If you follow me on Twitter, then you’re probably familiar with my weekly “THE GOOD PLACE [Sad Reaction Image]” tweet formula that pops up on Thursday nights. I started the show during the summer of 2018 and devoured the first two seasons in less than three days, which is extremely uncharacteristic of my uncultured-with-television self. I knew from the first few episodes, however, that The Good Place was no ordinary network sitcom. It’s been dubbed by many of its creators as the “smartest, dumbest show on TV”, which perfectly describes the show’s juggling of complex interrogations of morality, deep character studies, humane themes of life and death, emotional trauma, and self-improvement, all while maintaining a Spongebob-Esque absurdist but genuine sense of humor. It’s such a personal show to me that seemed to come at the right time. The first two seasons are masterfully written, and it would not be inappropriate to study the story beats and structure in a screenwriting class as the perfect model of set-up, pay-off, character development and everything in-between.
So of course, Season Three of The Good Place had a lot to live up to. Our starting point takes off where Season Two ended; an arrangement with the Judge (Maya Rudolph) had been made to give our rag-tag group a second chance to prove themselves as “better people” by preventing their deaths back on Earth. Michael (Ted Danson) and Janet (D’Arcy Carden), fully understanding of the gang’s positive group dynamic, decide to meddle further and reunite the humans together via a study on near-death experiences led by Chidi in Australia. I emphasize that this is only the starting point of the season – as you already might know, The Good Place is no stranger to the tradition of gigantic plot twists.
Riverdale’s greatest weakness is also its greatest strength. It compellingly criticises the culture which produced it, but this scrutiny reveals the show’s own inadequacies. Archie, played by KJ Apa, has an incredibly cliché arc in the first few episodes. Veronica calls out his struggle of balancing his passion as a musician and obligation as a football player as a tired dichotomy, something which they, as young people woke to the system, should actively resist, and seek greater depth in their lives. Despite blatantly criticising its own genre Riverdale got a lot of content out of that so-called tired dichotomy.
Riverdale, it seems, wishes to have its woke cake and eat it too.
As the end of Sharp Objects approaches, I keep thinking there’s no way this show could get any more upsetting, raw, and tense. And each week, I’m proven wrong. In the penultimate episode to HBO’s limited series, the pain, cruelty, and suffering of each character seems to reach its peak.
The episode begins with a surprisingly tender moment as Adora tries to take care of Camille after her night of partying with Amma. However, Camille is quick to reject such attention, pushing her away and refusing medicine from a rather large blue bottle. As Camille is leaving the house, she checks on a hungover Amma, who says, “You know what my favorite part of getting wasted is? Mama takes care of me after.” She also reveals that John is about to be arrested for the murders of Anne and Natalie. Camille rushes to John’s girlfriend’s house, while Richard, on the other hand, does his own investigation: This time, it’s into the death of Marian Crellin. As he speaks to nurses and reads old medical records, it becomes increasingly clear that Adora suffers from Munchausen by proxy, a disorder where a caretaker makes someone sick on purpose. There are not only records for Marian, but for Amma’s various hospitalizations. This is juxtaposed with Amma lying sick in bed, sweating, puking, trying to escape her mother’s medication.
Issa Rae’s hit show, Insecure, is back and we finally get to see what Issa and Molly have been up to. In season two’s finale, we found Issa moving in with ex-boyfriend Daniel after losing her apartment. The beginning of this season’s premiere confirms the awkward situation living with Daniel creates, as we see him having excessively loud sex with someone who’s not Issa. Issa’s sheer disbelief while listening on the couch is so real I had the same loss for words expression while watching. The awkwardness between Issa and Daniel doesn’t stop there. Daniel is so clearly being petty when expressing that he “didn’t know” Issa was home when he had a visitor. In his defense, Issa’s wishy-washiness over her feelings for him would irritate anyone, especially if he’s allowing her to stay at his home. But, he also could’ve told her she couldn’t move in, for both of their sake.
“Shit, still in Wind Gap,” Detective Richard Willis (Chris Messina) mutters as he wakes up in his sweltering hotel room. Yes, Willis, we are still in Wind Gap and we’re now halfway through Sharp Objects. The fourth episode in the series is a kick to the face, addressing sexual assault, sexual tension, and the festering pain of the Preaker-Crellin family.
Adora is still whimpering about her hand, which she cut while trimming her roses. The small flesh wound is now being used as an excuse to have her husband, Alan, cut her breakfast and to cancel her social engagements. This means Camille must go meet Jackie (Elizabeth Perkins) and friends alone. The older women are just as gossip-focused as the rest of the town; No one is safe from their sharp tongues.
In contrast to the murders of the teenage girls addressed in the first two episodes, Sharp Object‘s third episode opens with a group of kids out partying after the mandated curfew, including Amma. The wild child then goes on to crash a golf cart in her mother’s rosebushes and is discovered by her “dangerous” big sister, Camille. As Camille nurses her drunken state, Amma bombards her with questions about her life and declares how much she wants to know her sister, though her sincerity is questionable. This spurs another one of Camille’s flashbacks, this time revealing that, not long before returning to Wind Gap, she checked herself into rehab for her cutting. While there she meets her roommate Alice, a young girl who wears long, black clothes and listens to music through headphones, much like Camille in the present.
As episode one ended with Natalie Keene’s death, episode two begins with her funeral. Here, Camille must finally show her face to the whole town in quite a public way, all while trying to report this story. We begin to see Camille battling memories and anxieties, not just associated with her mother, but with returning home to a town full of secrets and whispers. Episode two explores the toxicity and gossip of Wind Gap, the anxieties that arise when coming home and the destructive ways we cope with those anxieties.
As Camille sits at the funeral, Jackie mutters a stream of gossip right into Camille’s ear, pointing out who is who in the family, remarking about Natalie’s brother crying too much, and more. Not even funerals are sacred in this town — in fact, this just throws more fuel on the gossip fire. The gossip only continues at the funeral reception in the Keene home. The whispers are amplified when Camille arrives, making you painfully aware that people are talking about her. It echoes the experience of returning home so well: you enter a crowded house, pretend to smile, but have a heightened sense of awareness as people stare too long or whisper behind their glasses. How does Camille cope? The drink, of course.