2016-2019 Series/Volume





Uploaded November 5, 2019
Updated November 8, 2019





October 2019 Picks of the Month






a Rotten Tomatoes clip from "Flip a Coin," the fourth episode of This Is Us season 4

"Flip a Coin". Could This Is Us as the title of that American TV series also be read to mean "This Is the U.S.," to make it work as a sociological allegory of what's been going on with American families? Except, of course, that this family drama has really basically been mostly about the Fates and how we enjoy their gifts and engage the challenges or tragedies they see it fit to send our way. That treatment of the issue with the Fates should explain the series' affinity with a narrative progression that's flashbacks-abundant, with even a certain amount of flashforwards introduced in season 2. Perhaps that's how it should be doing it, because the series, operating from that omniscient angle, is also about how we emotionally struggle with the narrow choices made available to us within our respective destinies, complicated by how we remain fixed to both our inescapably done and our still-developing respective wide or narrow personalities, not to mention our collective personality.
    So, while there may be a psychology behind the pleasure one gets from crying while watching each episode of such a tear-jerking series as TIU, there is mainly philosophy to be gleaned from the series' seasons and episodes, particularly from their divulgence of the series' characters' sad and happy dues and the choices these characters would make to defeat a misfortune or maintain a success. Of course, those philosophical takeaways would only come to those among us predisposed to approach narratives thusly, philosophically, since the series' lecturing is far more subtle (being embedded within a melodrama of a middle-income American family's struggle) than the humorous overt discourses thrown our way by the philosophical comedy The Good Place.
    TIU's season 4 episode 4, officially titled "Flip a Coin," which first aired on NBC and then was instantly made available internationally on Amazon Prime on October 15, puts that philosophical aspect of the series up front, but with the added concept of the gamble in decisions made relatively quickly. So, while this particular episode is still about specific hurdles from the past and the present dropped on the series' characters, just like any other episode through TIU's past three seasons, the hurdles presented here all require instant decisions within their respective moments, and with each decision made as a product of a distinct emotion or a tragedy of personality.
    Now, of course, we all know that quick decisions (or fancies) do not always bear their expected sweet fruit. This is so since many of them erupt from the gut or from too-excited veins rather than from measured scruples gone through the luxury of time. One such overly-excited product of whimsy is what we have from alcoholic Nicky Pearson (Griffin Dunne) telling us, in the video clip above, about his decision to buy that trailer of his, made after arriving home from the Vietnam War, hoping he would get her girl to live with him in it. That decision would be frustrated by her absence at her house, which absence would catapult Nicky to a life of isolation after deciding not to wait for her to show up (another product of his sort of quick decision-making, vulnerable to a just-as-fast defeatism, being a sort now further enveloped in a terribly depressed PTSD situation).
    The episode would then go on to put us in other setups with the various characters of the show in their own quick affairs with the fates, affairs wherein they would find themselves making choices, either from a determined way or a quite emotionally reactive one, but all relatively immediate, as we said.
    There's singer-turned-housewife Rebecca Pearson (Mandy Moore), who finds out her music-loving teenage daughter Kate just agreed to take a job at a record store, even while Kate is still struggling with both the grief and the guilt brought about by the death of her father Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) who died from smoke inhalation the previous year after their family house burned down (Jack went back into the burning house to get Kate's dog after she started screaming about her pet). Jolted, Rebecca tells her daughter, almost from out of nowhere, that maybe the time has come for their surviving family to move to a permanent house, one with better light, so that they can all start a new chapter in their lives and move on from their present numbing grief.
    There's teenage Randall Pearson (Niles Fitch), the African-American adopted son of white couple Jack and Rebecca, who, without thinking, brings a lemon over to the table where teenage Beth is sitting with a Coke. He had, some nights ago during their first date, gotten into a fight with her. During that night, Beth ordered a Coke with lemon. Randall's later natural (read: unplanned) thoughtful act of bringing that lemon over to her table for her lemon-less Coke would not escape Beth's notice, and she would reciprocate that peace pipe with a light kiss on Randall's cheeks at their dorm, which kiss probably also surprised her. Small quick gestures, those, but ones that would lead to a marriage that would survive up to the series' current time.
