This week, Vox critic Todd VanDerWerff, film critic Alissa Wilkinson and cultural editor Jen Trolio gathered to discuss "The Dougs…
This week, Vox critic Todd VanDerWerff, film critic Alissa Wilkinson and cultural editor Jen Trolio gathered to discuss “The Dougs Book,” the 11th episode of the third season of NBC’s loopy comedy  The Good Place . (Since the first two episodes of season three moved as a installment, the episode number is one before the number of weeks the show has broadcast.) Spoilers follow! If you have not seen the incident, proceed with caution!
Todd: I was right !!
I mean that I do not think you have to be a rocket scientist to see that the reason why no one has In good place for over 500 years is the more complicated the world becomes, the more complicated it is to be a good person. Yet! I said something to the very effect of my review of The Good Place ‘s latest episode, “Janet (s)” and in “The Dougs Book” here is Michael and Tahani echoing the very words back to me.
Specifically, when he examined the great book of all Dougs who ever lived, Michael raised an example of two different Dougs who bought roses for their grandmother, who seems to be unequivocally “good” playing theater. Doug of the distant past had to choose the flowers himself, and he ended up with a positive score distribution.
But just a few years ago, Doug ordered the flowers on a telephone built in a weld and the universe’s scoring system drew some points for each individual link in the chain of modern society where people and / or the planet were abused or exploited for economic gain.
I remember the way, the way back when The Good Place debuted – before we even knew the good place was the bad place – I asked the creator Michael Schur at a press conference if the show was supposed to act as a kind income equality metaphor, with a handful of people who had a lot of arbitrarily defined “points” that let them live in luxury while others are forced to root in pains. He was kind of a confused look in his eye, and I was briefly worried that the show was not meant to have broader philosophical meaning at all! (How young I was! I had just seen the pilot!)
And sure The Good Place is still a kind of function as an income equality metaphor, but it always hopes to fry the biggest fish of them all: themselves the basis of our moral order. In “The Dougs Book”, the characters come into the actual good place, but are limited to a very small corner of it (since people can only get in to the good spot through their official access point, so our gang cannot leave the building they are in ). While they are there, they discover that it is driven by an inefficient bureaucracy, which means that surveys in the scoring system take millennia. And, tbh, we might not be here to get points every now and then.
I like this season so much more now that it is no longer grounded, but I begin to realize how very short a stay at our plane of reality helped The Good Place underscores their own dramatic efforts. This is perhaps the first sitcom I can think of where the cosmic fate of the whole cosmos is at stake in some way, and I’m in it! What did you two think?
Alissa: I really enjoyed this section, not least for the dawn’s feeling that this whole season’s walk (as I have had it!) Begins to come to the head. I squealed like a Nailed It! town, for Nicole Cities. I loved seeing Chidi and Eleanor finally have a real date. I wondered what the air in my Good Place would smell like. And as a professor who has participated and sometimes been the chairman of many faculty meetings over the past decade, I was delighted with the injuries of the committee in the ineffectiveness of the committee.
But above all, I also found that the idea of achieving points system breathed new life into the show. It is a small gutsy, a small Lucifer in Paradise Lost -que, to challenge the moral order of the universe. I especially love the idea that the dissolution of the old point-based moral order – at least to the extent that it allows anyone to enter the good place – is tied for about five centuries ago when modern capitalism began to emerge.
As I said, I have a strange little thing that stays on the back of my head. It started with the episode where we met Doug Forcett. And the thing is this: If the good and bad places are for all mankind, how about all the people in the last 500 years who have lived in places where they lived hand in their mouths, where they did not participated in some “complicated” system that the display has set up, where each of your choices has vast repercussions due to the economic systems we live in. How could no one of them make it the good place during the whole time?
Whew, I feel pedant even to address it, but it is just a variety of the kinds of questions that children ask in Sunday school (“If Jesus is the only one who can save us, how about people who never had opportunity to hear about Jesus? “And so on). I do not think the authors have thought of this, so perhaps the truth is that I am keen to see how they solve it too. And maybe it’s a twist that we’re still waiting for.
Jen: Wow, that question didn’t come anywhere for me, but I think it’s valid. And I get why you might feel a bit self-conscious about picking it up – but I think you’re right to The Good Place s writers have probably thought about it. So I’m mostly left and wondering, at the late time of the season, what kind of pacing we are in, as the show breaks up things.
With two episodes to go and with the excitement created by the committee want to take their time and follow the procedure while Michael and his crew feel a much larger sense of urgency, where do we go from here?
The episode ended with our credible band of heroes coming to meet the judge once again, this time in the interdimensional hole on pancakes. So I expect the next episode to be something of a bottle, limited to anything The Good Place interpretation of the phrase “Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes” turns out to be like Maya Rudolph interrogating the group’s all traits since last The time they were all together in her residential building.
