The Good Place
is back, and I have a review of tonight’s episode coming up just as soon as I eat electrical tape right off the roll…
As a very serialized comedy, The Good Place was done no favors by NBC’s other fall scheduling needs, where Thursday night football and the holidays mean it’s been over two months since the last episode ended with Tahani figuring out the truth about her “soulmate.” Some comic and narrative momentum got lost during that time, or maybe it’s just that the flaws of “Chidi’s Choice” would stand out less if it was airing a week after the previous installment and a week before the next.
Chidi’s indecisiveness was a part of his character prior to this episode, but “Chidi’s Choice’ took it to such extreme, ridiculous levels that it became impossible to understand how he had functioned in the world for all those years before the air conditioner fell on him. It would be one thing to say that he becomes victim of paralysis by analysis when the stakes are extremely high — as they are for Fake Eleanor — but the flashbacks suggest he dealt with it constantly, even in low-stakes situations like ordering dinner at a restaurant or picking teams at recess. How exactly did he eat enough to survive, or simply get dressed in the morning to go out into the world? And even if his difficulty choosing came from good motivations, if he couldn’t decide on anything to this degree, would he actually have had friends? A career? Girlfriends?
Also, while Chidi isn’t entirely The Good Place‘s straight man, there’s a sliding scale of reality for the different characters on the show. Michael and Janet can be completely absurd, and Jason pretty close to that. Tahani’s largely ridiculous but capable of being sensible or having real emotions, while Chidi and Fake Eleanor are meant to be relatively normal, even if they’re temperamental opposites of one another. Having him be this cartoonish threw the episode out of whack, even if William Jackson Harper had a lot of fun playing Chidi’s increasing panic at realizing that Fake Eleanor, Tahani, and Real Eleanor all thought they were in love with him.
The funniest parts of “Chidi’s Choice” revolved around Jason, no longer bound by the need to impersonate Jianyu, proposing marriage to Janet and arranging a quickie ceremony with vows about texting naked photos and the (alleged) awesomeness of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Again, it’s easier to let both Janet and Jason be completely weird and random, because she’s not actually human, and he’s not actually smart in any way.
Glad to have the show back, and I liked the next couple of episodes quite a bit more, but “Chidi’s Choice” didn’t entirely work for me.
What did everybody else think?