In recent years, comedies have become much more focused on overarching stories than they have in the past. Sometimes, there is a lot in difficulty in balancing how to tell a season long story and still make each episode its own little bundle of laughs. When this tactic succeeds, however, it can lead to some of the funniest and captivating television. The best example that springs to mind is season four of Parks and Recreation, where the ups and downs of an election perfectly balanced with the well-crafted jokes and gags. Michael Schur, creator of Parks and Recreation and THE GOOD PLACE, is going for the gold again with the first season of The Good Place, and “Jason Mendoza” showcases that.
The intricacies and mysteries of the Good Place only grow due to the titular Jason Mendoza, the artist formerly known as Jianyu. Jason is just a pretty bad DJ from Jacksonville, who has been parading as a Buddhist monk. Jason is basically an idiot, and it’s fun to watch him fail to be subtle in any regard. He serves two main purposes here. One is to highlight that Eleanor was not the only mistake and that the flaws of the Good Place are beginning to showcase themselves. Jason’s other purpose, which is a little subtler, is to make Eleanor look good. In the previous episodes, she’s stuck out amongst the crowd of do-gooders, but she seems like a saint compared to Jason. This is both good for a few laughs, and crucial for Eleanor’s character development. It’s been taken for granted that she is trying extremely hard to be a good person, and her mistakes and occasional mean-spirited comments have outshone that in the past. Now, with the inclusion of Jason, it’s clear that Eleanor really wants to be a good person and she’s already improved since the pilot.
Thankfully, she’s still far from perfect. When Michael, Tehani, and the rest of the Good Place are way too close to finding out Jason’s identity, Eleanor provides a distraction. That distraction is destroying the cake that was essentially the life’s work of a chef. It was a very successful distraction, in that a massive pit opened up in the ground. In case we forgot that Eleanor’s existence is causing the world to fall apart, it literally caused the world to fall apart. And it seems like the pit is only expanding.
While all of this important plot is going down, Michael and Tehani prove themselves to be a fantastic duo. Ted Danson being excited about the stupidity of suspenders is an all around joy, as well as watching Jameela Jamil’s cheery despair over her soulmate. They work together brilliantly, their excited but odd personalities bouncing off each other, in a way that can only be described as enabling. If there was a whole series of just these two, it wouldn’t be enough, and their performances combined with the cleverness of the jokes made for a very enjoyable B plot.
Even with all the fun of Tehani and Michael, the question looms over both of them as to if, or rather, when they will find out about Eleanor and now Jason. Signs point to Tehani finding out sooner, as she is the one who discovered the ever growing pit at the end of the episode. Also, it would just be great to see her over the top reactions to such devastating news that both her soulmate and her “best friend” do not belong in this world.
So far, The Good Place has pulled a Lost on us, in that each question brings about a series of other questions about the world. The advantage of The Good Place, however, is that with each question comes more opportunity for comedy, so the mysteries are almost welcome. If it means watching Ted Danson panic in his suspenders, keep piling on each new oddity about the Good Place and let’s just see where it leads us.
Season 1, Episode 4 (S04E04)
The Good Place airs Thursdays at 830PM on NBC
Raina spends most of her time watching television and trying to find the perfect bagel and lox, because she likes being emotionally distraught.
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Raina Deerwater | Contributor