Advance warning: This post will give away a lot of fun stuff that happens in the first season of The Good Place. You probably shouldn’t read it if that’s the kind of thing that will bother you. Don’t let me ruin The Good Place for you. Don’t let anyone do it, to be honest. But especially not me.
The Good Place is a very good show. The first season was brilliant and funny and surprising, a rare combination for any show, let alone a network sitcom. The performances were great, across the board, from Kristen Bell playing a degenerate who is trying to improve herself in the afterlife, to Manny Jacinto as a Buddhist monk slash Jacksonville breakdancer whose favorite restaurant was a place called Stupid Nick’s Wing Dump, to D’Arcy Carden as a supernatural A.I. answer-bot who can best be described as “like if Alexa was a real lady.” Adam Scott showed up as a demon named Trevor. It’s on Netflix. You should check it out if you haven’t seen it. But this isn’t about that. This is about something much more specific. This is about Ted Danson’s evil laugh.
Quick, necessary background: The Good Place is about a Heaven-like place that Kristen Bell’s character, Eleanor, finds herself in after dying. The twist is that she realizes pretty quickly that she’s there by mistake. The whole first season is about her hiding this and trying to figure it out, leading up to the finale, where we discover that what she thought was “The Good Place” was actually “The Bad Place,” and that the seemingly nice architect in charge of it all — Michael, played by Danson — is actually a demon who orchestrated the entire ruse to make her and her three cohorts miserable. Like, a new, super devious form of torture, more psychological than physical. I really recommend going back and watching the whole first season a second time with the knowledge this twist is coming. There are layers in there, man. Again, The Good Place is a good show. But also again, this is not about that. This is about the laugh.
When Eleanor figures all of this out, after a dramatic scene involving sacrifice and impossible choices, she tells Michael she’s onto him, and Michael — the lovely bow-tied man played by American treasure Ted Danson — changes his entire facial expression from innocence and concern to pure evil, and then uncorks one of the greatest evil laughs you’ll ever hear.
It is kind of incredible, in a few ways. First and most importantly, because I did not see it coming at all and it shocked me in a way that made me freeze. It was one of those moments where all the pieces come together in your brain at once you’re left feeling both blown away and silly for not realizing it. If I had been holding a coffee cup, I would have dropped it on the floor.
But also, holy hell, what a great evil laugh. What a great evil laugh. I watched the scene on Netflix again last night to try to find the words to describe it, and I was relieved to see that the people in charge of closed captions had done it for me.
Yup, that’ll do.