‘The Good Place’ is back for the second half of its second season, and everything has changed.
Sort of. It’s no shift like the one between the first and second seasons, when 13 episodes worth of material was wiped clean. But this change is in its own way more important, with a more lasting effect on the fate of the characters and the function of the show.
Until now the thing that’s defined The Good Place is just that — a place. The series has, by virtue of its format, always existed in one spot. (Medium Place included). In fact a lot of the intrigue and comedy has come from our familiarity with that spot. This shines in the first half of the second season, especially, in the little tweaks with the reiterations of the town — think all those shifting frozen yogurt/clam chowder/thing on a stick restaurants.
But while the town has remained more or less the same, the characters themselves have undergone so many changes that no one can keep track of them anymore. For the first half of the season, this familiar disorientation has been the show’s MO, and it’s been used to excellent effect.
Now those days are gone. What we’re promised now is uncharted territory: static characters like in season 1, but with a changing landscape. We can’t help but share in Eleanor’s nostalgia as she looks out the train window at that beloved little town folding up to nothing.
So with the team on the run to the Real Bad Place and who knows where else, we’re confronted with an almost “normal” show. Again we have fixed characters who have time to grow and learn, but now they have a real mission and room to move around.
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, but it is different. Before the action was, of necessity, static, and the nuance came first from discovery and then from repetition. Now that’s out the window, along with the foundation of some of the show’s most charming elements.
But despite my reservations, I have very high hopes. I don’t know where the new season will take us (I’ve only seen the first three episodes released to critics) but I’m reasonably sure the mind games are far from over. (At least I hope they are).
I for one am very suspicious of the repetition of that “this is everything I’ve ever wanted” line from the first episode, particularly coming from Michael. My money is on this whole arc being a more elaborate torture for our favorite demon. For someone so eager to learn what it’s like to be human — another thing that is apparently all he’s ever wanted — it’d be fitting.
Whatever happens, there’s no reason to assume we’re finally looking at the “real” state of things. I’d be both surprised and disappointed if we were. And I can’t wait to not be surprised by the coming finale.