The Good Place
It feels wrong to call “Janet(s)” the midseason finale of The Good Place, because it’s actually the 10th episode of a 13-episode season — and therefore as far as we’ve ever gotten into this show before the Christmas break. Nevertheless, even though there are only three Good Place episodes remaining in January (and then at least 13 more next season, given that the show was just renewed), “Janet(s)” does feel like a clear dividing line in the history of the series. If nothing else, this week we found out something major: The whole Good Place/Bad Place points system is essentially garbage, since no human has amassed enough points to make it to the Good Place in over 500 years.
In terms of The Good Place’s larger plot arc, what matters most about “Janet(s)” is what Michael and Janet find out the they sneak into the universe’s accounting office. Naturally, the place is run by an officious dweeb, Neil (perfectly played by The Office co-creator Stephen Merchant), who reassures them that every positive and negative score for every human since the dawn of time has been registered by a specific department head, and then checked and corroborated over and over. Neil even shows them a live example of a figure coming in: Some human is planning a destination wedding (-1,200 points) … which on further investigation turns out only to be destination-themed (-1,400 points).
But then Michael looks deeper into something he’s suspected ever since Shawn hinted that the goody-goody Doug Forcett would end up in the Bad Place. He asks Neil to look at Doug’s file, and while the chief accountant is initially impressed that the ascetic Canadian has earned over 500,000 points in his life, once he sees that Doug is 68, he admits that the poor guy is doomed. Pushing further, Michael discovers that no human lately has been good enough. Not Jonas Salk. Not Harriet Tubman. Not one single Golden Girl.
And yet as significant as Michael Scoop’s big revelation is, I suspect that when most Good Place fans look back at this episode, what they’ll remember most fondly is what happens with the other four main characters, who are all stuck back in Janet’s void — in Janet’s form, with Janet’s voice.
I don’t know who on The Good Place writing staff came up with the idea to turn Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason into Janets, but my god it was a masterstroke. For one thing, it adds something strange and new to what might’ve otherwise been a fairly routine B-story, with the four humans hanging around a non-nondescript room, talking about their feelings.
In this case, the gang in the void are primarily dealing with what Eleanor revealed to Chidi during the Puking Moose Brawl last episode: that in one of the afterlife reboots, the two of them hooked up and professed their love. Dealing with this bombshell necessitates chalkboards, discussions about John Locke, and a nifty bit of chicanery wherein Eleanor-Janet pretends to be Jason-Janet in order to get Chidi-Janet to admit he has feelings for her. (Eleanor stumbles when she can’t recall the exact number of members of Jason’s dance crew, though she does at least recall “Stank Toby.” Jason-Janet, meanwhile, pretends to be Eleanor by saying, “I’m Arizona shrimp horny … oh dip!”)
What’s remarkable about nearly all of the void scenes is that every Janet is played by D’Arcy Carden, who — as far as I’m concerned — hasn’t been given enough to do this season, aside from her waitressing in “The Brainy Bunch” and her martial arts display in “Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By.” Here, Carden gets to do her impressions of all four human characters, as well as the accounting office’s Neutral Janet (who ends nearly every sentence with an affectless “end of conversation,” and is “the blank sheep of the family,” according to our Janet).
Carden also gets to be her own Janet, who has evolved to the point where she belches Cher’s “Believe” when her void is unstable, and who reacts to the Eleanor-Janet conjuring a puppy by slipping into a baby voice and warning the doggie, “It might shatter the void … yes it might!”
Eventually, the instability of Janet’s void resolves itself when Eleanor and Chidi are honest with each other, at which point they resume their human forms. (There’s something beautifully poetic about that.) And eventually, all the restored humans get vomited up by Janet into the accountant’s office, where Michael decides to take advantage of a special conduit and send all of them to the Good Place — if such a thing actually exists.
So that’s where we leave our heroes until next month: in a generic office that’s supposed to be in the Good Place, ready to learn the mysteries of the universe. Some Good Place fans have been complaining that this season has been more of a “hangout” sitcom and less of a science-fiction fantasy epic. But even those skeptics would have to admit that a lot’s happened over these past two episodes. They may even borrow a phrase from Eleanor, when she arrives in what could be the Good Place: “Holy Forking Shirtballs.”
• Jason confesses that he has a tattoo on his butt that says “JASOM.”
• Among the departments in the afterlife’s accounting department: “Borrowing (Money),” “Impressions (Borat),” and “Songs With Specific Dance Instructions.” It’s no wonder that no one’s been getting into the Good Place lately.
• Of course, then there’s the busiest department of human behavior: “Weird Sex Things.” Poor Matt has been running that desk all by himself … which may explain why he recently put in a request for suicide. (It’s denied.)
• Tahani-Janet: “I find this void quite … calming actually. It’s like, this time the Xanax took me.”
• Jason-Janet: “Let’s say white people things! Billy Joel! I found it on Etsy! There was nowhere to park! Did you refill the Brita?”