    Beth's mother Carol (Phylicia Rashad) never liked Randall, but only because he seemed to her to have this sorrow that he carried around with him, both as a teenager and apparently also through his adult years as a married man. It was a sadness that Carol deemed not helpful to Beth's own quiet grieving over her own father's death by lung cancer. To Carol, Beth, strong though she already is, thanks to Carol's own example, still needed (and still needs in the present) a strong man. Now, in the episode's present time, adult Randall (Sterling K. Brown) would decide that he's had it with his mother-in-law's choosing for him and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) what to do every step of the way, a maternal deed she would flaunt every time she visits the couple, and on this day in the present Randall puts his foot down on her fixing to postpone the opening of Beth's ballet school after a disgusting smell from a dead possum's carcass trapped among the bricks of the building greets them at the dance workshop's entrance before the opening event. Half irked, Randall acts on his thought to bring the opening program and reception of the event outside of the building. This quick, albeit angry, resolve on Randall's part leads Carol to witness that strong family man side of his son-in-law that she never thought would grow from beneath that distressed face she first saw when Randall was younger. And, voila, the present manifestation instantly changes the tone of the two's relationship. Strong black man satisfies strong black woman quick.
    Meanwhile, also in the present, Randall's and Beth's adopted daughter Deja brings a new boy friend named Malik (Asante Blackk) to the opening. Earlier, that boy friend had decided to, from the git-go, already tell his new acquaintance, Deja, that he already has a daughter born out of wedlock. He expected Deja to tell that fact about him to her parents before he showed up at the ballet school opening, but Malik would later find out that Randall doesn't know it yet (Randall is taken aback by the mention of that fact by Malik himself). This awkward situation would signal a course we have yet to find the result of: would the Malik and Deja partnership still go on in the next episodes or not? One thing for sure, Malik's decision to tell Deja (and her father) about it must be a product of long thinking, contrasting with his impregnation of his former girlfriend as a result of carelessness.
    Meanwhile, too, a younger Kevin Pearson (Justin Hartley) is seen filming the pilot for The Manny as its lead actor; he is not so enthusiastic about the project, even about the business of acting itself that he got himself into. These thoughts were probably brought to him by the crying baby in the set and the fact that the project is supposedly looking, from his perspective, to be not so good a vehicle for acting that can be taken seriously. He would, however, be naturally led to find ways to quiet the baby in his hands when the shooting resumes, a quick, unplanned act that would catapult him and The Manny to fame (and wealth) after the pilot becomes the first episode of what would be a long-running series. We now know of course that Kevin would maintain this reservation of his towards the respectability of the series as a work of art, culminating in his quitting the show during episode 1 of season 1, despite The Manny's continuing popularity among America's pop culture market in the present. This judicious Kevin contrasts entirely with the younger Kevin who, in the current episode, via an answering machine voice message would tell his family that he and his girlfriend Sophie got married on the spur of the moment in New York. We also now know, from previous episodes, that that marriage didn't last.
    Also in the present, after some thinking adult Kate (Chrissy Metz), the obese daughter of Jack and Rebecca who only recently decided to enter the music business and then to go into late motherhood, decides to bring her blind newborn (named Jack, after her father) to a baby music class out of town. The class upsets baby Jack, however, so she and equally-obese and depression-suffering husband Toby (Chris Sullivan) bring him back home. But on the way home they see a beach, to where the couple agree to bring baby Jack, where baby Jack is soon seen loving the sea's new sounds. Of course we also now know (as per the last episode of season 3) that baby Jack grew up to become a blind pop music superstar.
    At the AA meeting Kevin is attending with his fellow alcoholic uncle Nicky, where the two would meet Middle East combat veteran Cassidy (Jennifer Morrison), the three receive news of the meeting's postponement. Kevin decides to bring his uncle Nicky to a nearby trailer seller, knowing all the while that his uncle would refuse to replace his dilapidated home with a new one. Cassidy reluctantly agrees to go along with the two on this killing-time expedition, culminating in Kevin's offer to help Cassidy save her marriage. This brew of accidents might perhaps lead us to conjecture about a possible future relationship between Cassidy and Kevin (our guess would be proven correct by episode 6, which was first uploaded to Amazon Prime on October 29).
    Now, of course, our favorite decision-on-impulse in the episode would be the closing one, wherein Nicky would decide to buy a new trailer not for his uncle but for himself, setting that trailer up beside his uncle's old one. This act should tell us something about that divide between Kevin the idealist artist and the people who see a natural goodness in him via that pop culture icon The Manny. It also speaks a lot about that altruistic side of Kevin's personality that is likewise a manifestation of the wisdom that says: sorry-ass selves can easily forget their existence by setting up to take care of others. Makes you wonder, then, if quick decisions aren't mere symptoms of longer and bigger thoughts; for, after all, an attitude cannot be a product of a single moment, merely. So, should we test politicians in settings that would demand a gamble with a quick decision or statement, just so we could get to know who they really are?
    Finally, this episode also asks: is every individual's personality (and destiny that results from it) really a product of a past choice or set of choices? If your answer is no, then is this episode a sub-statement of the series proposing a reading of it as Naturalist drama? If TIU is of Naturalist drama, then perhaps it may, after all, successfully work as an allegory of what the U.S. has done, both the bad and the good, to its families.




