There have been many elements that make an episode of The Good Place special. There’s of course the brilliant comic timing by the likes of Ted Danson and D’arcy Carden, the goodness of sweet loveable Chidi, and, of course, the slow evolution of Eleanor into something resembling a good person. “The Eternal Shriek,” written by the always brilliant Megan Amram, combines all these elements perfectly to make a hilarious but emotionally significant episode of television.
We pick up moments after we left off, with Michael taking full responsibility for everything that has been going on in the the village, and announcing his retirement. He will get Janet to call a train and get out of dodge. It shocks the entire town, including Eleanor and Chidi. The former sees it as a good opportunity: Michael will a have a nice retirement and no one will suspect her of being the culprit. Chidi on the other hand, is bursting with anxiety more than we’ve ever seen him before. We get glimpses into his past this episode, where he suffers a moral dilemma because he lied about liking a coworkers cowboy boots. Poor, sweet, alive Chidi had no idea what he was in for in the future.
Things only get worse from there, as Michael sadly announces that retirement is basically code for eternal torture. Danson has a super power of saying truly depressing things and making them somehow hilarious. His bleakness and love of little human things he will never be able to do makes his character are the more likable to the audience, as well as Eleanor. She realizes that letting Michael retire would be a Bad Person move, so she comes up with the most bonkers way to stop him. Janet is the only one that can call the train to take Michael out of there, so she comes up with a solution only her morally cloudy brain would come up with. She’s gotta kill Janet.
Seeing a Janet is some variation of a robot, it shouldn’t be so morally reprehensible to shut her down, but it really feels like it. While Chidi is having truly the worst day of his life (or death, rather), Eleanor is determined to go through with her plan. They take Janet to the beach where her giant red button of a kill switch is located. Janet happily explains to them how to kill her. She lets them in on her failsafe mechanism that will cause her to beg for her life like this will hurt her, even though she assures Eleanor and Chidi that it’s all nonsense. This brings us to potentially the funniest sequence of the show to date, where Janet goes back and forth between chipper robot and pleading for her life. It’s enough to make it so niether Eleanor or Chidi can bring themselves to hit the button. Step aside, Westworld, we’ve got all the robotic moral conundrums right here on The Good Place.
Since Chidi and even Eleanor can’t bring themselves to hit the button, there is one other person with just the right combination of obliviousness and stupidity in the village. None other than Jianyu/Jason sees the giant red button and knows what he’s gotta do. Chidi tries to stop him, but ends up pressing the button himself, causing Janet to fully shut down. Not to be repetitive, but poor, sweet Chidi, just trying to do the right thing. He is fully wracked with guilt, especially when the whole town find out via heavenly PA system that Janet has been murdered.
Oddly enough, despite all the kinks, Eleanor’s plan works. Michael vows to stay until he can get to the bottom of who killed Janet. It’s good news for Michael and the town, but it’s bad news for Chide, who is exploding at the seams. Before he can do anything, Eleanor steps up to do what we’ve been wait seven episodes for: she tells everyone that it was her. She doesn’t belong here, she caused everything, and she killed Janet.
It’s a bold move, both for the character and the series, but it works on both levels. Eleanor may not be the best person by far, but seeing Chidi in pain made her finally take action, because she really loves that guy. As for how it works within the show, we are now at the halfway point of The Good Place’s 13 episode season. Halfway through is a great time to drop a bomb such as this one. The remaining six episodes won’t follow what we say in the first six, but the characters and world have been so well established already, that seeing how they deal with this knowledge of Eleanor will be a wild and enjoyable ride.
Season 1, Episode 7 (S01E07)
The Good Place airs Thursday at 8:30PM 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.
Raina Deerwater | Contributor