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‘The Good Place’ Is Almost Back for Season 3. Here’s What to Remember

Category: Art & Culture,Arts

It isn’t easy being a torture master: That much was made abundantly clear early in the second season of NBC’s “The Good Place,” in which Michael (Ted Danson), exposed for the demon he is, failed again and again to deceive our beloved group of the damned.

Still, maybe torturing souls isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. After all, if a bunch like Chidi, Eleanor, Jason and Tahani could learn to start moving beyond their baser instincts, maybe a demon could change, too?

Season 3 of “The Good Place,” which debuts Thursday night, looks to test those lessons as its four human protagonists take another crack at being decent — this time before they die. Need a refresher on what the fork happened in Season 2? You could always rewatch it all. Or just read this character guide, and avoid the repetition — or as Chidi put it, the feeling of being “trapped in a warped version of Nietzsche’s theory of eternal recurrence.”

Much like comprehending the complexities of moral philosophy, becoming a successful architect of torture is a difficult task. After Eleanor (Kristen Bell) discovered she was really in the Bad Place, and the group’s memory was erased, Michael received one more chance to try building out his elaborate neighborhood scheme. His boss, Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson), warned him that if he failed, he’d be “burned on the surface of a billion suns” — good incentive for Michael to hide the fact that his experiment failed a lot: 802 times to be exact.

But although Shawn still believed Michael was on his second attempt, the other demons assisting his grand ruse — including one ambitious leader named Vicky (Tiya Sircar) — grew fed up with his failures and took over. Facing an uncomfortable retirement, Michael teamed with Eleanor, Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Jason (Manny Jacinto), promising to get them all to the real Good Place so long as they pretended to know nothing about his identity. As part of the deal, Michael also agreed to learn ethics, which quickly threw him into an existential mess.

After avoiding some minor disasters threatening to expose him, Michael cut the charade and helped the four escape through the Bad Place and into a portal leading them to an almighty judge (Maya Rudolph), who agreed to send them back to earth. In the finale, Michael watched Eleanor’s life decisions unfold and gently guided her toward Chidi.

Eleanor might eat too much shrimp cocktail and drink herself silly, but in Season 2 she proved to be an effective problem solver. Smart enough to have inserted a “Find Chidi” message — on a page ripped from his dissertation — into Janet’s mouth, she later connected the dots to her previous revelation about the true nature of the Good Place. In fact, she outsmarted Michael’s torturing schemes in nearly all of his 802 attempts to build the perfect neighborhood. In multiple reboots, Eleanor and Chidi wound up sleeping together during their many visits to the Medium Place. (“Forking shirtballs!”) Impossibly indecisive and overexcited about philosophy, Chidi nonetheless warmed Eleanor’s cold heart, but it took an entire season for her to negotiate and nurture those dormant feelings.

After Michael sent the group back to earth for a second chance at life, memory wiped, Eleanor committed to cleaning hers up. She ditched her roommates, quit her job and joined the Clean Energy Crusaders. But after six months with no “moral dessert,” her good deeds lapsed. With a nudge from Michael, who showed up on earth as her bartender, she found Chidi’s lecture on modern ethics, prompting her to fly to Australia and knock on his office door.

Once he was certain that Michael had joined the foursome’s side, Chidi obliged in providing him an Ethics 101 course, initiating Michael’s brief midlife crisis. Chidi’s ramblings and lectures bored Michael, who eventually jazzed up Chidi’s theoretical musings with some concrete situations involving a trolley and splattered human remains.

His fun wasn’t shared, but Chidi’s lessons ultimately got through to Michael: He even used his newly acquired knowledge of Kierkegaard to help the group avoid capture. Eleanor also leaned on her new working knowledge of “moral particularism” as a means of convincing Chidi to disguise his identity and avoid being caught in the Bad Place. Once they escaped through the portal and visited the judge, Chidi planted a kiss on her (“Hot diggity dog,” Eleanor embarrassingly said afterward), assuming they would never see each other again. He finally became decisive about what mattered most to him.

Tahani and Jason win the award for unlikeliest couple on television. Their relationship burned suddenly and bright, first igniting after demons threw a more entertaining party than one of Tahani’s. Despite his lack of intelligence, his obsession with quarterback Blake Bortles and his penchant for Molotov cocktails, Jason offered his kindness to her at just the right moment.

After some couples therapy with Janet, the two decided to get hitched, but Michael, Eleanor and Chidi broke up their wedding in order to spare Janet’s feelings (she and Jason were married before the many reboots). Trusting their friends’ judgment, Tahani and Jason decided that a solipsistic socialite and failed Jacksonville D.J. didn’t need to rush into things. Both of them later failed the judge’s tests — Jason just had to play Madden; Tahani just had to get her parents’ approval — but each emerged more self-aware before returning to earth.

Stolen by Michael for help with his experiments, Janet, a walking database of all information and knowledge, increased her social awareness and abilities with each new version of herself. At some point, she fell in love with Jason, “a mutation amplified with each reboot,” Michael theorized. Those feelings manifested as some severe glitches to the neighborhood, which abated after Eleanor suggested that Janet find a rebound boyfriend.

To that end, Janet created Derek (Jason Mantzoukas), a super annoying, not quite anatomical ball of energy (he has wind chimes for genitals) to provide her company in the boundless void. Their name-calling and bickering, however, allowed Michael and the gang to convince Janet to dump him. Once in the Bad Place, Janet’s chameleonic performance as Bad Janet saved Michael from Shawn’s punishment for treason. To close the season, she and Michael, bonding as friends, spent time together keeping tabs on their earthbound friends.

Although Derek brought nothing but trouble and coked out energy to the neighborhood, Janet made sure not to marbleize him. Instead, she placed him on a train headed to the Medium Place and a horny Mindy St. Claire (Maribeth Monroe), as demons mistakenly chased after him. When a demon special ops unit arrived in search of the four humans, they found only Derek, Mindy and the sound of wind chimes.

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