The Good Place Season 3, Episode 9 ("Janet(s)") (NBC) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

The Good Place Season 3, Episode 9 (“Janet(s)”)

NBC

Dec 12, 2018 Web Exclusive
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This is The Good Place. Not The Good Placein "Janet(s)," everyone finally makes it to the actual Good Place. But it doesn't come easily.

Watching their journey does, though. "Janet(s)" is the second episode of The Good Place's third season to follow a mediocre previous episode with a revelationary, deeply meaningful chapter. At its start, Janet and Michael have successfully directed the Soul Squad to Janet's void, but there's just one issue: They're all Janets now.

Well, kind of. Each human arrives in the void with the exact appearance of Janet: white-and-purple patterned dress, matching purple vest and skirt. Everything else about thempersonalities, memories, etc.is unchanged. Since they're still fundamentally themselves, it can be determined which Janet is which: the one with the stomachache and panic is Chidi, the one who frets about wearing a vest is Tahani, the one who's giddily excited to have breasts is Jason. The sequence of events that gives each Janet away hilarious dissects each human character's humoristic foundations.

D'Arcy Carden appears not just as Janet in this episode, but as all four humans. With "Janet(s)," Carden has turned in the performance of a lifetime. She fully embodies all four humans; it's only obvious their usual actors aren't playing them because of the face, body, and voice on them (and the outfits in which Janet eventually dresses them).

"Janet(s)" focuses mostly on Chidi and Eleanor, so Carden doesn't quite get to portray a fully rendered Tahani. Carden's Jason gets somewhat more screen time; his boyishly crude but somehow adorable, viscerally hilarious jokes ("Let's all say white people things!") line the episode. Tahani and Jason do finally learn about the reboot in which Janet and Jason were married, but for now, that's all.

Carden's work portraying Eleanor and Chidi is especially helpful for the episode's humor and plot. Her performance is as human as it is blatantly surreal (as is most of The Good Place). As Eleanor-Janet tries to fully engage Chidi-Janet in a conversation about the love they shared in that one Michael reboot, Carden's performance as both gives what might otherwise be a frustrating situation plenty of levity.

Chidi, as ever, uses philosophy to shield his emotions from Eleanor. The Chidi who loved her
"was a Chidi, sure, but it wasn't me, Chidi," he tells her. In this same moment, he conjures a classroom (the Janet-humans have Janet powers!) and begins a lesson on John Locke, Derek Parfit, and David Hume. Yet again, The Good Place provides believable plot in service of its overarching goal: make abstract philosophical ideas palatable for mainstream audiences.

It comes as no surprise that Eleanor doesn't take well to Chidi's deflection. Her devastation has dire consequences for Janet's void: among the thoughts she voices during her rejection are "I don't even know who I am anymore," which is a dangerous thing to say there. Literally the moment Eleanor says it, the person appearing in her pink sweater begins to change every few seconds. Ultimately, Carden is just one of, let's estimate, 25 actors who plays Eleanor over the course of the episode. (Also, Carden plays Eleanor-Janet pretending to be Jason-Janet and Jason-Janet pretending to be Eleanor-Janet in a vital scene regarding the Eleanor-Chidi romance. This episode is wild).

Eventually, Chidi-Janet pulls Eleanor-Janet from the revolving cast of neither-Janet-nor-Eleanor actors for a Janet-and-Janet, then Janet-and-Eleanor, then Chidi-and-Eleanor kiss. This moment is huge: The Good Place has teased the Eleanor and Chidi romance and even enacted its afterlife versions. But this is the real dealChidi and Eleanor, the void-by-Earth versions, are finally there. The tension relieved in this scene alone is substantial.

As all this void plot goes down, Michael and the actual Janet made it to The Neutral Place. Here, Carden plays yet another character, the dry, robotic, eye-contact-avoiding Neutral Janet, whom real Janet describes as the "black sheep of the Janet world" ("Ooh, I can throw shade now, that's cool!" says real Janet after further labeling Neutral Janet a "blank sheep"). Neutral Janet links Michael and Janet with Neil, the head accountant of all afterlife point tallies.

In a wink to Schur's work on the American adaptation of The Office, Neil is portrayed by Stephen Merchant, the co-director and co-writer of the original British Office. And then, in a gag on the American Office, Neil holds a mug that says "Existence's Best Boss," a clear nod to Michael Scott's infamous "World's Best Boss" mug. There's a reason The A.V. Club has been annotating this season of The Good Place: stupendous visual gags like this add extra flavor to the show's already overflowing humor. Additional Neutral Place gags this episode include accountants for "Impressions (Borat)" and "Weird Sex Things" (the latter accountant is suicidal, because who wouldn't be in that role?).

In The Neutral Place, Michael and Janet learn that Doug Forcett won't be making it into The Good Place. Michael was right: Doug isn't the ideal standard for entry into The Good Place. Bad news, though: nobody is. Nobody has made it into The Good Place for 521 years. It can't be a coincidence that, 521 years ago, Christopher Columbus had made quite a bit of progress in colonizing America and slaughtering its native people.

The Good Place weaves philosophical ruminations on society into its being even when it isn't explicitly riffing on Hume, Plato, or determinism. In our real, capitalist world, which we've built on the mass slaughter of people native to a land, on wars to claim ownership on something that should be as public as land, on consuming products that are almost entirely not ethically produced, is it possible to be good? Maybe we're all doomed, whether by our collective indifference or factors that came before our time. Maybe, as with the afterlife points system, we live under rules that aren't reasonable. In subtly regarding such massive questions, The Good Place continues its work as pop cultural art.

At the end of "Janet(s)," the Soul Squad makes it to the real The Good Place, though not by accounting's choice. After Janet involuntarily vomits the real humans into The Neutral Place, their status as interdimensional fugitivesthey died without immediately going to the afterlife, a historical firstimmediately endangers them ("They're safe! From the old scary thing. Now there's a new scary thing," quips Michael in a pitch-perfect knock on The Good Place's structural tendencies). On Janet's advice, Michael becomes the architect of the change he seeks: A dangerous, panicked gamble that the squad takes under his leadership delivers them all safely into the place they've been trying to reach for nearly three seasons, so maybe there is a silver lining to all the bleakness. Or, as Eleanor has said many times, and again to end "Janet(s)": "Holy forking shirtballs. We're in The Good Place." (www.nbc.com/the-good-place)

Author rating: 9/10

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Average reader rating: 1/10



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Michael Coleman
June 2nd 2019
7:32pm

Wow! 9 out of 10 stars. Thats a great rating. Ill have to check this show out!