But then what of the final? What kind of recovery – or lack of one – can the series next have in store? Do you think we should stay in a good place, albeit limited to their smaller schnazzy rooms as post office we saw this week? Sorry on a new hall beyond space and time we haven’t seen yet?
I am both fascinated and a little stubby of how The Good Place could begin with its obvious intention to face the complications of modern life on earth while still linking the action to a physical space, however unevenly  And what is your good place?
Todd: It is an interesting question to consider. Over the past 500 years, has there really been no member of an incredible Amazon tribe that has not been good enough to get in on good places? It’s a difficult place to enter by definition, but come on!
But perhaps this plays into the show’s greater point: The more interconnected we are, the more that something bad can I can contribute to something bad that you do, sometimes without even knowing. If the goal is true altruism, the more a society becomes intertwined, the harder it is to ever rid yourself of it, even if you effectively live off the grille like Doug Forcett. After all, by just living and working on my laptop and having this lamp turned on, I create very small carbon emissions that contribute to the planet’s death! Hard to go back from there.
But I am willing to give The Good Place this premise, because I believe it resets itself to where the whole story is heading, which must be some sort of lay-out of the whole Good Place / Bad Place system in favor of something more fair. It is then a series that is not just about being a better person but about finding a way to be a better society which is as neat as a gigantic concept that I can “not really enclose my head about how to tell about a story about it.
It actually felt a little because season three was just the show marking time and quickly approached me what I hoped would be a fourth and final season to unpack everything, but the way “The Dougs Book” moves the posts makes me think that the season three was not a story that was up to the characters to finish their story overall, but brought the whole show to a new phase.
I know Lost is buried deep in The Good Place ‘s DNA somewhere, and it also showed a third season that went from being one thing to being another hero. It is exciting to look at that kind of stuff s if happening again
Meanwhile, Eleanor and Chidi: Do you buy this as the great romantic arc? Because I am positive to them as a couple, especially how they make room for each other, it is weird, but I feel the tangible little book series that something in its connection does not work like the show wants it, and I can’t figure it out.
(My smell, by the way, would just be Christmas tree. Drilling!)
Alissa: I agree. I think The Good Place has shown a desire to completely change the landscape, and to be honest I expect something big in the last episode to do the same. For one thing, I think that in the end it must begin to stumble upon some kind of religious territory – something it managed to largely be avoided during three seasons, and skillfully so, by focusing on moral philosophy to exclude things like, say, origin and the end of the world. But it feels like Michael and the gang are inadvertently driving the entire life-alive / supernatural world towards an apocalyptic moment, and I have no idea what happens next.
I come back to Paradise Lost here, because I am kindly obsessed with the idea of a demon, an evil being, who becomes the hero of the show. Granted, in Milton’s resale, Lucifer is not played by Ted Danson. But many like Lucifer as an antihero, perhaps the first – a case was, formerly a light angel, which is still the kind we want to root for – and he’s ready to challenge an omnipotent, distant God when he feels wrong by the universe.
It’s not exactly who Michael is. But there are enough parallels here, that my mocking feeling has dotted, especially in “The Dougs Book” when Michael becomes visibly annoyed with the committee, which is really secluded and ineffective.
What would a fairer social appearance think? And can the Good Place put one together without really stating the source of morality? I have no idea! That’s what excites me. I love this show to boldly dive into things that show that this rarely comes in and does it with funny jokes and cute storylines (and yes, I like Eleanor and Chidi together, but I am interested to see where that story is goes).
However, my biggest hope is that we go back to Bad Place at some point. The Way The good place casts shadows on annoying people everywhere for bad behavior (by your durable-your-shoes-on-airplane) pleases me as a person living in a crowded city and taking a lot of public transport.
My Good Place, by the way, probably closes like a bowl of frame on a cold day.
Jen: First of all, I think my good spot can smell like a glass of red wine and the outdoor air just after a cracking summer thunderstorm, but the mind is really boggling. So many options !!
And I will do more with Alissa on the Eleanor / Chidi question: I think they are very fun to watch together, and I’m interested in seeing where their story goes.
But I feel the same reservation, Todd; there is something a little … something … about them, and it’s hard to discern. I have a feeling that it may have to do with their relative role transformation in “The Dougs Book” – suddenly Chidi was calming a constant freaking-out Eleanor, instead of the reverse. But I have to confess that I loved to see him take a more obvious role and exercise some confidence for once. (Also, William Jackson Harper strutting around in the good spot postman uniform as if he were about to go out on some type of post safari was amazing.)
I’m eager to see how the duo jumps into the future of the show as a partnership. Their context gives The Good Place yet another opportunity to morph and develop, as Eleanor and Chidi grow both as individuals and as a romantic couple. Who would have thought we would ever hear Chidi say, “What if we don’t worry about what’s coming next?” Chidi! Of all people.
There are changes at both the universal and human levels, and I like how The Good Place could make one to a microcosm of the other.