11:57 pm EST, November 7, 2019

‘The Good Place’ season 4, episode 7 review: Out of time

“In the words of Princess Kate after we came back from our shopping trip in Ibiza: There’s a lot to unpack here!”

After the sublime disaster of last week’s episode, The Good Place prepares for Judgement Day on “Help is Other People.”

What happened on ‘The Good Place,’ season 4, episode 7?

It’s the final day of the experiment, and the Soul Squad plans a party to snag the subjects a few final points. Michael’s attempted contribution is the Magnificent Doctor Presto, which Eleanor rejects. Eleanor is anxious to know whether or not they have “won,” and is especially concerned about Brent’s improvement.

Michael encourages her to stay calm. They will stick to the plan, not do anything drastic, and, in Good Place parlance, everything will be fine.

At Chidi’s, Simone drops a bomb to the rest of the group: Something is wrong with the neighborhood, it involves the six of them, and she has the meticulously collected evidence to prove it. Jason starts to panic-sweat at this, and John reveals his identity as a “mistake” in the Good Place.

This further solidifies Simone’s belief that they are subjects in an experiment, and not in the Good Place at all. Jason isn’t the only one who doesn’t belong — obviously Brent is a mistake, too. He agrees, citing his pending entry to the “Best Place.” Simone shoots him a look that would definitely kill him if he weren’t already dead. Tahani tries to assuage her suspicions, but Simone insists that they find out what’s going on.

As Tahani fills in Eleanor and Michael, Simone and Chidi search Eleanor’s office. Chidi confesses that Eleanor told him that he and Simone are soulmates, an idea in which he is deeply invested. Simone likes Chidi but does not believe in soulmates; she finds the proof that she needs in the team’s hidden whiteboard, decorated with the subjects’ faces.

The Soul Squad regroups at Mindy’s. Eleanor’s new plan is to ride out the clock and hope, but Michael proposes a plan with the Magnificent Doctor Presto.

At the party, Michael begins doing magic, very badly. When Brent submits his watch for another trick, Michael “accidentally” creates a crater into which Brent falls, hanging on for dear life. Eleanor and the Soul Squad flee to her office, leaving Chidi, Simone, and John to rescue Brent.

Which is, of course, the point: To force the three people who most deeply (and justifiably) loathe Brent the ashhole to decide whether or not to risk their own safety for him. As Jason says, it’s a Hail Mary.

And… it doesn’t work. With the clock ticking down, Chidi argues that saving Brent (regardless of what Brent would do in their place) is the only moral choice. Simone argues the opposite — that Brent’s unchanged bad behavior means it’s time to move on. Chidi refuses to leave, and with an air finality as to the fate of their relationship, Simone takes off with John in Brent’s SUV.

The Soul Squad finds Brent still in the hole, now with Chidi hanging on beside him. But Eleanor refuses to quit; with eight minutes on the clock, they have one last move.

In Eleanor’s office, Brent declares that the missing John and Simone are just jealous of his ticket to the Best Place. Chidi has had enough and comes to the conclusion that they are all being tortured in the Bad Place.

Eleanor and Michael reenact her season 1 realization, pulling the cackling demon act. They tell Brent and Chidi that when the clock runs out, they will be sent to the real Bad Place for eternal torment, and leave them alone to await their fate. Eleanor, Michael, Tahani, and Jason watch anxiously from the Everything is Fine room, hoping… hoping…

Inside, Chidi gets real with Brent: They are not friends. Chidi helped him because of his moral code, despite the fact that Brent doesn’t care even a little bit about anyone. “You are a bad person!” Chidi declares.

Outside, the team watches with bated breath.

Brent rebuffs this, insisting that he is a good person… but then he appears to realize something. “Look, Chidi. Whatever happens next, I need to say this to you. I am so, so, so—“

Chidi and Brent freeze as the clock runs out; Janet shows up with margaritas for Eleanor.

Takeaways

Ugh, this show is so good it’s almost annoying.

In “Help is Other People,” The Good Place skips to the end of its season-long problem. Seven episodes of super-concentrated effort on the moral development of Chidi, Simone, Brent, and John culminates not with a final bang, but a mid-season romp that closes with a gulp.

All of the great hallmarks of The Good Place are there — an increasingly hellish party, a “demonic” reveal, and moral arguments that leave you agreeing with both sides at once. Of course, there is also a cliffhanger, packing the fate of humanity into a state of literally suspended animation with no clear answer.

Kind of like moral philosophy.

If last week’s episode was sublime in its simplicity, The Good Place season 4, episode 7 laces heightened panic with profundity. “Help is Other People” drives forward with a ruthless economy that only takes a breath in its final, climactic moments.

Once again, The Good Place doesn’t try and tell us exactly how an inveterate scoundrel might be redeemed, or even if he deserves to be. Chidi’s moral compass certainly seems admirable, but from a utilitarian perspective, he (and Simone, and even John) contribute more good to the world than Brent does. Simone decides that Brent has proven himself unworthy of the risk, and even Chidi can’t quite argue that she is wrong — though the fact that even Janet can’t find the two missing test subjects does suggest that there is some broader response to their decision to leave.

What The Good Place season 4, episode 7 does tell us, fairly unilaterally, is that being morally good requires a minimum of caring for other people — a trait which Chidi finally admits that Brent does not have. It’s frustrating but perfect that we simply don’t know if Brent being confronted with that cold reality (much more blunt than even last week’s hurt feelings) is enough to inspire him to change.

The facts are established, but the mystery remains. It looks like we’ll have to wait for next week to discover the fate of the Soul Squad and their charges… but look, at the very least there might be hope for Chidi and Eleanor again.

Best quotes

Tahani: Dare I say, you all look so splendid, you could work the coatcheck at the Met Gala!

Tahani: Okay. In the words of Princess Kate after we came back from our shopping trip in Ibiza: There’s a lot to unpack here!

Simone: Did you find anything?
Chidi: Just some song lyrics Michael wrote? ‘Here’s a trippy little ditty ‘bout a trendy, groovy city, open up your crystal mind and we’ll have a cosmic good time.’
Simone: See, that makes me think we’re in hell.

Eleanor: New plan! Forget the toasts. We do nothing. We hope that our early successes make up for the embarrassing mess we’ve become. Like Facebook. Or America.

Michael: Can you make them clap harder?
Janet: They see what they see, man.

Brent: Ahhh! I’m not scared! I’m shouting so you know I’m okay. I’m very brave!

Jason: In football, trying to run out the clock and hoping for the best never works. It’s called “prevent defense.” You don’t take any chances and just try and hold on to your lead. But prevent defense just PREVENTS you from winning! It’s always better to try something.
Tahani: Jason, that was… coherent!
Jason: Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.

Chidi: Well, if it is hell, I know why I’m here. Almond milk. I drank so much of it, despite the environmental impacts.

Michael: Guys, I think we’re cooked. It’s over.
Eleanor: No! No way! I am NOT giving up. I told you, I only play games I can win. And I played this game, so that means we can win.
Janet: I don’t think that tracks.
Eleanor: Shut up! What do you know?
Janet: Literally everything, but keep going, I am liking this energy from you!

Eleanor: What else can we try? We’ve already blown everything up, we can’t blow it up again.
Jason: If there’s one thing I know in this world, it’s that you can always blow up the same thing twice!

The Good Place season 4, episode 8, “The Funeral to End All Funerals” airs Thursday, Nov. 14 at 9:00 p.m. on NBC.

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