Recap: The Good Place S2E8 “Derek”
Logline: Clueless jerk enters a heavenly afterlife by way of admin error, schemes to keep herself there.
Verdict: “I hear wind chimes, everyone look away! I’ma keep watching but everyone else look away”
The Good Place, during its first season, follows Eleanor (Kristen Bell) accidentally entering “the Good Place”, the perfect version of the afterlife. With goody-two-shoes Chidi (William Jackson Harper) in tow, Eleanor tries to hide her jerkness from good place architect Michael (Ted Danson).
Other humans such as the British elite Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and clueless Jason (Manny Jacinto) slowly become part of Eleanor’s plan. Of course, a complete and total twist is wrought upon all characters at the closing of the first season, as it’s revealed they’re actually in the Bad Place the whole time: a version of the afterlife where they’re destined to socially torture and annoy one another for all eternity.
Michael Schur, of Parks and Recreation fame, has created a show that isn’t afraid to break structures and explore the goofs within the framework of moral philosophy. The show, a ratings treat for NBC, drew to a mid-season finale with “Derek”.
“Derek” follows on from “Janet and Michael”, peppered to the brim with crises. Janet (D’Arcy Carden), a not-quite-godlike being who helps out Michael in maintaining the Good Place, has been struggling with new feels.
While also a robotic depository of all knowledge in the universe, Janet also happens to fall in love with Jason. When it doesn’t work out, she creates a rebound boyfriend – literally. Guest star Jason Mantzoukas (Dirty Grandpa) plays Derek, a human created by Janet to aid her in being her beau. And he has wind chimes for genitals . . . because . . . reasons.
This episode of The Good Place juggles between two groups, the first being Tahani & Jason, whom Michael sends off for a luxury vacation on a beach in the Good Place. They have a whimsical time turning croquet into vandalism exercises, as Tahani indulges in more of a wild streak.
The chemistry between Jamil and Jacinto is totally nil-point. The real mood-killer this season has been their relationship, which meanders around the same points. But away on retreat, they decide to get married on a whim.
Meanwhile, Michael buddies up at Eleanor’s house with the remaining humans to figure out a cure for Janet, whose volatile emotional state is causing tremors and disaster throughout the Good Place. Michael argues with Chidi over the ethics of breaking up Tahani & Jason to save Janet, and thus the neighborhood itself. This is a high point for the episode, as they run around arguing about how to solve the puzzle.
Eventually, everyone collides at the beach wedding of Tahani & Jason, officiated by a Janet a mere hair’s breadth away from blowing up the universe. There’s some rather weak sound mixing at play here, spoiling the fun of watching Eleanor try to calm Janet down.
Eleanor says heartbreak is a lot more messy than creating a rebound human being to pin the “boyfriend” label on, suggesting that it takes the passage of time and a good friend. Eleanor offers to be that friend in one of this season’s warmest moments.
Janet even offers to create Eleanor’s very own perfect boyfriend, a cobbled-together being in the form of Steve Austin’s head on Tahani’s body. It’s hard not to chuckle when Eleanor hints that one could reverse the formula and it’d still do the trick.
Everything is resolved! Tahani & Jason decide to back out of marriage, afraid of rushing it. Eleanor reveals to Chidi that in their previous lifetimes they dated and boned. Janet locks Derek up in a cage and throws him into an infinite void. Wait, what?!
At the cliffhanger closer, Michael returns to his office and finds his superior, Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson), reading over files. He’s figured out that Michael has rebooted the Good Place 802 times already, as seen in “Dance Dance Resolution”.
Shawn has threatened Michael before with early retirement, but who knows how this will be resolved? (Probably with some good old-fashioned existential torture adorned with goofy goofs. Hurray!)
Sadly, “Derek” is a weak episode to push as a mid-season finale. We’re hoping things pick back up when The Good Place returns in a few weeks. There’s still some incredible joke work and the ever-delightful mischief of Ted Danson, and Mantzoukas fits in well with the rest of the superb cast.