Eleanor & Friends Face the Experiment’s Fate on ‘The Good Place’ (RECAP)
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Good Place Season 4 Episode 8, “The Funeral to End All Funerals.”]
Three and a half seasons, over 800 reboots, a chaotic trip through the Bad Place, a fraught venture down to Earth and a hectic, uneven afterlife experiment have all led to this.
Yet surprisingly, “The Funeral to End All Funerals” doesn’t have the same relentless, high-stakes tension many Season 4 episodes did. Instead, this episode has more in common with Season 2’s “Best Self” than any of the previous installments, and like “Best Self,” there’s an air of nostalgia to it that’s genuinely moving and might inspire a few tears. (Or an impromptu dubstep number, if you’re Jason).
After each episode this season, it’s seemed fair to say that nothing will be the same for the characters whom viewers have come to love. This time, it’s truer than ever: After “The Funeral to End All Funerals,” the central question of the show has been answered… and a much bigger, scarier conflict has been introduced.
The Power of Love and Support
Michael (Ted Danson) steps into Gen (Maya Rudolph)’s chambers, and committees from both the Good and Bad Places arrive. Eventually, the accountant reveals the numbers: All of the humans got better, with the exception of Brent, whose point total decreased by one. Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson) takes this as proof that humans can’t improve, but Michael won’t give up so easily.
He asks Gen to pull up the point totals for Kamilah Al-Jamil, Donna Shellstrop and her stepdaughter Patricia, and Pillboi. All of them got better after the Soul Squad intervened in their lives, and Michael sees this as evidence that humans are capable of change when they have love and support. They also find that Brent (Ben Koldyke) did actually get better, right at the very end when he apologized to Chidi (William Jackson Harper). “What that number can’t tell you is who he could’ve become tomorrow,” Michael says. Gen considers this, and then pauses to decide her ruling.
While Michael’s off hearing Judge Gen’s ruling, the humans and Janet (D’Arcy Carden) decide to have a little fun. They opt, The Fault in Our Stars-style, to hold mock funerals for each other at locations of their choosing. Tahani (Jameela Jamil) gets a funeral on a fancy plane, Jason (Manny Jacinto) gets one at a pool, Janet gets a brief but emotional discussion with the group and Eleanor (Kristen Bell)’s funeral is held at the pool bar.
They decide to hold one for Chidi, too. As a member of the experiment, he’s been unconscious the whole time. (He’s supposed to be on the toilet frozen in stasis, but the group got him out because it felt right for him to be there.) Eleanor tries to give a meaningful speech, but what comes out is “Chidi was a rootin’-tootin’, rackin’-frackin’ varmint.” Not quite the sentiment she was going for, and she knows it. Before she can give it another try, they’re interrupted by the opening of a portal: Gen is giving her ruling.
A Bummer of a Victory
Gen tells them just what they wanted to hear — they won! Michael gets a little teary. Eleanor, Tahani, Jason and Janet cheer and celebrate. But it almost seems too good to be true, and because this is The Good Place and a twist is always coming, a twist arrives. Sure, Gen says, they were right; but because they were right, she has to eliminate all humans in the afterlife and on Earth. “It’s just too much of a mess down there,” she claims. “The simplest solution is to erase everyone that ever lived and start over with a bunch of amoebas, or whatever.”
Team Eleanor isn’t happy with this plan for obvious reasons, but with no time left to come up with a plan and the Good Place angels totally useless, they’re only able to grasp each other’s hands and wait for the inevitable as The Judge pulls out her “human wiper-outer thingy.” She goes to press the button, but — with that trademark Janet “bing!” — it disappears. When Gen orders Janet to give it back, she refuses. “It’s in my void, and you can’t have it,” she says.
Janets to the Rescue!
When Gen goes to check Janet’s void, it’s not there. At that point, Shawn’s Bad Janet steps in and says the device is in her void. “Michael wrote a manifesto, and I read it on the toilet,” she says. “Anyway, I’m with them now.” Good Janet hugs her “sister,” but Gen interrupts the sweet moment to say she won’t be defied by the duo. Except it’s not just two Janets who’ve gotten behind Michael’s experiment and the entire human race — it’s literally all of the Janets. All of them.
Time to Wake Up
They file into Gen’s chambers until she shuts the portal, and she says she’ll check their voids one by one and then marbleize them. As she goes into the first Janet’s void, Eleanor points out that they need a plan, and fast. Michael’s contribution? “Step one, get a plan,” he says. “Step two, do the plan.” Since he’s remarkably unhelpful — and they do have someone else who’d be perfect for the job of creating a better afterlife points system — Eleanor suggests waking up Chidi.
“You want to take the most indecisive man ever born and stuff him full of over 800 different versions of himself, and then tell him he has 45 minutes to save humanity?” Michael asks her. It sounds like less of a brilliant plan that way, but it’s all they’ve got… and as the episode ends and Gen marbleizes the first Janet, the camera zooms in on Chidi’s sleeping face.
- I knew it! I knew the Janets were going to play into all of this somehow! I won’t bother guessing how the whole “Earth exploding” plotline gets resolved, because I’m confident I’ll be wrong. But I’m at least happy I managed to guess that there was more to the Janets than met the eye.
- I’ll admit it: I got a little teary eyed when Michael heard Gen say they won. It’s what he — and the rest of the humans — deserves. Of course, that moment was pretty immediately squelched, but it was lovely while it lasted.
- How much fun do you think William Jackson Harper had just chillin’ in the background of all of these scenes? And in the scenes where he was literally just floating in a pool, specifically?
- Manny Jacinto is always comedy gold, but he was on a whole other level this episode. From stepping up to save the world to singing his dubstep song to calling “the big C” the crocodile in his yard, it’s a wonder anyone manages to keep a straight face when he’s delivering his lines.
- There’s some really fantastic irony in the fact that every time the Good Place people show up, they’re totally useless, walled in by their own need to be 100% “good.” Schur’s making some commentary here, but I’ll need a bit to figure out the nuances of it.
The Good Place, Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC