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Recap / The Good Place S2E04 "Existential Crisis"

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"Okay, I know what you're thinking. Birth is a curse, and existence is a prison. But don't think about that. Don't be sad, you guys."

"No, no. This is good. [Michael]'s having an existential crisis. It's a sort of anguish people go through when they contemplate the silent indifference of our empty universe. Look, the good news is, if he can work through this, it's the first step towards understanding human ethics."
Chidi
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When Chidi realizes that Michael's immortality prevents him from being able to engage with human ethics, he confronts Michael over the possibility of existence-ending "retirement". Michael becomes despondent when he grasps the concept of death. Eleanor gets Michael to ignore the feeling, causing him to replace this existential crisis with a stereotypical midlife crisis, which Chidi determines is less psychologically productive. Eleanor explains to Michael that sadness over death is intrinsic to humanity; he thanks her, and Chidi decides their studies can move forward.

Meanwhile, Tahani is tortured by having her birthday party for Gunnar overshadowed by an extravagant one planned by Vicky; Tahani is miserable despite knowing Vicky's plan and laments her character flaws that enable such superficial problems to affect her. Jason praises Tahani and they sleep together; both enjoy it, but Tahani wants to talk about it afterward while Jason is oblivious.

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Eleanor recalls formative experiences concerning death: the day her alcoholic mother flippantly explained how the family dog died to a young Eleanor, an adult Eleanor attending her father's funeral, and an occurrence when Eleanor broke down crying at a Bed, Bath & Beyond upon seeing a toothbrush holder designed for a family's use.


Tropes:

  • Dog Got Sent to a Farm: In a flashback, Eleanor's mother starts with this fable but half-way through she gives up and admits that the family dog just died.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real: Eleanor's mother says that Guam isn't a real place.
  • Fantastic Fireworks: The fireworks at Tahini's rival party spell out the letters "Happy Birthday Gunnar".
  • The "Fun" in "Funeral": Eleanor's mother Donna shows up with a drink to Eleanor's father Doug's funeral, trash-talks him, and hits on Eleanor's boyfriend Sam.
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  • Girly Run: "Jeanette" does it perfectly.
  • Gretzky Has the Ball: Invoked. As part of his midlife crisis, Michael asks Janet to say things like, "How many quarterbacks are in a home run?"
  • Hand Wave: The premise of the episode is Michael experiencing fear of death for the first time, even though he explicitly cannot die and what he really has to worry about is eternal suffering (in other words, he's so much not going to die that it's a problem!). Chidi somehow manages to shift the issue from the latter to the former by saying that it's kind of the same and then moving on before Michael (and hopefully the audience) has time to question it.
  • Hollywood Midlife Crisis: Parodied. Michael develops one after Eleanor told him to ignore his existential dread by pushing it down. It even includes a Mid Life Crisis Car, getting a tattoo and Janet posing as his Trophy Wife "Jeanette".
  • Immortality Immorality: Chidi realizes that Michael has trouble understanding ethics because immortals face no consequences for their actions.
    Chidi: If you live forever, then ethics don't matter to you because, basically, there's no consequences for your actions. You tell a lie, who cares? Wait a few trillion years, the guilt will fade. Before I can teach Michael to be good, I have to force him to think about what we used to think about: that life has an end, and therefore our actions have meaning.
  • Immortals Fear Death: Michael becomes horrified at the thought of his existence ending, causing him to go into a catatonic state for a while.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Jason doesn't realize how he hurts Tahini's feelings by praising the other party for being way better than hers.
  • I Think You Broke Him: Chidi "breaks" Michael by giving him his existential crisis.
  • Jerkass: It bears repeating that Eleanor's parents were horrible in every way imaginable. Specifically, we see more of her mother Donna in action here. In the first flashback, she callously told Eleanor (who couldn't have been older than five to eight years old at the time) not to cry over the death of her pet dog (which was Donna's fault because she left the poor animal locked in the car on a hot day) because it would ruin Donna's own day. In the second flashback, she's shown drunkenly crashing Doug's funeral to gloat about how she outlived him while hitting on Eleanor's boyfriend.
  • Party Scheduling Gambit: The demons' plan to torture Tahani is to have her throw a party for Gunnar's birthday, but then none of them will show up because they've planned a separate, better party. Despite being aware of it, Tahani is actually greatly affected.
  • Precious Puppy: Gunnar's party has a puppy pit for the guests.

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