‘The Good Place’ Welcomes The Mysterious Shawn In ‘What’s My Motivation?’

Senior Television Writer
01.12.17 6 Comments

NBC

A review of tonight’s The Good Place coming up just as soon as I hate genocide and leggings as pants…

We’re in the home stretch for Good Place season one(*), and as a more intensely serialized show than Mike Schur’s previous network comedies, it’s getting to take advantage of the kind of narrative momentum that any well-told TV season gets at this stage.

(*) FWIW, I feel good about the chances for renewal, and wouldn’t be surprised if it gets announced during NBC’s TCA day next week.

“What’s My Motivation?” brings the Fake Eleanor and Jason Mendoza situations to a head, as she keeps trying and failing to improve her point total before the arrival of Shawn, while he comes out to Michael about both his true identity and his “marriage” to Janet.

The latter was the more overtly comic half of the episode, as the Jason and Janet combo has been gold for a while now. What’s particularly fun is how the writers and D’Arcy Carden manage to find the sweet spot of making Janet seem innocent enough to want to be with Jason, while also making clear that she is a super-intelligent computer program. (Jason on why he married Janet: “We love each other. She makes the bass drop in my heart.” Janet on why she married Jason: “And Jason is a person who was near me when he asked me to marry him, and there is nothing in my protocol to disagree with that.”) And, of course, any opportunity for Michael to be filled with frustration and despair is a delightful one for Ted Danson. The flashbacks to Jason’s death weren’t hugely illuminating in what they told us about him, but were useful in what they told Jason about himself, in his first really self-aware moment of the series. As with Fake Eleanor revealing her secret a few episodes ago, Jason and Michael’s interactions proved how much more fun it can be to watch characters deal with the truth about each other rather than for them to hide things.

Fake Eleanor’s scramble to stay in the Good Place, meanwhile, was more on the sweet side of things, but drew value from the relationships she’s built over the season so far with Chidi,Tahani, and even Real Eleanor. And her decision to give up the fight and go to the Bad Place was a bit of self-sacrifice she wouldn’t have been capable of when she arrived, and a successful next step of that character arc.

Like usual, we get a nifty cliffhanger with Janet’s revelation of a Medium Place, where she, Fake Eleanor, and Jason head in the stolen train to meet the mysterious Mindy St. Claire. The train itself doesn’t seem to move very quickly, but the story of The Good Place is moving at a very satisfying clip right now.

Some other thoughts:

* Though there was a lot of speculation about the show stunt-casting the role of Shawn the same way they got Adam Scott to play Trevor, they instead hired Schur-verse utility player Marc Evan Jackson, who was a lawyer on Parks and Rec and is Captain Holt’s husband Kevin on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Not famous, but the man is funny, and Schur clearly likes working with him.

* Tahani’s pronunciation of “Walmart” was a delight.

* I don’t really need another Jason flashback, but I hope the show can continue to work in jokes about his love of Jacksonville, aka “easily one of the top 10 swamp cities in Northeastern Florida.”

What did everybody else think?

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