The Good Place kind of came out of nowhere as a thought-provoking, nonstop laugh party. It seemed like nothing would compare to the consistency and inventiveness that the show was able to maintain. For two season it set expectations, tricked viewers, and wowed with its ingenuity. It has ranked higher than many fan favorites like Stranger Things and Westworld each year on Metacritic. With such a juggernaut of a show, it seemed impossible that The Good Place would go the way of Mr. Robot and dive bomb in its third season.
It can be difficult to continue to engage audience members as the gimmick that makes a show special can become too familiar. Trying to change what makes it special is a big ask and can sometimes lead to seasons where a show can lose its groove. The Good Place was expected to “reinvent” itself with each new season, a big task to tackle. That pressure by fans might have made it crack, forcing it to think of a way to recreate the same magic. So instead of the trick of reinvention getting old with audiences, it might have become the thing that ultimately broke the show.
Season 3 started off fantastic. We had the pleasure of meeting all the people in the flashbacks of the main characters to ease the story back to Earth. It was great seeing the leads go about their daily lives and stay true to themselves while also continuing with the lessons they had learned in previous seasons. But I smelled trouble when the show couldn’t go one episode without bringing them back together. After the second episode, I was riddled with fear for what was to come. Burning bridges of possible storylines and abandoning the fun mix of the anthology and linear storytelling was too much.
The show devolved into slightly fun bits that leaned heavily on side characters built up in the first two seasons. It lacked structure and fell apart. For episodes on end, it felt like there was no progression happening in the story. Things came to pass and didn’t feel important, those events just felt like time wasters. In place of previous season gimmicks directly supporting the overall appeal to the show, these bits felt like half-baked one-offs. In the promo for season 3, one of the cast members says, ”going back to Earth is so fun because there are that many more possibilities”. This statement never feels fulfilled.
As the show finally started to get somewhere with its overall narrative, I could still feel that sense of dread looming over what was to come. Things weren’t adding up narratively and everything came with a disingenuous feeling with it. Then it happened. The show turned a final corner and set itself on a path of no return. As it barreled towards its conclusion, I can say that I was completely underwhelmed. Not only does the ending fail its narrative, but it also comes off as a budgetary constraint.
I wish that season 3 of The Good Place would be the one show on TV that stayed pure, somehow unaffected by idea burn out and willing to take real risks. It left me empty and reluctant to come back for the fourth season, but it hasn’t lost me yet. I just hope that some actual interesting developments happen to the show or else I might move on to something else.
Rating: Try (If you already like the show, if you want to start watching it, then start with season 1)