The Good Place almost has too much going for it. It’s embarrassing, really. The show was created by Mike Schur, who previously created Parks and Recreation, which remains an all-time great television comedy. It has wonderful food-related puns. Its cast is a collection of well-known stars and relative newcomers, ranging from Kristen Bell to D’Arcy Carden to freaking Ted Danson. Ted Danson is on The Good Place. And he is having an absolute blast. He is giggling and emoting and releasing demonic cackles that change the course of the entire show. It’s all so much that you almost wonder why other shows even try. Bless their hearts.
But this is not about that. We’ve been over all of that, a few times, as have others, and we will probably go over it again a few more times before the show wraps up its run. No, this is about something else. This is about Jason Mendoza.
Jason Mendoza, played by Manny Jacinto, is my favorite character on The Good Place. It didn’t start out that way. For a long time, Janet was my favorite character, and she’s still in the top two. Her fall wasn’t her fault, either. She’s still great. But Jason Mendoza is on another level right now. He’s perfect. Everything about him, from his backstory on the show (Florida EDM doofus with a friend named Pillboi “mistakenly” gets into “heaven” because he is “misidentified” as a silent monk), to the sweet naiveté that has resulted in him wooing two of the show’s three main female characters (and somehow not Eleanor, even though they kind of have the most in common), to his recurring strategy of solving problems by throwing Molotov cocktails at them (while shouting the last name of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, of course, because anything is possible in this life if you believe hard enough). He is the best.
As with any great performance, you can explain it in two parts. The first is the writing, which I’m only listing first here because the writing comes first chronologically, and I’m trying to keep this simple enough that even Jason could understand it. (Sorry for using “chronologically,” buddy.) He’s an idiot from Jacksonville who loves the Jaguars and video games and eats at restaurants with names like Stupid Nick’s Wing Dump, which, all due respect to restaurant puns like Biscotti Pippen, is the best fake restaurant the show has come up with. (The fact that the show has found a way to make numerous Florida jokes funny and fresh about two years after Peak Florida Joke is almost sorcery.) I feel like I know that person, sight unseen. The fun part is the little twists they give him, and the Golden Retriever sweetness and loyalty, and the occasional burst of logic that comes tumbling out of his mouth almost by accident. The show gets a whole lot out of what looks like a one-dimensional character, on paper, and if you can find a funnier recent moment of television than him figuring out the characters are in the Bad Place during the montage from the season two premiere, congratulations. I have not. I doubt I will either. It’s wonderful.