The Good Place is back (for the last time, because we live in the worst timeline) and landed with an incredibly dense and intriguing first episode. But despite the huge amount the best show on television was handling with new and old characters, a new setting and everything else it still managed to include a subtle but pointed slam at how lazy dudes are the goddamn worst.
And obviously this is kinda spoilery so if you’ve been holding off watching the fourth season until more episodes accumulate then now is the time to bail with this important public service announcement.
OK: so, we have a new Good Place, created and peopled by Janet (series MVP D’arcy Carden) and helped by her self-created rebound boyfriend Derek (the gloriously unhinged Jason Mantzoukas).
And this is the world in which the new test of four new humans will take place upon which, you know, the entire future and past of humanity depends.
But there’s one fairly brilliant little wrinkle to the Janet/Derek dynamic that’s buried amid the somewhat exhausting amount of exposition packed into the episode. And it’s this:
Janet is stressed to near breaking point by having to maintain the entire universe, while Derek is swanning around with magnificently bad approximations of cocktails (including, at one point, an entire onion in a glass) complimenting himself on the people walking around – or, as he calls them, his Derek-babies.
And while it’s a solid joke made to needle Janet’s doe-eyed swain Jason (Manny Jacinto), it also illustrates a larger point.
When a couple makes a new human its generally the female half of the couple who gets to do all the heavy lifting and all the emotional and gynaecologically-literal labour.
Meanwhile dad gets to pretty much keep doing what he does, pausing only to pat himself on the back for being such a stud.
And if that seems like an unfair stereotype, that’s pretty much what all the research tells us: new fathers have their careers and earning pretty much put along, new mums take years to even get back to where they were before getting pregnant, and usually find themselves doing all the home duties on top of their day job as a fun bonus. Annabel Crabb has just written an entire Quarterly Essay about it which every dad-to-be should read, frankly.
Anyway: that paragraph was way more preachy than the episode was, but how many comedies would manage to seamlessly weave a critique of modern parenting inequalities into its D plot, in an episode which also includes a baby elephant made of pure light speaking universal truths?
Thank you, The Good Place, for taking lazy dads to task. Goddamn, we don’t deserve a show this good.