Having spent the first two episodes of its third season setting up its latest delightfully convoluted conceit, The Good Place‘s latest episode, “The Brainy Bunch” felt like something akin to a proof of concept. There probably wasn’t anything you could label as a big twist (although there were certainly some interesting plot developments) and it felt as if the show was trying to show us how this idea of the group continuing their efforts to better themselves in a new setting could work over the long haul. Of course, anyone’s who has watched The Good Place from the beginning knows that nothing it does is meant to last for a long time. This is a show that is constantly on its heels, constantly evolving, growing, bettering itself the same way it tasks its characters to do in the story. We can probably be reassured that anything set up in any given episode probably won’t apply for very long, and that’s a big part of the beauty of the show.
And yet, if one is to review the show on a weekly basis, it has to be pointed out that “The Brainy Bunch” feels like more of a letter move than you would expect from a show with all the accolades I gave it. Not much of consequence really happens, and yet the episode is still extraordinarily funny, and the plot developments at the end of the episode signal that the next round of change is probably around the corner.
The episode follows the efforts of the group to bond, while their newest member, the evil demon Trevor (Adam Scott), tries to undermine them and break them up. He not-so-subtly starts to annoy Eleanor and tries to push her away from Chidi and he tries to have Tahani and Jason hook up, which will certainly be problematic for the group’s dynamics. Michael and Janet arrive to thwart his efforts, but Michael, while convinced that the group’s magnetic attraction cannot be stopped, is not his usual self, incapable of lying and coming up with any decent comebacks, and Janet is having trouble adjusting to life on earth without her powers. In the end, Trevor’s meddling has mixed results. Tahani and Jason didn’t hook up, but there is clearly something budding between then (again). Eleanor almost quits the study but Chidi, as he is wont to do, stops her and brings her back.
More intriguingly, however, the Judge catches up with the efforts of our three eternal beings. She flicks Trevor out of the picture (literally) and informs Michael and Janet that while the experiment can continue unimpeded, they will have to be returned to The Bad Place. Luckily, all the stuff that Janet couldn’t materialize on earth suddenly appears and they’re able to escape back to earth with the one and only key that the Doorman lets them take.
All that tells me that more change is around the corner. Michael and Janet can’t be running around on earth without their abilities for too long, at least not without eventually revealing themselves and their intentions to the group, which further changes the group dynamics and moves the story forward. In that sense, the episode feels like it might be doing a little more table setting than you would want from this show. And yet, it’s still incredibly impressive that these four characters have such good chemistry and such an interesting dynamic even though, technically they have no knowledge of their prior interactions and are meeting each other for the first time yet again. The show doesn’t miss a beat and doesn’t repeat itself in the slightest in spite of this.
And, like I said, it’s still incredibly funny! Tasking myself to write down my favourite lines from a show like this has been a daunting task, but it’s worth it, because on top of being super original and really good, it never forgets that it’s a comedy, which is something that a lot of the higher quality shows in the half-hour format have trouble with.
So “The Brainy Bunch” feels somewhat transitional, but still really funny and compelling, and for that, it gets 9 devastating Dick Tracy burns out of 10.
Notes & Quotes:
- Tahani Namedrops: I only caught two this week, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively.
- The “Cowboy Skyscraper Buffet” Mount Rushmore has replaced its presidential faces with David Hasselhoff, Paris Hilton, Judge Judy and Hulk Hogan.
- Stuff that happened because Michael and Janet went to earth: Brexit, The Greatest Showman’s success, the Jacksonville Jaguars are good now, Byron Allen owns The Weather Channel.
- Eleanor: “It’s so nice to hear someone say ‘Eleanor, you’re the reason this is all happening’ who isn’t a judge in small claims court.”
- Trevor: “Eleanor, do I have the right number for you? Because you haven’t responded to any of the dank memes I’ve sent.”
- Jason, holding a spider: “Mrs. Teacher, for my turn is there any way to get, like, extra radiation?”
- Trevor: “Dick Tracy called, he said you’re a buttface and he’s been plowing your mom.”
- Michael: “Well Dick Tracy called me too, first, and he said he was about to call you and say a lie about me that was actually true about you instead.”
- Trevor: “What did you think, we were just going to sit around in the Bad Place blowing beefers while you’re down here boning us in the meathole?”
- Michael: “First of all, I’m currently formulating a better comeback to your Dick Tracy burn and it’s gonna devastate you.”
- Michael: “Dick Tracy called you back on his watch phone and said you better watch out.”
- Jason: “Optimus, Bumblebee, Jazz, Megatron. That’s what you can each call me, now we need nicknames for you guys.”
- Michael: “Every part of my body is either too dry or too wet.”
- Chidi: “We could be colleagues, associates is pushing it. And by even having this conversation you’re becoming my confidant.”
- Michael: “It’s me, the librarian. From the library. I’ve been in every situation. Because I’m a librarian.”
- Trevor: “I like putting my hands on the toilets so everything I touch gets a little bit of poop on it.”
- Jason: “Crazy story, after you got out of the cap I forgot where I lived, but I looked across the street and there was a motel. And behind that there was a dumpster. I slept in a dumpster!”
- Jason: “You’re the fanciest person I know. Next to my friend Ronnie who drives a limo. He’s in limos all the time. What a life!”
- Michael/Trevor: “Hey, Dick Tracy called. He said that I was right about Eleanor and Chidi having an unbreakable bond.” “I don’t think you understand how that joke works.”