Can The Good Place work without 'The Good Place'?
NBC's eccentric comedy The Good Place returned to our screens last Thursday, with Season 3 continuing directly on from the events of Season 2. Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason have been transported back to Earth with their memories wiped, with Michael hoping that they will each learn how to be 'good people', so that they may be accepted into the titular Good Place. This latest episode finds Michael struggling to reunite our heroes, and therefore resorting to some more risky methods.
The first 2 seasons of this quirky and colourful comedy were simply superb. It possessed a seemingly bottomless imagination and a satirical but fantastically self-aware brand of humour which artfully shone a light on various modern cultural and societal issues. It was also an intelligent comedy; philosophy, ethics and the very concept of an 'afterlife' were some of its main themes, subjects which may typically evoke disinterest, but Seasons 1 and 2 of The Good Place had an ability to explore these complex ideas in a fun and accessible way while demonstrating a real understanding and loyalty to the concepts.
However, our characters' return to the land of the living, for the first episode at least, has meant that our exposure to the wonderfully inventive 'Good Place' has been vastly limited. Their adventure is now one which is Earth-bound, and therefore may have lost one of the main selling points of the series. In Seasons 1 and 2 our introduction to a strange new world, the nature of which is slowly but spectacularly revealed to us, was a delight to watch. The make-up of The Good Place was rooted in pop-culture and observational comedy, making it instantly relatable. Then there was a phenomenal plot-twist towards the end of Season 1 which completely altered the landscape of a show that we thought we had figured out, and opened the door for even more exploration into the afterlife. This setting was a huge piece of the show, and it is a risky decision to remove this major component. If the show is to continue on its current trajectory and keep the story predominantly set on Earth, it is vital that they can maintain the same inventiveness and originality which made the previous seasons such a joy to watch.
Luckily, this seems doable. It is encouraging to find that, while watching the latest episode, Season 3 has brought with it a lot of the many positive elements of the first two seasons, such as its hilarity and its courage to address big-picture issues. Its cast remains endlessly likeable, each member being idiosyncratic and peculiar in their own way, with a chemistry between them which can rival many others on television at the moment. The Good Place demonstrates a great deal of faith in its characters and its script, and must be commended on its bravery to push the show out of its comfort zone and into unfamiliar territory.
Season 3 continues with episode 2 arriving on Netflix on Friday the 5th of October!