the cover art for Wallis Bird's sixth studio album

Woman. Inequality, the European migrant crisis, abortion in Ireland, among other issues seldom tackled in ironically still-mainly-love-obsessed adult pop, are clearly the subjects unabashedly used by Wallis Bird in her sixth, and probably best, album to date titled Woman (released 27 September).
    The County Wexford, Ireland-born and now Berlin-based singer-songwriter has, in this collection, provided European adult-pop AOR with the appropriate tracks for our deep era of Trumpian sexism and border-wall concerns, an EU-demonizing Brexit, and rampant macho oil-industry climate change denial. Bird's music in this album, however, has remained broadly pop, genre-crossing in its swinging between productions of frenetic positivity and soulful elegizing, providing her a broad palette from which she can (and would) appropriate genre manners for her platitudes-free poetry and musical imagination.
    The Fiona Apple-esque "As the River Flows" opens things here, leading to a later climactic singing. Dedicated to the three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi whose drowned body on a Turkish beach in 2015 was widely photographed and shared online, the song refrains the word "mystery" to highlight the continuing human fear of the Other. Coincidentally, in early October the Nobel Foundation announced the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature which was awarded to Olga Tokarczuk, author of novels against the concept of nations and promoting the virtue of travel. "As the River Flows" sounds like some aural trailer for Tokarczuk's famous Flights literary oeuvre, wherein Bird sings: "All in all we cannot choose / The life that we were given, so we move / Across the land, to sky, to sea, / Looking for more than we were offered." But the travel in the track is not just about journeying as a habit or product of personality, it is also about flight from others' habits, habits of greed and war, for instance, in order to reach terrains of refuge. "Are we not allowed?"
―she asks. "To the land, to the sea, / To safety, to safety, to safety / Overcoming mystery, overcoming mystery," she answers herself in the chorus. She asks further, ". . . aren't you brave enough / To pave a basic decency for humankind?" That's a question clearly addressed to the immigration policy makers of conservative governments, which she follows up with the accusatory lecture: "Don't tell me borders are for jobs and civic order / When I know you see it differently. / You want your palate white, you want it cleaned." It then challenges these leaders to "walk 3,000 miles . . . to safety." A reminder: this is not a mourning song but a marching one, to which even Moslem-hating fans of Moses can relate.
    Meanwhile, "Grace," a track useful as a guide to activism against the propaganda-driven rise of the world's idiotic Trumps, solutions/reactions being not exclusive to walls of "bullet holes alone," sways a lot like a Tori Amos piece. What a gratifying if-not-now,-when? song! "Life Is Long," meanwhile, is a guide to life (and family relationships, and Ireland), rattling like a Stevie Wonder paean to world music beats. Then, "Love Respect Peace" attempts a mid-tempo R&B implementation of a Martin Luther King spirit for our times.
    The bluesy soul-pop track "Woman Oh Woman" is described by Bird as her "proud gay homage to beautiful songs where men used the words, like 'woman', as pride and protection."
    The funk in "Salve" prances like Janelle Monáe or Annie Lennox or Prince to push us into a light/dark world of social media fantasy/lies governed by influencers. Bird intimates that only you can save yourself here. And by the title of the track, one is reminded by the song "Oh What A Circus" from the musical Evita, which was supposedly sung from Che Guevara's point of view and includes the first verse of the "Salve Regina" in its chorus.
    Then, dive into Bird's folksy musings on choices (including communication choices) with "Brutal Honesty." Thereafter, savor the Sarah McLachlan-like melancholy of poetic philosophizing on Time in "Time It Is Not Waiting." And if you doubt Bird's lyrical prowess on the subject of relationships, with a tinge of lipstick feminism, check out the soul track "I Know What I'm Offering." Then to the penultimate entry, "That's What Life Is For," where you can jump and clap to the power pop of reasoning about a life dedicated to a continuing fight: "Rewrite the rules. / They're written by fools. / We could be equal. / No one would lose. / And that's what life is for." Truly, Bird is currently one of Ireland's best builders of lyric lines that are both publicly eminent and viscerally personal, so much so that when she derives a precious paradox, as in the line "I am an angry pacifist," the paradox becomes hers more than anyone's previous coining.
    The album closes with "Repeal," singing about the 2018 Irish abortion referendum on a bill seeking to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland. Though undoubtedly global in its embrace, Bird chose to weave a personal flag around the 2018 campaign voice, spinning low-voiced threads in the first person that start with . . . "Let me decide what's good for me." Instead of screaming, she implores: "Let me distinguish what I need. / The right to my own life and dignity. / I need not your cruelty nor belief. / I need you to simply just trust me." That's quite a stanza that both pleads and accuses. Then she incorporates other women's speaking voices simply talking, not shouting.
    The amendment that the song references was finally repealed on 18 September 2018 when the President of Ireland signed the counter-amendment bill (after the referendum produced a 66.4% vote of approval from the people of Ireland for the proposal). It's crazy that pop music, especially adult pop, would largely still avoid "adult" themes in good music-making. Why can't we have as many John Lennons as we can for the manufacture of so many irreligious socialist "Imagine"s?




