Season 3 Episode 3: The Brainy Bunch

The Good Place Once Again Powers Through a Season’s Worth of Plotlines in a Single Episode in ‘The Brainy Bunch’

“This is all moving too fast,” says Michael, in a nod to the show’s habit of using a season’s worth of material in a single episode.

This article contains spoilers for the newest episode of The Good Place, [Season 3 Episode 3].

The Good Place is a show that has always challenged the format in which it is produced. The first season of the American comedy series concluded with a plot twist fitting for a 45-minute drama like Lost – which showrunner Michael Schur admits to being inspired by.

In the newest episode of season three, The Good Place throws at least a season’s worth of material at the audience in an almost claustrophobic 22 minutes. In doing so, the creative team once again boast that they are not even close to running out of ideas.

Michael Schur tells a season’s story in one episode

The episode begins by immediately following the events of the previous episode, where Trevor (a nauseating demon portrayed by Adam Scott) infiltrates our four protagonists’ experiment to become better people.

Trevor, who intentionally embodies some of the most obnoxious trends of internet culture, drives a wedge between the four humans. This alone could have made for a satisfying few episodes of television – which is what the show teased with last week’s cliffhanger.

Instead, without the audience having to be involved in Michael’s decision making, we see that he has once again returned to Earth, hoping to dissuade Trevor. Like many, I was not surprised by this plotline, but did not expect it to arrive until much later in the season.

When Michael is met with the obstacle that he cannot interact with our human protagonists without breaking the experiment, there is no scene or convoluted lull where our characters are forced to hatch a new plan. Rather, Janet takes his place almost immediately.

All of the context behind this development happens off-screen, and the show barely pauses to revel in the moment.

With this much happening in a single episode, it’s a wonder that the show still has time to deliver punchlines. Luckily, the team behind the show somehow manage to keep everything moving in a way that rarely feels congested.

The veteran writing staff continue flaunting their creativity

Perhaps as a nod to the speed at which a season’s worth of material goes by in this episode, Michael exclaims “This is all moving too fast!” In the episode, he’s referring to the growing divide between Chidi and Eleanor, and the disruptive pairing of Jason and Tahani.

The entire sequence plays with the character relationships in a way that evokes memories of last years’ Dance Dance Resolution; the third episode of The Good Place’s second season. In that episode, Schur and his writing staff show a montage of various ‘reboots,’ combining glimpses into a plethora of stories that the characters embark upon in the afterlife.

While there are many interesting plotlines worth spending more time with, the show never seems content with letting the audience linger. To its credit, it is obvious that The Good Place is a show created by a team of writers somewhat bored by the traditional structure that defines most comedies.

After all, Schur worked on The Office, and co-created both Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. While these shows are all fantastic in their own right, it is clear that over a decade worth of credits behind the screen has given him and his team the confidence to tell a story without worrying about the fatigue of running out of ideas and trying to fill airtime.

As if the episode had not already thrown enough at its audience, it also subverts an implied cliffhanger when Judge Gen asks to see the demons (and Janet), who were interfering with the experiment.

Almost any other show would have been content leaving the audience to wonder if they had been ‘caught’ until next week’s episode, but The Good Place moves right past it. In doing so, it ends with throwing Trevor into the abyss and leaving Michael and Janet fleeing to Earth.