The Good Place is on a roll this season, but unlike Chidi's trolley, nothing stands in the way of this show's momentum.
The Good Place Season 2 Episode 6 is yet another fantastic episode, with a particularly excellent performance by William Jackson Harper as Chidi.
Harper, always a delight in his role as Chidi, stands out in "The Trolley Problem." In his best performance yet, Harper portrays Chidi's agony in making an actual trolley problem decision flawlessly.
While always thoughtful, we don't usually see the emotional side of Chidi. Tonight, however, Harper highlights a range of emotions from Chidi. He's desperate and traumatized by the trolley problem, but he continues to participate since Michael claims it's helping him.
We see Chidi at his angriest after realizing Michael is torturing him. Always forgiving, Chidi is back to teaching Michael by the end of the episode.
Harper plays this rollercoaster of emotions believably, without turning Chidi into a caricature. His comic timing is perfect, particularly after the trolley crash sends parts of the "fake people" into his mouth.
Michael: It's just a simulation. I would never make you kill real people.
Chidi: Oh, well that's reassuring, because some of the parts of the fake people FLEW INTO MY MOUTH.
Chidi shows uncharacteristic conviction when presented with the doctor version of the trolley problem, and I can't help but wonder if it's because Michael uses Eleanor as the person who would have to die to save the five dying people.
Because this is a variation on the trolley problem, it should follow that Chidi has the same difficulty in making the decision, but he doesn't miss a beat to save Eleanor from simulated death.
Although the simulations Chidi endures in this episode are supposed to be torture, perhaps they teach him more about his own stance on ethical dilemmas.
Okay, so that was trolley problem version number seven. Chidi opted to run over five William Shakespeares instead of one Santa Claus.Michael
He can usually argue both sides of an issue and struggles to make a decision, but being forced to make that decision could be a learning moment after all. He doesn't waver on his decision at all until the little girl tells him that her daddy was injured by a mean man on a trolley.
Tonight's episode highlights two similar problems faced by non-human characters. Michael is an evil immortal being trying, or at least pretending to try, to understand human ethics and how to be a good person.
Michael has no choice but to help the humans, but in the end, he has his own best interests at heart.
Janet is also non-human, but unlike Michael, helping the humans is her ultimate goal. She's neither a robot nor a spirit, but a sort of database.
The humans convince both Janet and Michael to act more like humans. They demand that Michael learn ethics and try to become good, and Tahani asks Janet to be her therapist.
Michael disrupts Chidi's ethics lessons by reverting to his evil ways of torture, but Janet is perhaps too good at being human. The glitches she experiences reveal that a human-like Janet could disrupt the entire Bad Place.
Janet glitches whenever she expresses empathy. What we don't know is why the glitches happen. Is it even Janet's fault at all? Last season, Eleanor turned herself in as the one causing the problems, just as Janet does at the end of this episode.
In that case, Eleanor was wrong: Michael was orchestrating everything. Is it possible that this is another case of misdirected blame?
When Eleanor realizes Michael is torturing Chidi, it seems he has not learned anything and is the same old Michael. Eleanor later points out that he "pulled an Eleanor," and when she realizes how many things Michael does that are reminiscent of her life on Earth, she wonders what it says about her that the two are so much alike.
It says less about Eleanor than it does about Michael. He shows a true streak of humanity by reverting to old habits when he struggles with a new concept, lashing out at others because he feels small and powerless, and deflecting blame wherever possible.
These aren't the human traits Chidi seeks from Michael, but they are undeniably human. Michael is hardly a reflection of the best of humanity, but he is a reflection nonetheless.
Maybe Michael's small expressions of humanity are what's really disrupting the Bad Place, with Janet's glitches simply being the manifestation of his disruptions.
While I still have the nagging worry that Michael is lying every time he seems to have a genuine moment with the humans, his slow progress is still present.
With Janet glitching and the Good Place experiment in peril, I can't wait for next week's episode. What did you think? Let me know in the comments, and remember you can always watch The Good Place online here.
Danica Leninsky was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in April of 2018.