Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
The Good Place is easily my favorite series currently playing on TV. I love its twisting narrative, its exploration of ethics, its very specific sense of humor, and the entire cast of the first three seasons, with one exception.
During a recent rewatch of the show, a particular scene caused me to wonder what if Chidi, one of four humans possibly torturing each other for all of eternity, is not a human at all, but is actually God trying to better understand humanity by studying humans who, at the beginning of the series, think they're in something akin to Heaven, and soon discover that there being there is a mistake. I decided to rerewatch using that a recontextualization point.
Obviously, there are Mad Spoilers in every one of these posts. The last paragraph completely spoils the first season, so this is not for people who aren't pretty much caught up with the show, which has just started its fourth and final season.
Cast, if you're watching the episode for the first time:
Eleanor Frostrap: recently deceased woman mistakenly sent to The Good Place, kinda selfish
Michael: Figurehead of The Good Place, trying to help people acclimate to their new environs. Nervous about everything going wrong.
Chidi: Moral philosophy professor and Eleanor's soulmate. Only person who appears to know Eleanor's presence in The Good Place is a mistake.
Tahini: Do-er of good deeds. Fashion Do. Desperately wants her soulmate to speak to her.
Jiyanu: A Buddhist Monk who has taken a vow of silence. Tahini's soulmate.
Janet: Database of helpful knowledge with a human appearance. Always in Incognito Mode.
Teacup: Construct of a dog. Doesn't feel pain. Or love. I mean, of course he feels love. Do you want a dog who will love you more?
Gunnar and Antonio: Dumpster target practice.
Literally, Everyone Else: Window dressing!
"Eleanor, this place is a perfectly made Swiss watch, and you are a wrench in the gears. Actually you're a hammer, just smashing the gears into dust." are Chidi's opening lines in this second episode. You could argue that Chidi is merely being expository to bring the audience up to speed, in case they missed the first episode, but it is such a perfect encapsulation of Eleanor's relationship to "The Good Place" that is should seem suspect coming from someone who gets stomachaches at the least sign of stress, and who wears boots he can't stand, for years, rather than offend a close friend.
His entire first scene is him explaining to Eleanor every minute detail about why she's responsible for "The Good Place" going completely haywire at the close of the last episode. He's mostly calm and reasonable, as if his speech is prepared, except when Eleanor interjects with judgemental criticisms of the other people in the "The Good Place", which seems to genuinely surprise and disappoint him.
When defending herself, Eleanor declares herself "a Medium Person", and points out that she should be in "a Medium Place". Chidi flinches at this. Perhaps, storing this idea for later.
He does not flinch when Eleanor comes up with the idea of Chidi teaching her ethics. Instead, he goes into quandry mode, announcing a stomachache.
Watch Chidi's face as Michael stresses out about the chaos around him. His faces aren't shock or disgust, but disapproval. When Michael decides to lick his sweat off a damp cloth because he doesn't understand how human bodies work, Chidi makes a face similar to when Eleanor is frustrating him. As if he believes Michael is taking his performance too far.
When Chidi is debating whether or not to teach Eleanor ethics, he writes on the board Is this a test for me? Her? Ethics? This isn't referenced in the dialogue. Instead, Eleanor commandeers the conversation for a bit, until Chidi confronts Eleanor with the fact that she doesn't know anything about him, but he knows a ton about her. Is it really just because he's a good listener? Or is he nearly omniscient?
"This is what I fear about you, Eleanor, you are too selfish to ever be a good person."
Eleanor and Chidi are part of a task force to clean up the neighborhood after the destruction caused by Eleanor. While they are cleaning, other residents (actually demons) take Flying Lessons. In an attempt to be able have some time taking flying lessons, Eleanor hides a bunch of trash instead of throwing it away, causing a literal garbage storm. Chidi asks her what she's done "this time", and she lies. He clearly knows she is lying, and she is almost immediately struck by something akin to lightning, which then inspires her to confess her role in the garbage storm. That's some serious Zeus shit, Chidi. And Chidi has been talking about Greek philosophers all episode.
That night, on her own, Eleanor decides to go clean up the trash, Chidi "catches her". When Eleanor asks how he knew she was doing it, he claims that he was watching her from his house which is (he points) up .. where there is a doorway and an apartment BUT he didn't come from that direction, and everyone else in "The Good Place" lives in their ideal house. Why is he in an apartment above some of the froyo shops? Or does he have no home of his own and is always just watching Eleanor from above?
The Hammer In The Gears: The trash pickup, which Chidi volunteers himself and Eleanor for, to prevent Eleanor from taking flying lessons, is Tahani's idea. So far the series suggests that she is also a selfish person, who only did good deeds as a way to compete with her sister. But, at this point in the narrative, she doesn't know she is competing with anyone in "The Good Place", so why does she suggest everyone clean up The Neighborhood? Could Chidi have orchestrated this? How? It would seem to hint that Tahani is, like most of the residents in "The Good Place", also a demon.
All of her time with Michael, having things explained to her, in the first two episodes, are done in front of Jiyanu/Jason, opening the possibility that Tahani and Michael's interactions are all played out for his benefit, not hers.
The giant crack in this theory is that the two of them will eventually have some alone time, in which Michael clearly does not know / think that Tahani is a demon. So she can't be working for him. BUT ... what if she is a different kind of actor in this scenario. What if Chidi (God) has placed Michael and the Demons as the main way of testing Eleanor and Jason, with Tahani being a non-demon entity working for him, who is there to run interference and keep the somewhat incompetent demons in check. She is responsible for many of the events that put Eleanor at risk of being outed. Maybe Eleanor is right to hate her.