Review: ‘The Good Place’ has more wrong with it in ‘Tahani Al-Jamil’

Senior Television Writer
09.22.16 30 Comments

A review of tonight's The Good Place coming up just as soon as I suffer from directional insanity…

The Good Place is unapologetically serialized, and “Tahani Al-Jamil” closes with the show's third cliffhanger in a row, as Eleanor discovers that the note slipped under her door in “Flying” not only came from Tahani's silent husband Jianyu, but that Jiyanu isn't silent at all, likes to call people “homie,” and is, like Eleanor, in the Good Place by mistake.

This revelation not only sets things up for where the story will go in the next episode (as the series dials back to once-a-week airings for the rest of the season), but feels like an appropriate conclusion to a half hour that keeps demonstrating all the ways beyond Eleanor's presence that the Good Place (or at least this neighborhood of it) is less than perfect.

Michael, for instance, spends most of the episode encouraging Chidi to make time in death for activities that he never tried in life, but all of them just make Chidi uncomfortable, and are revealed to be a cover so Michael doesn't have to discuss how much he hated all 3600 pages of Chidi's treatise on ethics. Michael only keeps making Chidi more anxious and miserable, and his dislike of the book raises the question of how such a lousy representative of his own chosen field could get a ticket to a place where only the absolute cream of the crop end up.

(Michael also struggles to reprogram Janet to have more personality, which gives D'Arcy Carden a lot of fun material as Janet alternately keeps spouting catchphrases, reciting fun facts – all the deceased Portland Trailblazers are in the Bad Place, or “Fun fact: Janet is me!” – becoming so aggressive that Michael has to scold her like she's a dog, etc.) 

And Eleanor's investigation of Tahani only reveals that her statuesque neighbor is as perfect as she seems to be, but also lonely and frustrated because Jianyu doesn't seem to be any more her soulmate than Eleanor is Chidi's.

This sets up an interesting and creatively fruitful idea for the series to explore. If the only thing wrong with the Good Place is that Eleanor got in through some kind of cosmic computer error, then there really isn't anywhere for the story to go beyond the Pygmalion riff with her and Chidi. But if the afterlife is more deeply flawed than that – which even Eleanor understood on some level in the pilot when she objected to the idea of the bulk of humanity being sent to the Bad Place – then there is way more story to tell, regardless of whether Eleanor eventually understands the relationship between Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates.

What did everybody else think?

Around The Web