The Good Place just reached a pivotal point in season two, which I discuss at length in my review of tonight’s episode. As I often do when big things are brewing on a Mike Schur show — including after The Good Place unveiled its big season-ending twist — I emailed him a lot of questions about what’s happening and why, with full spoilers coming up just as soon as the Bad Place is Vanessa Redgrave’s panic room…
First we got into how the season’s first few episodes dealt with the repercussions of the twist that Eleanor and friends are really in the Bad Place, and Michael’s decision to keep rebooting the scenario until he can get it right, then moved on to the new status quo where Michael, Janet, and the four humans will team up to pretend the torture is working while Chidi teaches everyone — Michael included — ethics in the hopes of someday getting into the real Good Place.
When you initially came up with the twist, how long did you think you could get away with the cycle that we see play out over the season’s first three episodes? Did that amount of time shrink once it was time to start writing this season, or was it always going to be a brief thing before you moved on?
The chunk of time the characters spent in the dark (again) was never going to last very long. In fact, one version we toyed with had the Groundhog Day sequence even earlier — like the second half of the premiere. But then we had the idea of starting the year by spending one act with everyone’s new personal torture, and that seemed new and fun, so the “torture-solve-reset” was pushed to episode 3. But we felt pretty strongly that the characters had to catch up to the audience — and that the show needed to swerve onto a new course — ASAP.
The third episode in particular blitzes through the amount of plot you might have tried to spend a season or more on. Why did you want to do that? Were there any iterations where you feel like you could have actually let them run for a while without it getting old?
That’s part of the fun of this premise — in order to stay ahead of a very savvy audience, we have to chew up plot and barrel forward. When we settled on the “Groundhog Day” idea for the third episode, we felt like: we can do this, but it’s only Groundhog Day for one act, like eight minutes or so. Then we gotta keep moving, and the episode has to spin off into some other story.
Besides the food, what ways did you look to easily differentiate one reboot from the next? And were there any pitches — food or otherwise — that you wanted to use but didn’t have room for in this condensed period?
That sequence in the first cut was like 14 minutes long — there’s a ton of stuff on the cutting room floor, ranging from just “more jokes” to little actual scene-lets that played out in various reboots. Drew Goddard directed it and shot like a million wonderful 2 second-long things. But as it crescendos toward the end, we felt like in some way the different reboots shouldn’t even be really “differentiated” — they should just all jumble together.