the official trailer for Nikki Glaser: Bangin'

Nikki Glaser: Bangin'. This Nikki Glaser special that came on Netflix on October 1 answers the following question: can lipstick feminism occur in stand-up comedy at length? Ah, Glaser doesn't even mention the word "feminism," until it was time for her to say goodbye, and so innocently at that.
    She gets it wrong sometimes
―the semen comes from the seminal vesicle, near the prostate, not the testicles. But the rest of our laughter does explode from her genius.




the official trailer for Light of My Life

Light of My Life. Though it already had its limited release in US and UK theaters last August, Light of My Life was seen for the first time only this October in Spain, Brazil, the Netherlands, and Mexico. It has yet to be seen in Italy, Portugal, and Argentina this November, and perhaps in other parts of the world much later, but we're already picking this up for our October list because this is the month when the work finally came out on DVD, an event we've actually been waiting for.
    Countries like the Philippines would benefit from the DVD outing of the film because it already comes with subtitles, making Casey Affleck's important but mumbled lines (especially during the important first 12 minutes) as clear as day on all our screens' bottom area. And although Amazon Prime also provided subtitles during the film's release on its website last August, the DVD's arrival is still something to celebrate due to the collectability of this gem of a cinematic allegory.
    His second writing-directing effort since 2010's I'm Still Here, Affleck should be applauded for this film's triumph as a minimalist jewel entering both the thriller and sci-fi genres and the post-apocalyptic cinema subgenre. Kudos as well should go to the astounding acting achievements here by both Affleck (as "Dad") and his leading lady, Ms. Anna Pniowsky (as Dad's daughter Rag disguised as his son Alex).
    As a feminist allegory, the film rightly hauls in Elisabeth Moss, the star and co-producer of the dystopian TV series The Handmaid's Tale, as Rag's mother who died in the plague that wiped out the female population. Rag is one among a few other females rumored to have survived the pandemic virus due to some immunity.
    The thriller concept is hinged on the fact that "Dad" had been hiding his daughter's gender for eleven years now since the plague and has yet to go on until more women are found in various zones of refuge. One of their hosts in their wandering who was able to tell Rag's gender proceeds to tell Dad of rumors concerning a refuge here and there made for female survivors of the plague, but the film's camera and narrative progress (and the father and daughter they follow) have yet to reach those zones.
    For allegorical intents and purposes, one may relate everything here to the situation in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, then to the stereotypical Taliban and general Middle Eastern treatment of women, as well as to the flurry of rape cases in India's declining female population.
    For political analysis, it might also be significant to see that the weak female in Affleck's story is an eleven-year-old child, and even if the surviving females rumored to be hiding somewhere may include warrior types who may be able to organize an army (Rag, in fact, is later taught how to clean and use a gun by their old man host and would later bring in a deer she shot to his recovering wounded father), the film doesn't go there and leaves everyone to come up with their own ending, feminist allegorical reading, as well as solution to the problematic that Affleck has here posed. Affleck the auteur is here obviously not intent on offering us another chest-beating post-apocalyptic tale celebrating a hero.




the cover art for The Lilac Time's tenth album

