The Good Place has always been a sneakily deep show, especially for a half hour comedy. That’s, of course, part of its DNA, you can’t make a show about four humans that wake up in the afterlife and pretend this is going to be one of those shut your brain off and laugh kinda comedies. This was always going to be a comedy with a message, one that made you think.
Even for a show like that, though, The Good Place often surprises me with how poignant and on point it can be.
At this point, you’d think I’d stop being surprised and just accept it, but my brain is still wired to, in most cases, expect bad television – or predictable television, at least. That’s pretty much the norm, after all. Sure, some shows are breaking new ground, but can we think of many shows that are doing so consistently as well as The Good Place does?
I didn’t think so.
So yes, once again, I’m going to wax poetic about this show, not just because it surprised me, but because it touched me. And the fact that I can pretty much do that every week is why this is one of the best shows on TV.
Even when the episode is called “The Book of Dougs.”
One of the things this show has always done well is play with the idea that absolute good and absolute evil are, well, almost impossible. There are, of course, bad people, and there are good people, but there exists in use the capacity to be both things, and we often do good, selfless things just after we’ve done things that aren’t really as good. That’s just the way of life.
It’s anything but black and white.
The problem of the ‘good place’ vs ‘bad place’ dilemma, the heaven was hell of it all, is that it feels too arbitrary. As Michael has argued the last few episodes, if this is the system, then it’s flawed. I argued something very similar as 12 year old fighting against the ideas of a strict catholic upbringing. Was God just or merciful, I remember asking a priest once. Because he cannot be both.
Of course, I didn’t get an answer then, and this episode doesn’t really provide one, either, but the important thing here isn’t the answer. The important thing is that we’re asking the questions, that we’re having this conversation. That’s already a step forward.
The Good Place is excellent at using seemingly weird references to explain a point, and the Book of Dougs is just another one of those. At first, the title of the episode makes little sense, until Michael compares all the Dougs and their actions, until he realizes that the point system might not have changed, but the world humans live in has, and that has, of course, affected the way people get points.
What the system fails to take into account is intent – and that’s part of the problem. And action that you intend to be good, to cause a good effect, can, by the point system, get you a bad number, for a number of reasons outside of your control, even if 99.9% of the time you aren’t even aware of those reasons.
How is that fair?
Or maybe the question is what is fair? Is anything? Can there ever be a point system that allows not just for change, but for the consideration of intent? Shouldn’t we be trying to get there, anyway? Isn’t it by definition ‘bad’ to not consider the ‘good’?
My head hurts. Does yours? I don’t have the answers. The show doesn’t either. Maybe there are none to be had. But I’ll be tuning into The Good Place for as long as they want to make me think about what this all means.
Things I think I think:
- I kinda love this “I got shit figured out now and I’m very confident about my choices” Chidi. Please never leave us.
- He actually suggested they don’t worry. CHIDI.
- Talk about character growth.
- “The titanic is sinking and they’re writing a strongly worded letter to the iceberg.”
- I found this way funnier than I probably was meant to.
- “Every day the world gets a little more complicated, and being a good person gets harder.”
- Ain’t that the truth.
Agree? Disagree? Share with us in the comments below!
The Good Place airs Thursdays at 9:30/8:30c on NBC.