THis review contains spoilers.
4.11 Mondays, Am I Right?
“It’s going to take a lot of work. But the work is the fun part, guys!” Michael tells a room of demons shortly into The Good Place season four’s 11th episode.
The gang is all gathered together not for a sexual harassment seminar (“We just did that and I’m already so good at it!” one demon opines) but for a rundown on the new way of doing business. Michael and Shawn are now working together to build a new, more equitable version of the afterlife. And the key word there is “working.”
The Good Place season four, for better or worse, has largely been about the work required to become a better person. Eleanor, Tahani, and Jason worked tirelessly to make sure their experiment ran smoothly and that their four subjects got all of the support necessary to improve. Oftentimes that focus on work… eh, worked against this final season. The Good Place often operates at its best when it’s dealing with big ideas and bigger twists and four nearly half a season those paradigm shifts were in short supply. Still, the work was necessary because the work always is.
Now that concept of labour returns once again in Mondays, Am I Right?, the third-to-last episode of the series. This time the execution of work as a theme operates much more smoothly. Not only does this episode deftly set up the show’s ultimate endgame with its work-centric storytelling, it makes sure that every respective plot in the episode operates in concert with that theme.
The most obvious way that an appreciation for work comes into play in Mondays is with Michael’s interaction with his new demonic charges. Things generally suck in The Bad Place (Vicky’s description of “cold yoga” is truly bone-chilling) and it’s precisely because things suck that The Bad Place’s workers are so thorough and competent at their jobs. Nothing sucks harder than work, so of course these dirtbags would excel at it.
At first Michael’s new system seems like it will be a drag for The Bad Place because there will be fewer human beings to torment. But in reality their torture efforts will just become more efficient and effective. Michael and Janet choose to demonstrate this with the lowest hanging fruit of all their human friends: Tahani. When Michael designs a dinner party scenario to test Tahani’s ethical decision-making, the demons respond the only way they know how: by introducing a Chainsaw Bear (hopefully coming to an NBC store near you soon). Then Vicky arrives to prove to the demons that there is a better way. She has a partygoer introduce the information that Tahani’s sister Kamilah’s album is a dud and then has Kamilah ask Tahani to speak about her own failures on the spot.
“Well done, Vicky That was quite good … for the system. For me it was traumatic,” Tahani says, looking genuinely rattled. Here it’s clear why both sides of the eternal equation would agree to this new system. While The Good Place of course stands to gain a few more souls for the first time since the 16th century, The Bad Place will gain something just as sweet: torture … real torture. Using personal details about their subjects lives will lead to more excruciating forms of emotional distress. The only downside is that it will require more work. But again: these demons have demonstrated that they care for nothing if not tedium.
These enhanced torture lessons lead into another one of the ways that Mondays approaches the concept of work. Instead of being thrilled at Vicky’s skilful demonstration at this new concept, Michael is annoyed. He tries to shoot down her success and insist that she went too hard too quickly. When Janet and Tahani push him to explain why he feels this way, Michael has to come clean. He’s afraid of being replaced.
For thousands of years Michael had a job. Now it would appear that Vicky is ready to take over that job. And where does that leave Michael? Michael, despite being an ageless fire squid, can feel the end creeping up to him. Like many other lifelong workers, Michael fears retirement. Sure, the work is grueling, thankless, and at times pointless, but it’s something. And in the world of the infinite, something is always better than nothing.
The ceaseless advancement of time is a fact so stark that Janet and Tahani can’t muster up reassuring words for Michael. Instead Janet tells him that even if his obsolescence may one day come, for now he’s needed. Vicky can’t do this on her own yet and the system isn’t fully in place. So Michael agrees to continue on and allow Vicky to take over the Bad Place side of the experiment. The non-resolution may be frustrating to Michael but it’s entirely appropriate for the final episodes of this show. As Michael carries on for these last two episodes, he will do so with the knowledge that things are almost at end for him. This will be appropriately melancholic for the end of such a lovely show. If nothing else, Michael will be on the same wavelength as The Good Place’s viewers in hoping the finale can be infinity hours long.
Meanwhile on the other side of The Bad Place, a different kind of work is underway. Eleanor, Chidi, and Jason have been tasked with rifling through the Bad Place’s files to find the first thousand humans to take the test. Eleanor uses the opportunity to try to suss out what U.S. Presidents were gay (she correctly susses out that James Buchanan was at least bi) while Jason immediately heads for his own file.
This naturally opens up a big can of worms for Eleanor and Chidi. For the first time in hundreds of Bearimys, they are both fully aware of their love for each other. They’re also painfully aware that there are many Bearimys yet to come.
At first Eleanor is horrified at the prospect of Chidi reading her file, given her … uh colorful exploits as an Arizonan garbage monster on Earth. But soon she realizes that Chidi must read it to better prepare for the madness that he is prepared to commit the rest of eternity to. After reading The Book of Eleanor, Chidi is taken aback not by how terrible Eleanor’s choices are but how rad they all were.
“I don’t see any version of heaven where she doesn’t get bored of me,” Chidi tells Jason, who is now essentially he philosopher’s therapist.
In giving in to the temptation of their respective files, Chidi and Eleanor are falling into a fallacy as old as time itself. They both seem to believe that the way that things were have to be the way that things will always be. Humanity’s inability to change has been something of a recurring theme on TV, particularly in the prestige dram category on shows like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad. There’s a belief deep in television’s DNA that human beings lack the capacity for real change.
The Good Place, however, does not abide by this doctrine. The Good Place respects our capacity for change because it respects our capacity for work. Jason pulls a classic bit of reverse psychology on Chidi in having Chidi convince himself that it’s he and Eleanor’s differences that make them special and built to last. Both Jason and Chidi are missing the real headline here though. Sure, the differences will help for now but the important thing is that all their differences won’t remain that way forever. Chidi and Eleanor’s lives on Earth were largely static, bogged down by their own faults and fears. The afterlife, however, provides a chance to change … and with each other.
Chidi says he’ll start by learning to play the guitar. Maybe he, Michael, and Janet can start a band. They only know “It’s Simply the Test” right now but they have eons left together in The Good Place to learn some new tunes.