Return to Us. English alternative country-folk and folk-rock trio The Lilac Time (mainstays Stephen Duffy, Stephen's brother Nick, and Stephen's wife Claire who joined the group in 1999) released on October 11 this year a tenth TLT studio album, titled Return to Us, occasioned by the band's exposure to some of the political movements that occurred during the four years since 2015's No Sad Songs, the last TLT collection. "The world went stupid," says bandleader Stephen.
    "Return to Us," the animated albeit whispering title track, was written three days after Donald Trump's election, positing everything as a mistake and proposing/welcoming a return to/by the prodigal sons and daughters taken in by the right-populist talking points of our era's discontent. The Lilac Time complain now: "It's never on the evening news / When Susan Sontag sings the blues." But the thing also now is to preach back and have everyone "Admit the seas are rising. / It's not our country anymore. / Get ready for a civil war. / Where once were rights they've changed the law, / The fights we won are won no more. / Silence will fall, there is no doubt; / It's treason if you think to shout. / Welcome to the blackout." True, "The bigots and the racists / Always claim they'll rise again. / But if the universe is infinite, / They're a little fucking stain. . . . / Let's stop them turning back the clock / Much further. / Return to us." However, The Lilac Time recognize that neither is their rural-liberal position perfect, that mistakes are normal, and so they sing: "Return to us. / We won't ask you where you've been. / 'Cause we've all made mistakes before, / And now you're here we'll make some more."
    "The Bridge & Down" bids us, California Sound-fashion, to assail the fact, for instance, that "They want everyone to be straight. / They're so twisted, out of shape. / All they need is hate. / And the world they want to reinstate, / Two hundred years out of date." The cure? Face them and communicate your position, your own voice. That is, "You've got to let them know / If you want them to go. . . . / Now you either swim or drown."
    See, all this is eloquent lyrics-writing. However, also somehow appeasing.
    There are other motifs here, of course. A perspective of war and the tragedy of fallen pawns uses the Normandy landings of 1944 ("March To The Docks"). An elliptical reading here would lead us to this reminder: World War II was started by a Nazi. Pity history if World War III is to come forth from a neo-Nazi's commands. Which is possible, considering America fought the racist Germans while being racist itself, even to its own African-American soldiers who died for the concept of "America." That (Nazi-like) racism remains strong in the US today, even while African-American pawns continue to be used to police white men's natural-resource interests in such places as the Middle East.
    Is auditory processing disorder and the difficulties in recognizing and interpreting sounds being used as a metaphor for the current political market in the closing instrumental "King Kopetsky"? "The River Runs Both Ways" purportedly references Italian neorealism, that film movement that set its stories among the poor and the working classes. Life of substance before the Internet is referenced by "The Simple Things." Then there's that Christmas song of sorts, "The Needles," which could also be a toast to Christianity and to the Mother and her child sending a daily Christmas to the freed-from-their-stupidity. Then there's the opening song, "(I'm) A Believer," a "reassurance because the world went stupid," says Stephen, pointing to both the band's religiosity and liberalism joining towards a common context of hope and faith. Stephen here sings: "I appreciate the past, / But I'm never nostalgic. / Life can be hard enough / Without all that bullshit." He later sings, "Come, revolution, come."
    Truly, Stephen Duffy (the dude who started Duran Duran with John Taylor and Nick Rhodes but left a year before DD's signing to EMI) is one of Britain's most misprized songwriters.




