The Good Place - Best Self - Review: "Red Light, Green Light" + POLL By Jessica Lerner (January 12, 2018, 2:00 am)
“Best Self” was more of a filler episode than anything else. After an incredibly strong season, the series finally took a breath and let the characters deal with some of their emotional baggage. That’s not to say the episode was bad by any means, but it wasn’t on the same caliber we’ve come to expect from the series. It instead focused more on the philosophical question of what it means to be our best self, which I wasn’t a huge fan of. I did like that we got some clarification of Michael’s motives from the beginning, and the long overdue conversations between Tahini and Jason as well as Eleanor and Michael. I am also excited where the next episode will take us, but it felt like it took way too long to get to the potential suicide mission. I would have been happier if this episode had actually seen our characters entering the real Bad Place, but enough of my rambling. So without further ado, let’s break down the episode.
After finally cementing his place as a permanent member of Team Cockroach last time, Michael was also made an honorary human this week. At the start of the episode, he claims getting to the real Good Place is pretty tricky and he had to design complicated and unique transportation vehicle, also known as a golden hot air balloon. The only caveat is this balloon will only transport those who have attained self-realization and if person of best version of himself or herself. So of course we spend half of the episode where the core foursome tries to figure out whether they actually are the best version of themselves only to later learn it has all been farce. Michael admits the hot air balloon is a fake, revealing that he doesn’t know how to get to the Good Place and never had. For those of us who were skeptical of Michael’s intentions when he joined Team Cockroach, we are once again reassured that he really has changed when he explains he only lied to buy himself some time to figure out a solution. He literally came up with over a billion different ways but ultimately couldn’t figure it out. The only way he knows to get into the Good Place is by being a good person on earth, which kind of throws a wrench in the gang’s plan as they’re either dead or a demon or Janet. I was actually sort of expecting him to say he was just stalling to try to figure out how to make the situation work in his favor but ended up changing his mind. It just makes me like this new better Michael even more. He wasn’t nefariously plotting something this entire time; he was just trying to figure out how to make it work. While he doesn’t expect the core foursome to forgive him, they do, with Eleanor saying it isn’t technically Michael’s fault. She explains they weren’t getting into the Good Place anyway, but at least he tried, so him becoming an honorary human is pretty fitting. No one in this life is perfect; we all make mistakes. Yes, we sometimes screw things up and make bad decisions, but that doesn’t mean we’re bad people. The only thing we can really do is try our best, and that’s what being human is all about.
So while Michael is definitely his best self, we have the core foursome exploring what this really means for them. Due to Michael’s charade, the main quartet have to deal with whether they actually are the best version of themselves. Chidi, being Chidi, is overthinking things as usual, trying to figure out which of his hundreds of iterations was essentially best. For most of us, that is a relatively straightforward concept as we have been living one life. However, for the core foursome, the idea is much more complex as they have experienced 802 versions, so to logically try to identify which version of their self was the best is essentially impossible. Thankfully, Eleanor reminds Chidi that everyone else is much better because of him, so if they’re the best versions of themselves, then he definitely is as their teacher. This leads Chidi to realize his best self doesn’t just mean whether he’s the best version but his effect on others. However, when the gang tries to reenter the hot air balloon again, Eleanor is denied entry this time. So then she has to deal with why she may not the best version of herself. Then Tahini decides that those who are allowed on hot air balloon set out to the real Good Place while those who were denied entry stay here and work through their unresolved issues. So of course she’s then denied entry, and then we get into whether Janet is really the best version of herself, and it’s just too much. This may have been a good idea in theory, but the execution just fell flat for me. While it is an interesting idea, I don’t know if our characters needed to spend so much time discussing and dissecting this as they needed. Of course, the whole thing was set in motion by Michael, so maybe he’s the one to blame. I really just wanted this obstacle to end so the gang could move onto the next phase.
