Last year, this show struck me as a bit of a sleeper and I was surprised to find out it was renewed. But, the premise appeals to me, so I watched it anyway. It’s a comedy about the afterlife, heaven… sort of, and it’s that ‘sort of’ that kept me watching.
And this ‘heaven’ isn’t strictly a Christian interpretation (which is likely why it’s called The Good Place) so put any preconceived notions aside before jumping in.
As for structure, I have to say right up front I’m not a big fan of season arcs. With most shows, the arc is there solely to bring the audience back next week or next year and it often feels like being hit with a hammer, which is not particularly fun or relaxing as you’re contemplating summer vacation. But in this case, I don’t mind so much. Waiting a week to see how the characters dig themselves out of a funny situation is a far cry from others shows with heavy dramatic cliffhangers where the main characters are dead, dying or headed for a wheelchair. I’ve stopped watching shows because of this kind of thing, even if they had lots of other things going for them. But it’s hard to find a show without season arcs these days… other than The Simpsons. And as for waiting over the summer to see how the characters got out of their jam? I just chuckled and put it out of my mind.
As for story and plot, The Good Place was middle-of-the-road during its first season. There was always a logical through-line, not just on an episode level, but across the entire season arc. And the funny moments are often circumstantial, so you won’t find any hamming or frantic banter, just good solid comedy growing out of whatever situation the characters find themselves in. I won’t say the show was pedestrian, but it was the kind of thing I watch when I wanna be mellow and chuckle from time to time.
This season they broke the mold and turned the entire show on its ear. For the first time since I started following it, I laughed out loud. During the first two episodes of season two, all hell breaks loose (I might even say, “literally”) and the stakes are raised for everyone, good, bad and fence-sitters alike. I’m curious to see where it goes from here and I’m hoping they’ve got the entire season two arc worked out because it could get really good or really bad. It may get repetitive or it’ll keep weaving, bobbing, and jumping off cliffhangers.
Like Red Dwarf before it, this show found an interesting way to sidestep prime time TV’s ban on swearing. Not many shows can make this work without it feeling forced or just plain weird, but The Good Place manages it well.
But if you’re just coming to the screen for the first time this season, I urge you to go find episode archives and watch from the beginning of season one before setting out on the journey they’ve laid out this season. If this is the kind of show that appeals to you, it’ll be forking worth it. I promise.