The Good Place is back! And, while that's certainly something to rejoice (who doesn't want the world's most charming show back on television?), there's a bittersweet wind in the air. "Chapter 40" marks the beginning of the end, with season 4 being the final season of The Good Place. Does that mean the series will end on a high without the straining to fill a studio-decided episode count? Judging by the premiere, that seems to be the case as the episode briskly sets up the forthcoming season without leaving breathing room for much else.
Season 3 concluded with Eleanor (Kristen Bell) and the gang learning that the points system that decides whether a human enters the Good or Bad Place has been rigged for hundreds of years. The Judge (Maya Rudolph) offered our heroes a chance to prove that humans can actually be good, tasking them with building a new Good Place (in the Medium Place) and letting loose four humans in that freshly constructed world. If they earn enough good points, then she will concede the system is rigged. However, there's a twist – the monsters of the Bad Place got to choose the four new guinea pigs. How deliciously evil.
Already, we've seen John, a gossip columnist, and Simone, a professor who went out with Chidi on Earth, enter the new Good Place. During the season 4 premiere, we discover that Simone believes she's actually in a coma and will wake up any minute. The episode also introduces the other two members of the group: Linda (a woman who makes "Neutral Janet look like Disco Janet") and Brent, an "equal opportunist offender" who's a cliché middle-America sexist. By the episode's end, Linda is outed as a demon in disguise (a rather rushed conclusion to her storyline), and a replacement test subject is quickly found: Chidi (William Fitzgerald Harper).
We already know Chidi's memory has been wiped, something that sets both his and Eleanor's relationship statuses back to single. The premiere picks up with Eleanor, now the architect of The Good Place, showing Chidi around, with the philosopher rightly nerding out upon realising that books can fly into his hands. Unfortunately, Chidi doesn't appear on screen again until near the episode's end, when Eleanor reticently reintroduces him to Simone in hopes he can talk her into believing that, yes, The Good Place is real and not a product of her subconscious. Then, come the final moments, Chidi replaces Linda, thus getting all the pieces in place for the rest of the season.
Really, that's all the season 4 premiere is – setup. Tahani (Jameela Jamil) and Michael (Ted Danson) barely get a look in, with Tahani relegated to making pop-culture references about her famous friends (though one about Peter Skarsgard being a bore, even when on Xanax, is quite funny). Meanwhile, Jason, Janet and Derek (played by arguably the best trio on the show: Jason Mendoza, D'Arcy Carden and Jason Mantzoukas) are engaged in a love triangle that's ingenious, but, at this stage, just more track laying for later on.
Of course, that's to be expected of a 20-minute introductory episode that sets up a final season. And, while the best episodes of The Good Place are the ones that give the characters more breathing space, the show continues to be utterly delightful television. This episode certainly points to a season where Eleanor and Simone fight over Chidi, the demons try to sabotage the experiment, and both John and Brent act as social commentary on modern-day America. Should we be intrigued about where The Good Place is going? Certainly. Was this an all-timer episode? Not quite.