The Good Place: 3.01 Everything is Bonzer
The end of last season saw our four main characters being sent back to Earth with their memories wiped, as an experiment to see if they would have become better people even if there was no promise of a reward at the end. The final episode detailed how Eleanor spent her first year of newly given life, but made no mention of how the other three were faring. This episode fixes that as its focus' not only on what happens after Eleanor enters Chidi's office in Australia, but also how everyone, including Michael and Janet, has been since their return to Earth.
I really like that they went back to fill in the gaps of what happened to everyone else in that year. I remember really missing Jason and Tahani at the end of last season, so it is nice to have them back. It is also interesting to see how different each of their issues is. For Eleanor, its a general sense of selfishness and lack of caring. For Chidi, it is being indecisive to the point of making himself, and everyone else, miserable. For Tahani, it is needing other people's validation and not actually doing any good in the world. And for Jason it is just being a generally stupid sleaze bag. These have all been made obvious over the past two seasons, but seeing it in an Earth-bound context makes it more real as we see how they react to their near-death experiences.
Each of the flashbacks was incredibly charming and suited the characters so well. As each of the main characters tried to change their ways, but eventually turned back to their old lives, it is easy to see yourself in their stories. It is easy to be disheartened when turning over a new leaf and it is somewhat reassuring to see all of these characters, none of whom are truly awful, but all of whom are less than stellar, also have these issues.
It is also lovely to see how invested Michael is in making sure that the experiment works. Over the course of the show, Michael is the one who has changed the most, thanks to spending time with the humans he has learnt what it means to care about other people, rather than just use them for his own gain. The risks that he takes throughout this episode are testament to that. The change in his attitude towards humans is further emphasised by his excitement at visiting Earth and all of the 'normal' things that he is fascinated by. It is sweet to see a character, arguably so different from humans, find joy and humanity in his friendships.
Another thing that works well in this episode are the flashbacks themselves. Flashbacks can often feel like a gaudy and clunky way to fill in the gaps of a story, but the way that they are portrayed, as visualisations of a story that one character is telling to the others, makes it work. The way the script leads into them, and the characters reactions to the stories being told, makes the flashbacks blend in to the overall narrative in a way that is fluid to watch. It is also nice to see how each of the characters act when the others aren't around.
Overall, this is an excellent start to the season, both in terms of tying into what has already happened and in setting up what is going to happen next. The return of a demonic Adam Scott suggests that there is mayhem ahead. I am certainly intrigued to see how long it take for Michael and Janet to spill the beans about what is happening, or if Eleanor will work out that something is off before they get the chance.