One thing I am glad the series finally decided to address is the romantic entanglements of our characters. For the past few episodes, the characters’ feelings have sort of taken a backseat, but the core foursome finally sat down and had an actual conversation like adults. For those of you who shipped Tahini and Jason, I am sorry for your loss. After a mature conversation between the duo, Tahini decided it would be best if they broke up. We haven’t really had a chance to see much of Tahini’s growth this season except with her relationship with Jason, so I was really glad she decided to end things with him for the right reasons. Earlier in the season, she was afraid of what people would think if they found out she was sleeping with him, so it was really gratifying to see how far she’s come. Besides the dire nature of their situation, she felt it was time to stop relying on others for her sense of self-worth and happiness. During her time on earth, whenever Tahini encountered any obstacles, she would always request to speak to a manager. In the afterlife, though, there are no managers; the only person who can fix things is Tahini. I have to say I’m really proud of Tahini for making this decision. Her relationship with Jason has been a huge part of her character development. While she’s still vain and obsessed with status at times – or most of the time – she was able to look past Jason’s social status on earth and be in a relationship with him. However, her decision to end things shows just how far she’s come in realizing that she can’t rely on a man to make her happy. Tahini and Jason talk; she thinks it’s best they end their relationship, given everything; thinks it’s about time she stops relying on others for her sense of self-worth and happiness; whenever Tahini encountered any obstacles on earth, she always requested to speak to a manager, but in her and Jason’s relationship there is no manager. Only person who can fix it for Tahini is her.
Then we have Eleanor and Chidi who finally stopped dancing around their feelings and had an honest discussion about them. As we learned from Michael, the version of Eleanor and Chidi professing their love for each other at Mindy St. Claire’s house was during reboot 119. In that iteration, Eleanor was really into ethics, and she and Chidi spent a lot of time together. Michael reveals it was the simple act of Eleanor anticipating Chidi’s needs that made him fall for her, and after their first during a walk along the lake, things blossomed from there. So Eleanor being vulnerable and emotional and honest – like she did in the tape – admits she has feelings for Chidi and that even though he doesn’t feel the same way, she just wanted him to know. So while viewers know for certain where Eleanor stands, things are less clear from Chidi’s perspective. We’ve seen glimpses of Chidi’s feelings toward Eleanor this version, but their conversation really gives viewers a better understanding of what he’s feeling. He wants, or at least wants to want, Eleanor, but the completely insane circumstances under which they met sort of make it impossible for him to sort through his feelings. In his mind, Chidi experiences a constant grinding, like the sound a fork makes when it’s put in the garbage disposal, and these chaotic circumstances just makes the grinding louder. Even though this may have not have been the outcome some fans wanted, their love story is far from over. Despite Eleanor being freindzoned, the two might have a chance to actually start something when if things ever calm done. If I were a betting woman, I would wager something will definitely happen by the end of the season. Be it a kiss or Chidi admitting he feels the same way, I’m predicting some movement of this front before season two ends.
So after Michael gets a message from Shawn, explaining the train will be sent in the morning and core foursome will be captured and tortured, the group wonders what real Bad Place will be like. During their joking about all the ways the demons will torture them, Tahini has a realization. She remembers Michael mentioned a judge who decides on disputed matters, so being Tahini, she obviously wants to speak to the manager of the afterlife and plead their case. However, Michael puts a damper on the plan, explaining the judge rarely hears cases and the only way to get to judge’s office is to walk through the real Bad Place, in plain sight, to reach and pass through a portal. Even if the group somehow managed that, they would have to convince the judge to hear them out and go through proper channels and then somehow win their unwinnable case. Michael thinks this would be enough of an explanation of why that plan is completely unattainable, but he fails to factor in that the core foursome has nothing to lose. If they do nothing, they will eventually be found and tortured for eternity. If they attempt Michael’s insane plan, they’ll most likely be caught or sentenced to the Bad Place if the judge rules against them or a million other things that could go wrong and be tortured for eternity. But, there’s a very small chance that could succeed. So doing, the most human thing of all – attempting something futile with unearned confidence and probably failing spectacularly – the gang boards a train and heads to the real Bad Place.
Some stray thoughts:
- Is it me or has Jason gotten dumber? Like he seems even stupider than before.
- Tahini and Jason’s breakup paves the way for a reunion between Jason and Janet, and I’m really looking forward to that. Their absurd romance was a highlight of season one for me.
So hit the comments below to let me know what your thoughts. Are the characters the best versions of themselves? Did the episode spend too much time trying to figure that out? What are your thoughts on the updated relationship statuses? What will happen to the gang when they go to the real Bad Place?