'The Good Place' - Season 2 Episode 6: "The Trolley Problem" Recap

Can people ever truly change? It’s a philosophical question that’s been debated throughout the ages and based on what we’ve seen so far on The Good Place, the stance of the series seems to be a definitive yes. We’ve seen Eleanor Shellstrop transform from a self-centered narcissist to an individual willing to spend eternity in the Bad Place to protect her friends. Even with a bit of a reset on her progress, her change has been established. People can change. With “The Trolley Problem”, The Good Place tackles a much bigger question: can an ageless, omnipotent demon change for the better?

To try and answer that question, The Good Place presents a moral quandary in Chidi’s ethics class. Known as the “trolley problem”, the main question is would you willingly take the life of one person to save the lives of five? This could be done through diverting a trolley’s tracks to avoid five workers, but striking a lone worker. It could also mean a doctor killing a healthy man to use his organs on five dying patients. For Chidi, these hypotheticals should be a thoughtful exercise in morality. For a demon like Michael, it’s a chance for some very vivid role play.

After first having a hard time wrapping his head around the idea of choosing between killing one or killing five (kill all six!), Michael decides to bring this hypothetical scenario to life. He conjures up a trolley and presents Chidi with the controls, leaving the teacher to have a visceral response to the problem’s now very real implications. Never has a trolley brutally killing several people been so funny. Having Chidi, forever the most indecisive person in the universe, being the one to make the savior decisions is great, and William Jackson Harper gets to deliver some great exasperated work as Chidi is put through the ringer by Michael. The best comes when Michael conjures up the doctor/patient scenario and a precious little girl blames Chidi for running over her father with the trolley. For Chidi, this whole ethics lesson is turning into torture. In fact, it is torture. Eleanor has the eureka moment that Michael is back to his old habits, using Chidi’s ethics against him as a torturing device.

In a really great moment, Eleanor confronts Michael over his nefarious ways, realizing that the two weren't so different after all. And if Eleanor could change, maybe Michael could too, demon or not. In order to make up for his past mistakes, Michael decides to give "opposite tortures" to everyone in the group. A giant diamond for Tahani, endless shrimp for Eleanor, a Pikachu balloon for Jason, and the never-before-seen, personal journal of Immanuel Kant for Chidi. But Chidi doesn't want the gift. He wants a sincere apology and that's exactly what Michael gives him. Whether or not Michael truly meant the apology, or was just giving Chidi what he wanted, it took some sort of pride-swallowing effort to say.

Elsewhere in the episode, Tahani and Jason visit Janet for some couple's counseling. Despite Jason's complete lack of intelligence, motivation, or social status, Tahani can't help but be drawn to his sweetness and charm. Unfortunately, even in an afterlife where there's only two other humans, she can't get over her embarrassment of being seen dating a "loser". It's up to Janet, after reading every therapy book in existence, to act as a mediator between the two. They eventually come to a compromise: Jason with keep their relationship on the DL if Tahani grabs his butt once a week in public. It's a very Jason and Tahani compromise. The only problem in this situation seems to be coming from Janet. For some reason, this therapy session is causing her to glitch, which could end up destroying the entire town. Is she glitching because being used as a therapist isn't in her design? Or is it because her romantic feelings toward Jason are beginning to resurface in unexpected ways? We'll have to wait a bit to get an answer on that one.

Overall, I thought this was another great episode for what is easily the best comedy on television. What did you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!