I’ll be honest: I wouldn’t have put it past The Good Place creators if they had decided to go with a literal burrito as the judge that would decide the fate of our Fab (Flawed) Four. As Eleanor says at one point, “I’m just saying, we’ve seen weirder things than an all-knowing burrito.” And, guaranteed, they would’ve found a way to make it clever, hilarious and somehow provide insight.
The alternative? Even better: the inimitable, razor-sharp Maya Rudolph as the judge, “Gen,” (short for Hydrogen, since that was the “only thing that existed when I was born”). She toes the lines between merciless and chipper, ominous and disarming. She’s perfect in her role, pulling us and the humans in to trust that she’ll let the gang off easy.
Back in the Bad Place Headquarters, Michael has been “bad, mean grabbed” (according to Jason) by Sean and is about to be left in solitary confinement with a monstrous, lingering fart from “Bad Janet” and an ever-growing stack of New Yorkers he will never read. Of course, it was a critical moment for another twist to complicate and extend our storyline: “Bad Janet” is in fact “Good Janet,” who’s finally mastered the art of acting bad, so much that she followed Sean, who receives a quick kick to the gut and goes flying into the wall (twice). It’s an immensely satisfying moment and we can breathe out in relief, knowing that Michael’s super-kindness wasn’t in vain, and the gang has another chance at making their way to The Good Place now that their demon-advocate and his sidekick are back in the mix.
The various tests that the judge made the humans take to gain entry into the Good Place are perfect testaments to the flaws in their personality: Tahani, forced to walk down a hallway of people talking negatively about her, just can’t resist going into the room with her snotty, passively cruel parents. And Jason can barely understand he’s even being given a test until he’s already failed it. Meanwhile, Chidi spends 82 minutes picking a hat and Eleanor–well, Eleanor’s the only one who passed, but she cuts off Gen before she can say as much, to help make the gang feel better about having failed. (It’s yet another selfless act that helps show just how much Eleanor has grown.)
Plenty of twists and turns keep us white-knuckled and biting our teeth throughout the entire duration spent in another strange, yet inventively designed branch of this metaphysical world, and the conclusion–that Michael and Good Janet can now actually join their human friends and zip through the portal to stand up for them–is merciful. The deep themes The Good Place explores, on forgiveness, loyalty, selflessness and empathy, are always exposed to some extent in each episode, but here, they’re more profound than ever, due to all the hoops (and portal wormholes) each one has had to jump through. The next steps, as usually, are anyone’s guess. Will Michael show Gen some clips from past reboots to prove how much the gang has evolved over time, and will Gen be sympathetic? Or, will The Good Place somehow reinvent its entire shpiel again with another dramatic reveal (is Gen really who she says she is)?
One thing’s for sure: that 10-million-year-lingering fart that “Bad Janet” aka Good Janet would have “absolutely ripped?” Yeah…that would’ve been bad.
“Yaa basic! It’s a human insult. It’s devastating. You’re devastated right now.” – Michael to the indeed, very basic Sean
“I’m sorry we didn’t have a better relationship, and I wish you all the best.” – Some powerful, simple words from Tahani to her awful, judgmental parents.
“I may have barfed in the nether-dimension.” – Chidi, after flying through the portal into the “courtroom.” (I wonder if Michael and Good Janet got a taste at any point?)
Season 2, Episode 11 (S02E11)
The Good Place airs Thursdays at 830PM on NBC
Emily Nuncio Schick | Contributor