Category: TV/Streaming Series

The Good Place: An Entertaining Reality Check

What does the gospel tell us about point totals, and “the good place?”

Recently, my wife and I started watching a new comedy television show called The Good Place. Without spoiling its twists and turns, the show begins with the main character, Eleanor, waking up in “the good place,” or what many would consider to be heaven. Entrance into the good place is based strictly on merit, a literal point system in which only the most notoriously noble men and women would get to enjoy their eternal paradise; house, soul-mate and frozen yogurt included.

The other day while I was watching the show, I couldn’t help but wonder if The Good Place viewers consider how they would fare with a merit based “good place.” Do they think their lives would be good enough to garner entrance into a “good place”? Or do they think they would go to “the bad place?” Who decides what a good life looks like? Who develops the point totals?

The Good Place should be a reality check. An entertaining reality check, but a reality check nonetheless. Apart from an objective, biblical lens by which we view our lives, all of life is a subjective, fearful attempt to tally-up enough points to enter paradise. The gospel of Jesus Christ however clears the fog off a cloudy lens of opinion and gives us the truth on the matter.

So what does the gospel tell us about point totals, and “the good place?”

Our Point Totals

We all have a point total. A negative one. Antithetical to the witty world of The Good Place, we’re all prime candidates for the bad place.

And when I say everyone, I mean literally everyone: You, me, Ghandi, Mother Teresa and the sweet old lady down the street. We’re all what the Bible calls sinners and sin earns us eternal death.

The apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, “…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23), and, “…the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23)

In other words, we all deserve “the bad place,” or what the bible calls, hell.

Notice the bolded word there. Deserve. Hell isn’t an unjust place created by a cruel God. It’s a fair place created by a holy God, originally intended for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), but fit for us who have followed in their ways rather than God’s, which again, is all of us.

But the gospel offers us good news, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Jesus’s Point Totals

Jesus wasn’t merely a good man that killed it in the positive point total category. Jesus was the only perfect man to ever walk on the face of the earth. He is the only man that actually deserves “the good place.” In fact, Jesus the Son of God, stepped down from “the good place”, put on human flesh, and lived among sinners like you and me 2,000 years ago.

But he didn’t only live among sinners like you and me. He died for sinners like you and me.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

As we saw in the last section, the gospel is abundantly clear that you and I cannot earn our way to heaven through a point total. And this is one reason why God the Son became man: to live the perfect life that you and I could never live and to die in our place for our sin. On the cross, God poured out his wrath on Jesus Christ so that you and I wouldn’t have to know his wrath, but rather we would know his mercy.

But there is a condition to these gospel promises.

The apostle Paul writes, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’” (Romans 10:10-11)

Reader, you must trust in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of your life. In other words, you believe by faith that Jesus Christ has made you right with God through his death on the cross. As a result, true belief will cause you to love him, serve him, and follow him for the rest of your life.

Jesus’s Point Total Given To You

Alluding back to The Good Place, you’re probably asking yourself, “How does this affect my point total?”

This is how: Through faith in Jesus, you receive his perfect “point total.”

The apostle Paul tells the Corinthian church, “For our sake he made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Jesus took your sin on the cross, and he gives you his righteousness as a gift, through faith in him. It’s a gift from God beyond our wildest dreams and imaginations; that he would choose to save sinners, not through making us work and work and work in hollow attempts to earn our salvation, but rather, by giving us a gift, Jesus Christ.

Reader, there are many things in life that you give time and attention to that simply aren’t worth your thought. Where you’ll spend your eternity is not one of those things. In fact, considering where you’ll spend your eternity is the most important question you can ask yourself.

Jesus says himself that he is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him. (John 14:6)

He has made a way to “the good place.” Even more beautiful than that, Jesus has made a way for you to truly know and enjoy God forever. Reader, if you haven’t trusted Jesus by faith, I hope and pray that today will be the day of salvation for you.

Comments Off on The Good Place: An Entertaining Reality Check

Stranger Things 2 Review

Season 2 has arrived and the gang is back with an all new adventure taking place roughly a year after the events of the last season.

