Over the course of its soon-to-be four-season run, “The Good Place” has notoriously avoided spoilers. Trailers have been sparse-to-nonexistent, teases have been oblique, and cast and crew have been visibly afraid to discuss unaired episodes for fear of giving away precious plot points. (Well, everyone except for Ted Danson.)
So it’s at least a tiny bit shocking that “The Good Place: The Selection” exists. A series of a half-dozen two-minute shorts that serve as a thematic and narrative handshake between Seasons 3 and 4 of the show, all of these mini-episodes are set in The Bad Place. Following the compromise that bought Michael, Eleanor, and the rest of the crew one last chance to save themselves from an eternity of suffering, “The Selection” tracks the efforts of Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson) and his Bad Place underlings to find people that will help their side emerge victorious.
It’s a natural premise for a show that often feels right at home having its ensemble sling one-liners at each other within a group circle conversation. With most of “The Good Place” usually told through the lens of Michael, Janet, and the human quartet, “The Selection” works as a chance to give that same opportunity to their human-shaped demon counterparts (and Todd). Not only does it provide a comedy appetizer for the Season 4 main dish arriving at the end of this month, but it also offers some substantive answers to a few questions raised in the previous finale’s closing scenes.
Even though the runtime on these episodes is significantly shorter, this still fits right in with the familiar “Good Place” rhythms. (The biggest change is a pitched-down version of David Schwartz’s opening theme music that’s eerie in a “only slightly off” kind of a way, but keeps some of that jauntiness.) Jackson — now presumably the King of Good Place Digital Exclusives — gets to revel in all of Shawn’s familiar cadences while doling out demands to his demon employees (returning cast members Bambadjan Bamba, Amy Okuda, Jama Williamson, and series writer Josh Siegal pulling double duty once again), who each get their chance to deliver their own slice of Bad Place mythology.
Aside from continuing the plot, “The Selection” is a chance to keep different canonical threads alive for marvelous joke purposes. The show’s insistence that all artists end up in The Bad Place reaches some absurd conclusions here. Being away from the show’s main episodes, these snippets are also empowered to call out specific people and behaviors as being worthy of condemnation in both this world and ours. And have no fear, there’s still plenty of butthole talk.
Being confined to the minimal Bad Place meeting room makes some of the prop-based jokes stick out, too. (What passes for a snack in the Bad Place will make you chuckle as shivers creep down your spine.) And these episode snippets are also a reminder of how well “The Good Place” manages to mix high-stakes tension with out-and-out goofiness. Within the show’s delicate framework, the fates of multiple people’s eternal souls hang in the balance as the people involved in shaping their destinies take time to debate why immortal demons would need to order takeout.
It’s silly and compact and by the end of the last installment, there’s a much clearer path to where things might end up on “The Good Place.” Even if there wasn’t, surprisingly there are far worse ways to spend a dozen minutes than being a fly on the wall in The Bad Place.
“The Good Place: The Selection” is now available to stream via the NBC app. Season 4 of “The Good Place” premieres on September 26.
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