The Good Place Season 3, Episode 7 (“A Fractured Inheritance”)

NBC

Nov 01, 2018 Web Exclusive
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In last week's The Good Place episode, "The Ballad of Donkey Doug," the show introduced Jason's terrible father, Donkey Doug; in this week's episode, "A Fractured Inheritance," it reintroduces Eleanor's terrible mother, Donna (Leslie Grossman). Whereas Jason's father was used to explore the notion that some people can't be redeemed, Eleanor's mother instead serves as an example of the opposite idea: People can change for the better.

At the end of "The Ballad of Donkey Doug," Michael revealed to Eleanor that Donna faked her death and was still alive. "A Fractured Inheritance" might thus be expected to fixate on how terrible a person Donna remains in her second iteration (a different second iteration than, you know, being sent back to Earth after hundreds of years in the afterlife), but instead, she's actually pretty wonderful in her reincarnation as Diane Tremaine. Married to an architect named Dave and helping to raise his nine-year-old daughter, Patricia, she's happy living a suburban life that sees her running forand winningPTA secretary. Or, as Eleanor says in classic Eleanor style during the episode's resolution as Diane denies how basic her newer life is, "No, Mom. Ya basic. And that's okay."

Throughout "A Fractured Inheritance," Eleanor struggles to accept that Donna, who raised her so terribly that she can't form genuine connections with people, is now Diane, a committed wife and loving mother who, as Michael points out, is actually doing pretty great. The episode certainly teases that Donna is pulling yet another one of her many steal-money-from-a-man scams on Dave, but she's not. Instead, she's only stealing Dave's money because she worries she'll again be forced to flee, and she likes her life. When Eleanor realizes that this is the real reason why Diane is building her stash, she tells her mom that she doesn't need to run away anymore. In other words: Stop building up the secret stashyou're happy. "You have a do-over. Use it," says Eleanor, to which Diane says: "It seems like you've turned into a really good person."

So here we are: the Shellstrop gals, both of whom were pretty much gold standards for selfishness and callousness at the show's start, are now living new and improved lives. Eleanor still doesn't really understand kids thanks to her own awful youngest yearsamong the things she says to or about Patricia are "How old are you, three?"; "Buy her a crib, or a car"; "Good luck with the SATs"but after admitting to Michael that she resents Diane's successes because "if Donna Shellstrop has truly changed, then that means she was always capable of change, but I just wasn't worth changing for," she's gradually able to reckon with her past.

Eleanor's journey doesn't come without her deliberately calling Dave "a Mark" and casting a write-in vote for "Bofa Deez Nutz" in the PTA elections, so it's as rewarding a saga as it is hilarious. Michael's consistent attempts to appear human"I certainly use the bathroom...I love to sit on the thing and shoot one out," plus his whole attempt to act as Eleanor's stern father figureadd extra laugh-out-loud moments to this plot.

The other plot of "A Fractured Inheritance" is shockingly similar to Eleanor's. Most The Good Place episodes differ at least somewhat in their A- and B-plots, but in this episode, the other focus is Tahani attempting to put her ultra-famous, utterly revered sister, Kamilah, on a path to The Good Place. And this, again, means reconciliation.

It doesn't come easily. From the moment Tahani gets in line to see Kamilah's exhibition, it's clear she's going to have walls to tear down: "I have never waited in any kind of formation before, let alone a line," she says, riding her high horse as always. A couple of failed attempts to apologize or simply talk with Kamilah, including a botched start from Chidi ("she's a-MA-zing!" he exclaims after Kamilah pretentiously absorbs all his fears), lead to an eventual proper reconciliation between the sisters. All it takes is Tahani realizing that all of Kamilah's paintings depicted the harsh void that their parents erected between them with their ridiculous, snobby parenting methods.

The sisters, after much ado, agree that their parents are "wankers," and this acknowledgment seems to put Kamilah on a better path (and re-releases Chidi's fears after, upon his arrest, all his fears become his againit's a perfectly written joke in context). Tahani might actually have more work to do than Kamilah does: After she sees that Kamilah has co-credited her on her new art piece, from which the episode takes its title, she says: "She really should've named the piece 'Buried Hatchet'...I'm going to call her and rub it in."

"A Fractured Inheritance" is a fantastic exploration of redemption, of restoring broken bonds, of the potential for positive change. The episode is one of The Good Place's deftest balances of jokes and philosophical analysis so far this season. Eleanor and Tahani making amends with major familial antagonists and helping them towards Good Place entry (although Diane would be headed there anyway) is fantastic plot material, excellent philosophical fodder, and a situation that couldn't have been implemented in the show's previous, afterlife-based settings. The episode is an impressive use of the show's newest location (well, locations; the show is global now) for its obvious goals.

And it ends by bringing something from the afterlife down into the real world. At the start of "A Fractured Inheritance," Michael tells Eleanor, "Now you know everything important about your life. I promise." Anyone who's watched The Good Place all the way through will instantly hear forkshadowing in the way Michael says "I promise." Something more is coming. There's something he hasn't told her yet. He's hiding something else important in her life. We know it.

Almost right! At the end of the episode, as Eleanor expresses simultaneous contentment that Diane is on a good path and frustration that she can't shake off all the traumas that Donna imparted to her, she mentions that she blames her mom for her inability to ever say "I love you" to a boyfriend. Then Michael realizes he left something out: "I wasn't thinking about your afterlife." And just like that, he tells her that she and Chidi both said "I love you" to each other in one of his Bad Place reboots.

Of course, Eleanor reacts in utter shock and confusion (so, naturally, Michael asks, "Do you wanna listen to a podcast maybe?," because we're not going to let this father figure thing die), but fans are likely to react in sheer excitement. The Good Place's audience boasts no shortage of Eleanor-Chidi shippers, and it was clear last episode that Simone had been written out of the show for more reasons than just its relocation from Australia to, well, the whole dang globe. On Earth, Eleanor and Chidi might be able to sustain the romance that The Good Place has hinted at from its very earliest days. If The Good Place can make amazing sitcom material out of heaven and hell, surely it can make fantastic television from what's still the basis of most art: love. (www.nbc.com/the-good-place)

Author rating: 9/10

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