Review: ‘The Good Place’ solves the mystery of ‘Jason Mendoza’

Senior Television Writer
09.29.16 22 Comments

NBC

A review of tonight's The Good Place coming up just as soon as I DJ Scott Discik's afterparty for the amateur porn awards in Reno…

“Jason Mendoza” does two very smart things: 1)It establishes the title character as the show's silliest and most overtly comic so far (basically, the afterlife's Andy Dwyer if he was a Filipino bro), and 2)It doubles down on the hints in previous episodes that there's far more wrong to the Good Place (or, at least, this neighborhood of it) than just Eleanor.

The first's important because, as I've said, the show so far has been more funny-clever than funny-ha-ha, and the way the writers and Manny Jacinto establish Jason's stupidity and immaturity goes a long way towards nudging things into a laugh-worthy direction. Whether he's confusing Eleanor with talk of his “bud hole” or getting booed by the Jacksonville crowd for not being DJ Acidcat, he's a very welcome comic addition to the show (both for what he does, and for the reactions he inspires in others, particularly Chidi), and much more useful in that vein than if he'd actually turned out to be Jianyu.

And speaking of which, Jason's presence turns out to be an even bigger glitch than Eleanor's, since they've given him another person's identity on top of their backstory. One person brought their incorrectly is perhaps a fluke. Twice is something more, especially as there continue to be other cracks in the foundation completely unrelated to them, like how the chef was freaking out about the dinner party long before Eleanor and Chidi got really involved in it. This is supposed to be a place of eternal peace and happiness, and yet most of the people we've spent any real time with have come across as anxious or confused.

That there are more basic problems – assuming, that is, that the Good Place is even meant to be what Michael described in the premiere, as opposed to some kind of metaphysical testing ground – and that there's someone there even more thoughtless than Eleanor, both suggest a more elastic concept than the first couple of episodes might have suggested. Jason functions as a kind of heat shield for the premise, because he allows Eleanor to actually learn things from Chidi without invalidating the basic tension of the show. The Pygmalion version, where everything is okay once Eleanor learns to be good, maybe gets you a season of stories. This is a lot more complicated – and, for tonight, funnier to boot.

What did everybody else think?

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