Rotten Tomatoes' sneak peak into The Good Place's season 4 first episode

"A Girl from Arizona (Part 1)" is the title of the first of two opening episodes of the fourth season of the philosophical comedy The Good Place. The second episode carries the title "A Girl from Arizona (Part 2)." Let's just talk about that first part/episode, though, because it's that 22 minutes of fun that welcomes us to a new and final heavenly circus in a place that here introduces us to the deepest elements of a continuing metaphysical-cum-ethical problematic concerning the possibilities of redemption. The episode's ending also shocked us, but before we ask our question let us just describe for you what happened. We'll just ride on how Wikipedia went about telling us what happened in some of those previous episodes, and then how Vulture went about telling us what's happening here now, in season 4 episode 1. We'll just use different words. Is that okay?
    First, though, let's start with Michael (as in Michael the Archangel). He was the Architect and manager-of-sorts of the old Good Place neighborhood experiment. In last year's season 3 penultimate episode, that experiment was recommenced.
    Here's what happened. Season 3 ended, in episode 13, with Chidi (one of the reformed dead residents of the previous Good Place experiment) deciding to have his memory of her romance on Earth with Simone (one of the four new residents summoned to inhabit the new Good Place) erased. That, however, would also erase his memory of Eleanor (another of the reformed residents of the old Good Place and currently the love of Chidi's afterlife). But this erasing has to happen, said Chidi, because Shawn (which rhymes with Satan, and who was Michael's wicked boss back when Michael was still with The Bad Place) had been tasked to choose the recommenced Good Place experiment's four new residents, and he chose four with personal connections to the old four reformed stars of the show. These personal connections are obviously testing and would definitely make it hard for the new Good Place to attain its purpose of showing the eternal Judge that even the meanest among the moderately mean can redeem themselves.
    You see, this all started when Michael realized in season 3 episode 11 that it wasn't the Bad Place that was tampering with the points system for entering the Good Place; rather, it was the growing convolutions within contemporary existence itself that kept introducing new unintended consequences into all of humanity's deeds and resolutions that made it hard for mankind, causing net point erosions for even their most virtuous actions. Michael, Janet (the programmed guide and knowledge bank who acts as the Good Place's main source of information as well as super-vending machine), and the four reformed humans, left to confer with the Judge, Judge Gen, at IHOP: the Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes.
    Later, in season 3's penultimate episode 12, Jason (another of the reformed four, who, incidentally, also fell in love with Janet) gave an emotional speech on the state of humanity. After hearing him, Judge Gen (or simply Gen, short for Hydrogen, the eternal Judge who rules on inter-dimensional matters between the Good Place and the Bad Place) consented to the suggestion that she try living on Earth. After a stretch there, Gen acknowledged that humans are indeed handicapped in their moral decision-making and may actually be finer beings than their point totals would indicate. Gen dragged Shawn into a conference, wherein he maintained his position that mortals cannot be other than what they are, constitutionally an awful lot. However, Gen took note of the fact that the earthlings' capacity to make better personas of themselves already renders Shawn's assertion dubious. Chidi then proposed that perhaps Michael can do a do-over of his Good Place, with brand new citizens. The parties then came to an agreement: Shawn will get to choose the four only-somewhat-substandard dead souls who shall reside in the fresh district that Michael will dream up. Mindy St. Clair (a deceased corporate lawyer and cocaine addict who only scarcely conformed to obtaining the sufficient amount of Good Place points before her death and thus was granted her own special Medium Place) allowed the new neighborhood to be built in her zone.
    Now, at this Medium Place, Derek (the madcap artificial rebound boyfriend fabricated by Janet) had been upgrading itself through Mindy's reboots of him; Jason had been feeling unsettled by the fact that Janet actually had an ex in Derek.
