The Good Place
If you’re the kind of person who watches The Good Place, demographically speaking you’re probably also the kind of person who keeps up with current events. If so, you’ve no doubt read the recent dire reports about the future of humanity on a rapidly warming planet, which means that at some point during the past couple of weeks you’ve likely spent at least a few minutes staring helplessly into space, pondering our collective fate.
The Good Place’s humans are similarly dumbstruck this week, when they learn from Michael and Janet that no matter what happens, they’re literally “damned if they do and damned if they don’t.” If all hope is indeed lost, what’s our next step? Shed our worldly possessions? Lean hard into selfishness? Eat a pot of chili made with M&M’s and Marshmallow Peeps?
In addition to being very funny — and thus a nice half-hour break from reality — this week’s episode, “Jeremy Bearimy,” has some helpful suggestions for what to do when there’s nothing to be done.
The trouble starts for Chidi’s study group when they wander into Tahani’s wine cellar, and find Janet and Michael standing in front of “this crazy space-door,” talking about how the Good and Bad Places work. “What are afterlife points, and who has the most, and is it me?” Tahani wonders aloud, prompting Michael to excuse himself so he can ask Janet, “Serious question: Should we kill them?” (“Their bodies are very poorly made. It’s mostly goo and juice. You just take the juice out and then they’re dead.”)
Once the initial hubbub dies down and Michael admits that he and Janet are not in fact FBI-affiliated paranormal investigators, everyone’s left to reckon with the raw facts of the matter. Given that Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason know about the Good Place, even if they’re perfect from now on, they won’t get in, because their motivation to be better people has been permanently corrupted. “So sorry for eternally dooming you,” Michael sighs. “That’s our bad, guys,” adds Janet.
All of the above happens in roughly the first five minutes of this week’s chapter, after which a disgusted and depressed Eleanor screeches, “See you in Hell!” and laughs sardonically at how apt that phrase has become. The group splinters, haunted by their own impotence. For the rest of the episode (all set on the same day), the characters grapple with the big existential questions. If nothing matters, then what? How do you even spend the next few hours, let alone the rest of your life?
Option one: spread joy. Tahani initially dips a toe into the waters of anonymous philanthropy, giving $2 million to the Sydney Opera, with the request that they not name anything after her, “As lovely as it would be to add to my collection of wings and atria.” Then Jason convinces her that it’d be more meaningful just to hand money directly to ordinary folks: to the dumpster-diver, to the street violinist who can now buy “a bigger chin-guitar,” to the pram-pushing mother to whom Tahani asks, “Are you poor?” Jason recalls that when he was just scraping by, stacks of cash like the ones they’re handing out would have meant “I could’ve gone to real doctor, instead of pretending I was a big dog so I could go to the vet.” The difference they’re making may be small and fleeting, but it matters.
Option two: wallow. A dazed Chidi doffs his shirt (showing off how impressively sculpted William Jackson Harper’s torso is), walks into a BNG, buys a cartload of canned chili and candy (both, by the way, foods people might say while mispronouncing Chidi’s name), and is then forced to buy a new shirt (“Who What When Where … Wine!”). Finally he heads back to class, where he delivers a lecture advocating absolute nihilism, while inviting students to share some of his spicy candy stew.
Option three: self-indulge. A backsliding Eleanor commandeers a stool at the local pub, Drinking Nemo, where she lays out her new Eleanor-centered rules for how the world should work. (The gist: “I get to do whatever I want, and you all have to deal with it.” Also, no more Spider-Man movies.) She insists that America’s been a better place since everyone started looking out for number one and civil society broke down. (“There are no bees because they all died, and if you need surgery you beg for money on the internet!”)
But just when Eleanor’s settling back into her old life of isolation, she discovers a wallet full of money. She decides to do one last good deed, and to track the owner down — which requires two stops, and picking up some of the guy’s mail. When she finally finds this man, Fred Booth, he reaches into his wallet and fishes out a drawing his daughter made for him, which he considers a good luck charm. And Eleanor breaks down crying.
A few other things happen in “Jeremy Bearimy.” Michael and Janet write a thick manifesto about their afterlife experiments, then make plans to do something “touristy” during their remaining time on Earth — like visit a LensCrafters. Tahani and Jason get tacos. They also get married, after Tahani’s bank refuses to transfer her 131 million pound fortune onto a GameStop gift card for Jason. (“Technically, we’re supposed to shut down the bank if anyone from Florida even walks in,” the banker sniffs.)
But nothing in this episode is more significant than Eleanor’s heart going three sizes, after she makes “a dork and his very untalented daughter” happy. She immediately reconvenes the Brainy Bunch, now re-dubbed “the Soul Squad,” and suggests they spend their remaining days working together to make sure that other people get to go to the Good Place.
Given the nature of this show — and the cliff-hanger arrival of Larry Hemsworth over the closing credits — it’s highly unlikely that everything, or even anything, is going to go smoothly from here. But that doesn’t make Eleanor’s revelation any less poignant, and comforting in a way. She realizes the big question going forward isn’t, “So, now what?” but rather, “How do we make the most of whatever we’ve got, for ourselves and for others?” And really, hasn’t that been the question all along?
• For a moment there at the start of this chapter, did you think maybe we’d get a whole episode of Michael and Janet pretending to be Rick Justice and Lisa “Frenchy” Fuqua, from the FBI ghoul-fighting division? Heck, Michael might’ve gotten away with his latest gambit if he hadn’t accidentally called Frenchy “Janet.” (He then insisted that her nickname at the bureau is Lisa “Double Nickname” Fuqua … which would, of course, be a third nickname.)
• The title of this episode comes from Michael, who explains that while time on Earth moves in a straight line, in the afterlife it moves in a “Jeremy Bearimy.” What he means is that it loops, dips, and circles back around — like a cursive signature for, yep, “Jeremy Bearimy.” (Also there’s a dot over the “i,” which represents Tuesdays, and also July, and sometimes never.) I suspect this whole tangent originally popped up in the writers’ room as a way to silence The Good Place timeline nitpickers. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it came up again later this season as a pivotal plot-point.
• I also doubt we’ve heard the last of Michael and Janet’s manifesto. If it doesn’t factor into the way this season ultimately plays out, I’ll … well, I’ll eat the manifesto. ([In Janet voice] “Not a promise.”)
• It’s a testament to Ted Danson’s impeccable comic delivery that he can turn Michael misspelling his name — “I wrote Micahel!” — into something hilariously delightful.
• For hours after watching this episode for the first time, I was still walking around my house humming, “You put your Peeps in the chili pot, and add some M&M’s … ”
• Jason once had a flu virus named after him, because he kissed a bat on a dare. He can also flip a bank’s free lollipops into his mouth on one try. Florida, man.