THE GOOD PLACE (SO FAR!) REVIEW
By Josh Osman
Right from the start, ‘The Good Place’ was a charming sitcom with a simple, yet effective, story and a lovable cast to drive it forward. However, this deceptive comedy manages to blow its premise out of the water and continually evolve its story, to the point where it becomes intriguing and somewhat complex, without sacrificing any of the heart that makes the show so delightful to watch.
‘The Good Place’ begins with the story of an extremely nasty, yet hilariously sassy, woman (Kristen Bell) who finds that she’s been mistakenly sent to the ‘good place’, a beautiful interpretation of the ‘heavenly’ afterlife. The show follows her as she struggles to fit in and hide her truth from the god-like figure (Ted Danson) who manages the community. While this seems like a somewhat simple premise that could not possibly last a very long time, the creators somehow manage to continue to develop the plot and the characters enough so that the plot is ever-changing, to the point where it is often difficult to predict when a twist is coming, or what said twist is. After a certain point in the series, it deviates from the joyful, upbeat sitcom label and takes its own path into a complex, philosophical and heart-warming comedy-drama; the show is different enough each season to feel fresh and unique, but similar enough to previous seasons to retain its charm and not feel like it’s trying too hard to be different.
Without its endearing cast of characters, ‘The Good Place’ would be nowhere near as amazing as it is; a wonderful ensemble cast led by Kristen Bell and Ted Danson truly carries the show forward. Each character is likeable and funny in their own way, from the adorably clueless petty criminal who can’t quite get his head around any situation, to the condescending, seemingly perfect model who you can’t help but love because of her bubbly, over-the-top personality. Throughout the seasons, it feels satisfying to watch the characters grow, as we learn about both how they got to where they are and where they’re going to end up. There are no specific character arcs in the series, but we get snippets and hints of each character’s backstory throughout the series, and this is implemented very well, so there’s always a good balance between flashbacks and the current plot. This makes the series feel well-paced, and rarely, if ever, stagnant.
Though it doesn’t necessarily make it a better show, the beautiful use of special effects throughout the show really does add another layer to it; the beautiful landscapes and vibrant colours created, for example, make the ‘good place’ look like the utopian afterlife it should. The world building as a whole is absolutely fantastic, as the show really gives the impression of the history and mechanics that make the system of sending people to either the good or bad place function without too much exposition. The show always gives you just enough information about the world and characters for you to have a perfect idea of why everything is happening without being overloaded with dull background knowledge.
One important part of the show that has garnered critical acclaim is the dramatisation of philosophical lessons, where another character attempts to teach the main character the basics of moral philosophy and ethics. These lessons are surprisingly informative, but still entertaining, touching quite a few interesting topics and issues, such as Philippa Foot’s trolley problem, and exploring, on a surface level, some ideas from major philosophers. Some episodes have a heavier emphasis on philosophy than others, ranging from it being mentioned momentarily by characters to it being the driving force behind an episode’s plot. The show never focuses on this so much as to confuse viewers, but gets in just enough to feel informative as well as entertaining.
All in all, ‘The Good Place’ is one of the best comedies on television right now, with an endearing cast, a deep and complex plot, a beautiful world and an interesting integration of moral philosophy and ethics. With the third season having just ended, and the fourth confirmed to be coming soon, there hasn’t been a better time to start watching it!