    At the end of this same ep. 12, Michael, alone with Eleanor in his office, became indisposed due to a panic attack when the initial fresh human for the new Good Place, a John, began to arrive in the waiting room. . . .
    Then came the final episode of season 3, episode 13. Eleanor, unsuccessful in her attempt to awaken Michael from her fit of terror, decided to masquerade as the new Good Place's Architect to welcome John. It turned out, however, that John was a gossip columnist who once hounded Tahani (our fourth reformed old Good Place resident who, back on Earth, was a wealthy English philanthropist who then believed, in the previous seasons, that she truly belongs in the Good Place, despite her condescending way of speaking and tendency to name-drop).
    Gen ruled, however, in this same season 3 final episode, that all of Shawn's selections were valid and fair. She also ruled that Michael may erase Simone's memory back to the time before she met Chidi. Let us say this again: this erasing had to happen because Chidi believed he will corrupt the experiment. But before Michael did the erasing, Eleanor, now acting Architect while Michael was still trying to get over his nervousness, already welcomed Simone.
    And now we are here. Episode 1 of the comedy series' fourth and final season, which aired on NBC on September 26 and was made available on the same date on Amazon Prime.
    So, we're all asking now if Chidi's proposal will indeed help acting Architect Eleanor achieve their new big goal of showing the Judge once and for all that human souls can indeed still redeem themselves in the new Good Place within the Medium Place and become honorable personas, if only they can be given the right circumstances from which their goodness can operate.
    But here's the challenge. The two other new residents arrive, and whoa! do they seem to be eggs pretty hard to crack. In comes Linda, a baffling sort of impassive Norwegian knitter, seemingly apathetic towards the Good Place’s boundless gratuities. Eleanor tells Linda that if she wants, she can even have Janet summon a baby elephant made of pure light that would tell her the secrets of the universe (like “Shirley Temple killed JFK” and “Stonehenge was a sex thing”). But, alas, all Linda can order is a piece of peppermint.
    Even more annoying is the person of Brent, an antipathetic anti-PC “materials” salesman whose demise came just as he was about to be #MeToo-ed by a number of women who, from his perspective, really “need to loosen up.” He calls Janet a secretary; when Janet tries to amend his word, he rolls his eyes and grumbles, “Here we go with all the terms we gotta learn, like ‘vice-president in charge of helping,’ or ‘Captain Marvel.’” Reminds you of something Republican?
    Meanwhile, matters could get worse with Jason, who's busy fighting with Derek over Janet. Derek keeps appearing at public events in the Good Place, holding his usual cocktail, which causes Jason to be mad at him that he subsequently decided to push Mindy’s plunger in order to reset the artificial non-being.
    As for Janet, between keeping the Neighborhood's motors constant, putting up with the Derrick/Jason drama, Eleanor's random requests for such things as baby elephants made of pure light or a river of popcorn, and Brent's demanding a BLT sandwich, she is beginning to burst. The ballgame gets more puzzling when “Linda” is unmasked as that gym-loving demon Chris in a skin suit, who seems to have been sent by Shawn in order to drive everyone crazy (only, Chris couldn't hold it anymore and starts body-slamming the inhabitants of the new Good Place, exposing himself as a non-human). It actually should've been apparent from when he asked if there's a fitness center in the new Good Place.
    An angry Judge Gen then decrees that Linda/Chris must be sent back to the Bad Place, warning Shawn not to do such a thing again or be punished in a room showing videos of soldiers returning to their dogs. Gen then decides that Chidi can become the fourth subject in the experiment. Shawn complains that they already know that Chidi is capable of improving. This is “like studying for a test and then acing the test,” he says, which to him is “cheating.” Uh-oh.
    It was this complaint from Shawn that got us speechless. So, now we pose our question. Did Shawn (or Satan) just invoke fairness and justice? [d]






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