy Carden). The main thread of this season is Michael re-attempting “the good place”, this time with humans’ memories wiped clean, before eventually teaming up with them in defiance of his own bosses and colleagues. Carrying on from the twist ending of the first season, it’s become a subversive and structure-stretching show. Janet has been acting weird lately, threatening to destroy the neighbourhood, and as an immortal heaven helper (“busty alexa”, as Eleanor calls her), she needs a bit of reprogramming courtesy of Michael. It’s an episode that’s an examination of one of the oddest relationships on television – no, really, we mean it.
The episode opens in a flashback sequence, as we finally see Michael cheekily steal a “good place” Janet. In order to keep the ruse of his own “good place”, a social torture landscape in the wrapper of a retro-fifties ultra-happy neighbourhood, he has her to maintain delightful order. We are treated, throughout the episode, to scenes which glance back at their initial time building the not-so-heavenly utopia together. It’s some of the most joyful television to be experienced, as the two immortal beings play off one another. Though we’re not so sure about Janet’s idea that every restaurant should be a fro-yo joint.
From there, the episode weaves in and out of Michael’s office and plays around with time a fair amount, flashing back and forth between the beginning of “the good place” and the present danger it faces. Michael also, quite shockingly, reveals he is actually sincere in hoping to band with the humans in a bid to escape to the real good place. Fans of the show have speculated for some time as to whether or not his teaming up was part of Vicky’s (Tiya Sircar), also an immortal demon, plan to torture the humans forever. We later discover than Janet’s malfunctions come from her love of Jason, and watching him buddy up with Tahani is causing her to jitter like cray cray. The pair actually married last season but, after 802 memory wipes, it’s only Michael who’s truly aware of how deep this has affected her. Michael is told by Janet that the only way to save her, and the neighbourhood, is to kill her. To make her self-destruct.
Michael responds with the sweetest moment on television all year. The Good Place has played around with structure, flashback sequences, and whimsical jokes to get across exposition, but it’s the raw talent of Ted Danson that really sells this moment. Whilst he’s usually playing some kind of cheeky or mischievous funzo demon, it’s here when he says he cannot perform the task at hand that really warms the soul, as he bawls out that the “reason is friends”. Michael, instead, remains resolute in using the aid of Chidi, Eleanor and others to try to get Janet on the right track and away from “two peas in the pod, one of whom needs to kill the other”.
In the end it’s literally the power of friendship that solves the ills of the day, as Janet learns, away from her comfortable “objective truth”, to find a way to deal with her bond with Jason. She creates her own boyfriend, a whole new character called Derek (Jason Mantzoukas) who seems a complete klutz without any sense of object permanence. Where this new addition to the cast will take The Good Place is pretty unknown, but this was a real swell and sweet episode just about two weird characters finally airing out their history and appreciation for one another.