The Good Place S03E11 "The Book of Dougs" Review

Everyone's favourite quirky half-hour series has returned from its mid-season hiatus and we're so forking excited! When last we saw our heroes they had finally arrived in the real Good Place, as evidenced by Eleanor's inability to swear without being censored.

What this mid-season premiere offers audiences is all of what has garnered the series so much praise from fans and critics alike. There's a greater character exploration on an emotional level, as Eleanor and Janet both exhibit stress over their feelings for the men they love. The writers have meticulously built up a context for Eleanor's various traumas and how they have stunted her ability to express her emotions and develop functional attachments to others. Janet on the other hand is even more unique in her character content due to her having been a 'not-robot' that has gained a greater ability to experience human emotions due to her various reboots and technical glitches that have impacted her along the way.

There's also an expansion to the show's mythology and canon, as viewers are finally introduced to members of the Good Place and gain a greater perspective to the bureaucratic aspects of this part of the afterlife. Nicole Byer's guest appearance is a particularly high point of the episode's levity, as her borderline eerie cheeriness is a perfect introduction to the flawed perfection of the Good Place.

What's most brilliant of all from this episode's many high points is the deeper philosophical topics and themes that get addressed in the midst of all the humour and whimsy. The final revelation that the Bad Place demons haven't necessarily been tampering with the points system but that the world itself is so much more complicated now that living an 'ethical' life is all the more difficult to achieve. A simple gesture like buying a loved one flowers can inadvertently be entangled with larger corrupt sociopolitical forces that inflict harm. In a world that's more divided than ever and a backlash towards it online coming in the form of 'cancel culture' in which people are ready to reprimand people for any and all ethical infractions, trying to be good seems more difficult than ever.

The Good Place isn't a show that presents the answers to these larger existential questions, but merely inspires introspection in the viewers. There's a joyful spirit in the characters and plot, and a satirical presentation of the world as we know it. With so many details beautifully attended to, this episode embodies all of the strengths of the show in general and jam-packs plenty of entertainment and progression in the story. Next week will mark the return of Maya Rudolph's judge character and we can't wait to see what philosophical dilemmas she'll be presenting next.

The Good Place airs on Thursdays on NBC at 8:30/7:30c.


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