The Good Place S02E05 Recap: 'Existential Crisis'

There are elements of tonight's episode of The Good Place, "Existential Crisis", that almost feel, dare I say, formulaic.There's something about Michael teaming up with Eleanor and the gang to sneak around behind evil Vicky's back that feels inherently sitcom-my. And after the show spent its first four episodes willingly blowing up its own concept, episode five seems like it's satisfied with settling into a rhythm where, for the foreseeable future, or at least until they decide to blow up the concept yet again, Michael and Eleanor have to dupe Vicky as if she was a hapless Colonel Klink on Hogan's Heroes.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, even though we've come to expect a lot more from The Good Place thanks to a string of phenomenal episodes. After all, "Existential Crisis" seems to have a point to it, and on top of that, the mere fact that it's trying to be a sitcom within the framework of a show that takes place in the afterlife and sees tortured humans interacting with immortal monsters is in and of itself great. But the above needs to mentioned in case, in five or six weeks, we're still talking about the latest way our heroes tricked Vicky yet again. I have enough confidence in this show to not worry about that too much, but still.

The premise of the episode revolves around Tahani setting up a fake birthday party no one intends on going to, while a much better one is taking place down the street. Everyone scoffs at the idea that this would be torturous, but ironically, it actually does wind up affecting Tahani deeply, because she really is vain enough to be upset about it, even if she's aware of the ruse. This winds up leading her into Jason's hands when he tries to cheer her up, which is itself an interesting development.

But the meat of the episode involves Michael, and Chidi trying to show him what it's like to be human, an important first step if Michael wishes to be a better person so he can eventually gain access to the real Good Place when he attempts to get the gang in. Michael is having trouble because he has no grasp of humanity. Despite working with and torturing them for so long, they're still aliens to him. Chidi figures that in order for Michael to see things from their level, he has to understand the pain of mortal existence, since he's never had to think about potential death. When confronted with the very real possibility that all of this could blow up in his face and his molecules could be spread across the cosmos, he grows depressed, and within a matter of hours, he's suffering from a mid-life crisis, before bring dragged back to reality by Eleanor, who explains to him how humans manage to suck it up and accept that part of them will just always be sad at the thought of their own mortality.

The funniest part of the episode and up there among the best gags of the season is Mid-Life Crisis Michael. He dresses differently, his hair is uncouth, he's turned Janet into "Janette" and has a Chinese symbol tattoo that says "Japan". Vicky somehow doesn't take notice before Eleanor can help Michael overcome his new discovery, but it leads to some great moments. But what's truly impressive is that there's actually a deeper discussion about existentialism and what it means to be a mortal human creature and how to feel like one when you'v never even fathomed the possibility. And Ted Danson conveys it beauitfully as one of our best TV actors.

In certain respescts, "Existential Cris" is a step back from the mind-blowing opening episodes of the season, but it's still hilarious, and still captures the spirit of The Good Place, 8 out of 13. 8.5 cool ranch babies out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • Michael: "These millennials they have no work ethic. Oh sorry a millennial is someone who has only been torturing people for a thousand years. Millennial."
  • Michael on calling him a demon: "Well I mean it’s not really accurate and we consider it to be a little racist but it’s fine."
  • Michael: "How do I put this delicately? It’s all stupid garbage."
  • Michael: "Oh, I’m a human and my breathing tube is next to my eating tube. Look my arms end in stupid little sticks."
  • Eleanor/Chidi: "I’m gonna be the velociraptor." "Are you trying to say valedictorian?" "No."
  • Eleanor/Chidi: "I used to think about how it’s weird that they don’t make pants that are just one big pant leg for both your legs." "You mean a skirt?"
  • Janet: "So how many quarterbacks are in a home run?"
  • Eleanor: "In the words of a very wise bed bath and beyond employee I once knew, go ahead and cry all you want, but you’re going to have to pay for that plunger."