Tonight's episode of The Good Place finally breaks the repetitive cycle of the beginning of the season. The Good Place Season 2 Episode 5 is the perfect mixture of hilarity, physical comedy, and ethical complexity that makes this one of the best comedies on television.
Among the most exciting surprises of this episode, Michael's dalliance with humanity turns deep, and Tahani and Jason find a spark between them.
"Existential Crisis" is Ted Danson's best episode of the series. He plays Michael's wide range of emotions with ease, from his descent into existential crisis, his high spirits during his midlife crisis, and finally back to his semi-normalcy.
When Michael enters his existential crisis, his actions and emotions are exaggerated, but they never feel unrealistic; after all, he's a non-human who's never been confronted with the inevitability of death.
Danson's physical comedy shines in this episode, particularly at the moment he considers retirement, with his mouth wide and hands on his cheeks a la Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone. He and the straight-faced Kristen Bell and William Jackson Harper must have provided excellent footage for the season's blooper reel.
When Michael learns to bottle his emotions in typical human fashion, Danson plays up Michael's happy-go-lucky side. His performance is nuanced in a way that separates it from the similarly joyful Michael in season one's "What We Owe to Each Other."
In that episode, Michael took joy in doing typical human things, but in this episode, Danson plays Michael with an intensity and hurriedness he didn't have before. Rather than being an outsider living amongst humans, he now has a dash of humanity in him as he keeps moving to avoid his feelings.
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 gonna have to pay for that toilet plunger."Eleanor
"Existential Crisis" gives us the first real sign that Michael may be able to grow after all. His new understanding of mortality allows him to empathize with humans in a way he never could before.
When he made his decision to work with the humans and take ethics lessons, he had no other choice, so we had no reason to believe he would actually try to become a better person. It seems he does have the capacity to change. If he empathizes with the humans, will he match that capacity with willingness?
Jason and Tahani join Michael in displaying new empathy in this episode. Jason develops a better understanding of Tahani in his own Jason way. For someone who rarely says the right thing, Jason nails it in his conversation with Tahani after they leave the second party.
Tahani begins to realize how shallow she must have been on Earth if the way she's being tortured is through event planning. She's disgusted with herself, but Jason points out the good in her.
Jason and Tahani finally connect, but not in the way season one Tahani imagined. When she still thought she was in the Good Place and he was a silent monk, she yearned to discuss art and to get to know Jason's likes and dislikes. Cheesy as it may sound, Tahani and Jason now connect by understanding each other's souls.
The point is, you're cool, dope, fresh, and smart-brained. I've never seen you dance, but I bet you're good, 'cause you're good at everything. You're awesome! Be nicer to yourself.Jason [to Tahani]
Does it seem a bit sudden when we see Jason and Tahani in bed together? Sure, but this is the afterlife. Time is irrelevant.
I'm not sure where this relationship will go, or how deep their connection actually is, but they both seem happy at the end of the episode. I'd still prefer to see Tahani with Eleanor, but I'm willing to give this relationship a chance.
Michael, Tahani, and Jason aren't the only ones who become more self-aware in this episode. We also learn more about how Eleanor became such a mediocre person on Earth with several flashbacks, all of which help her understand herself and relate to Michael's struggle.
Eleanor's first experience with loss taught her to bottle her feelings. When her mother announces the death of her dog, she doesn't allow Eleanor any time to grieve, instead complaining about the inconveniences she's faced that day.
The flashback of Eleanor realizing the permanence of death is at turns hilarious and heart-wrenching. As she stares at the holder made for four toothbrushes, she sees both what she missed out on as a child and as an adult. Kristen Bell plays the scene beautifully, even as she sobs into a plunger.
"Existential Crisis" is nearly a perfect episode of The Good Place, packing in plenty of laughs and self-awareness. The show has hit its stride this season, and I cannot wait for next Thursday.
Did you love this episode as much as I did? Share your opinions in the comments, and remember you can watch The Good Place online here; this one is definitely worth a rewatch!
Danica Leninsky was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in April of 2018.