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Good Place: Season Two, The
The funniest show about philosophy and ethics on TV
Loves: Kristen Bell, high-concept sitcoms, Janet, Maya Rudolph, Jason Mantzoukas
Likes: Ted Danson
Dislikes: The pitfalls of a high-concept storyline
The Story So Far...
Quite likely the smartest fictional show to ever air on network television, The Good Place stars Kristen Bell as Eleanor, a woman who recently died and is now in The Good Place, a non-denominational version of heaven created by the otherworldly Michael (Ted Danson), a first-time creator. Unfortunately, things quickly go awry, and Eleanor has an idea what the problem is (as does someone else.) The first season follows Eleanor and her friends as they try to solve the mystery, and includes one of the all-time great twists, leading into season two. The show is heading into its fourth season on NBC, and the first season was released on DVD in October of 2017. DVDTalk has a review of that set.
Sitting down to write this review, it became very clear that to properly discuss this season would require revealing far too many spoilers for those who haven't enjoyed it yet, as so much of the what happens in the second season is based on how the first season.wrapped up. A brilliant exploration of philosophy and ethics that also manages to be wonderfully funny, The Good Place ended its first season with one heck of a cliffhanger, and the second season deals with the consequences of that finale, while also playing with the rules the show established.
Off the bat in its second go-round, the show got stuck in a bit of a rut, which only makes sense considering where the show went in terms of story. But in the third episode, the show shows it knew where it was headed, and things get moving in a strong direction, focusing on Michael, rather than the core four, as their experience in The Good Place starts to have an effect on him, which only creates more problems than there were in the first season. The result is a very different show than the first season, though it still maintains its sense of humor (D'arcy Carden remains the show's secret comedy weapon as the ever-ready and ever-hilarious digital assistant) and its integration of ethics, as the ideas of good and bad are discussed and debated throughout the 13 episodes without becoming too high-minded.
As the show went in a new and different direction (to some degree), it only made sense there would be some changes, mainly in the form of new cast members, and they are wonderful additions, starting with Maribeth Monroe, who brings a disturbing energy as Misty St. Claire, the only human who exists in The Medium Place, a bland halfway between The Good Place and The Bad Place. Putting her up against Bell and William Jackson Harper (Chidi) makes for some truly unusual moments, which still forward the plot in a number of ways. Less vital to the storyline, but no less enjoyable, is Jason Mantzoukas' introduction as Derek, a man Janet created to serve as her boy toy (per Eleanor's questionable suggestion.) Mantzoukas is always bizarre, but freed from any sense of reality (for example, his genitals have been amusingly misdesigned) he can bring the weird like no one's business, and paired with Carden it's a dream duo. Topping things off is the great Maya Rudolph, who comes along to play an afterlife judge who holds the main crew's fate in her hands. Rudolph knows no way to do wrong, and here she's so very right, being silly and fun, bringing a light touch to a character with such a dramatic role in the mythology of the series. It's great to watch her interact with the rest of the cast, as everyone's game is raised a few notches.
Though the show is brilliant, funny and so delightfully smart, at the end of the second season, there's not that same sense of wonder as to where it goes next. Perhaps that's a good thing, as this season got off to a slow start as it re-established the concept, but right now it's difficult to see where the show goes that can maintain the same sense of wonder it managed earlier in its run. Perhaps the show's creators feel comfortable just following the beloved characters they have developed, and the high-concept structure will become less important than characterization. There may not be a lot of "wow" in that, but after two seasons of great television, the folks behind The Good Place have earned the benefit of the doubt.
Note: Several of the episodes included are extended producer cuts, created before the show is cut down to fit the strict limits of network television time slots. There's nothing that affects the overall storyline, but there are jokes and moments that you may not have seen before.
The 13 episodes of the second season of The Good Place are delivered on two DVDs, which are packed in a clear standard-width, keepcase with a tray and a two-sided cover that has an episode listing on the inside. The static, anamorphic-widescreen menus have options to play all the episodes, select shows and check out the extras (if applicable.) There are no audio options and no subtitles.
There's not much difference between this set and the previous set, though there are more interior scenes in The Bad Place, resulting in a number of darker episodes. Despite that, these standard-definition transfers look as good as the format will allow, with a decent level of fine detail; nice, vivid color; and good black levels. The presentation doesn't suffer from issues with digital distractions either, making for a quality viewing experience.
Like last time, the Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks do what's necessary to deliver the dialogue clearly n the center channel, while the surrounds handle the show's score and effects well, with some low-end in the mix to enhance the audio's impact A solid-sounding set of discs with no noticeable issues..
Sadly there are less commentaries on this release than the previous set, down from four to just one, for the episode "Dance Dance Resolution." However, some heavy hitters are on hand, including creator Mike Schur, director/producer Drew Goddard, star Ted Danson and writer Megan Amram. They discuss the origins of the second season's plot, the logistics of shooting the episode, the extended cuts that are created and different ideas that weren't used in the end. Though it's disappointing to hear less about the show, on the plus side, NBC has been releasing an episode-by-episode podcast about the show, hosted by Marc Evan Jackson. It's not a one-for-one replacement for the commentaries, but it is a good supplement.
Like last season, there's a gag reel from the show's wrap party (7:!4) this time hosted by Mindy St. Claire from The Medium Place. It's the same kind of flubs, with the obligatory dance segment, but there's a lot of swearing (try to guess who cusses most) and some very funny moments (better than most gag reels.)
Also returning from the previous set is the brief "A Look at Visual Effects" running 58 seconds, which shows how scenes look before and after CG effects are applied to the footage, for anyone interested in such matters.
Sadly, there's no table read included this time around.
The Bottom Line
With the way the first season ended, The Good Place could have easily jumped the shark, but after a slow go to start, the series corrected course and turned in another great season centered around Michael, with the previous favorites still shining and some new additions bringing their A-game to the show. Shout! Factory has delivered the show in fine shape once again and included a decent few extras, so fans of the show will want to add it to their collection to revisit.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.