In the summer of 2016 Stranger Things captivated the world. The show broke out like a wildfire, to become one of Netflix’s best critically and commercially received series. The first episode of Season 2 had 15.8 million households watch it on television. That is the second most watched event for this entire year.

In case you somehow missed the world wide phenomenon, the Netflix original series beautifully combined a Spielberg kid adventure film, with a Stephen King novel, and a John Carpenter film. Oh, and if that isn’t enough to sell you on Stranger Things, the series is set the 80’s. The nostalgia is strong with this one. If you haven’t seen the first, quit reading this review, and go binge watch 14 hours and 10 minutes of excellent television, and then return.

Season 2 has arrived and the gang is back with an all new adventure taking place roughly a year after the events of the last season.  Season 2 is a very different animal from Season 1 in some ways (clearly a larger budget, different tone, larger expanded world), but it still contains much of the charm of the first season (80s setting, great cast of child characters, mystery, monsters). There will probably be some debate on which season is better. For my money, I give the slight edge to Season 1, but in no way is this a knock against Season 2. Stranger Things Season 2 is still fantastic, immensely enjoyable television.

Season 2 had an impossible task of not only capturing the greatness of the first season, but also expanding on the world in new ways at the same time. So many movies and shows fail in a sequel. Happily, Season 2 is a resounding success. It is clearly still a Stranger Things show, all the core cast is back, and just as good as the previous season. The Duffer Brothers manage to build on the world of Season 1 in organic ways that enhance the story and characters. Personally, I would have enjoyed for Eleven to spend more time with the group, and for Mike to have more of a center stage still in this season.

That being said, Stranger things gave us great new pairings in Lucas and Max, and Steve and Dustin. I would watch a spin-off of the Steve and Dustin Paranormal Adventures in a heartbeat. It also has a break out performance given by Noah Schnapp who plays Will. This series is chalk full of great performance from all of the child actors, to veteran actors such as Sean Astin, who brings great depth to Bob, a character that would have otherwise been a throw away character.

Netflix has again provided a stellar season of television. Season 2 of Stranger Things is a worthy successor to the first season and therefore I highly recommend it.

Spoilers follow….


Season 2 wisely does not ignore the trauma characters experience from the events of Season 1. The fallout of Season 1, provides the impetus for much of Season 2’s character arcs. Joyce is recovering from the trauma of almost losing her son Will, she cannot bear to let him out of her sight. Will in turn is suffering from the effects of being stuck in the Upside Down place. Mike listens every day for lost Eleven to speak through the walkie talkie. Nancy struggles continuing the façade of being a normal high school student, death of her friend Barb. Hopper in caring for Eleven is dealing with the loss of his dead daughter.

Stranger Things does not shy away from this trauma, but uses it to mold the characters in new directions. In the end all the characters recover from their trauma through the love and care of others. Nancy discovers her strength and seeks justice for her friend Barb. Joyce’s sheer determination gives her strength to save her son. Hopper finds restoration in caring for Eleven. Mike and Eleven are finally reunited. There are monsters in this world, and every day people suffer through trauma brought about by a fallen world filled with death and despair. The Church is in positon with the resources to meet these needs. We have a hope in Jesus, that all wrongs will one day be righted, all tears will be dried. The Gospel provides hope and peace to those in needs. Jesus is able to cut through even the deepest trauma to restore people.

For much of Season 2 Eleven (I guess I should start calling her Jane now) is separated from the group. While I longed for her to be with the others more in the story, her separation created a fascinating character arc. Jane is alone and scared, angry and sad. She is a girl in search of a home. The theme of home often in Jane’s story line. Hopper tells Jane she is home at the cabin. Later Jane is told she can be home at her mother’s place. In episode 7 Jane discovers another girl with powers; sister of sorts. Eight tells Jane that is at home with Eight. At the end of the episode Jane realizes that home is where her loved ones are. Home is with Hopper, Mike, and the rest. Jane’s reunion with the group was captured beautifully. With Dustin, Lucas, Mike, Joyce, and Hopper, Jane had found what she longed for; a home, a community, love, and acceptance.

Stranger Things is at its best when it focuses on the kids and their relationships with each other. The kids have a strongly defined community. Those of the group share mutual love and respect for each other. They follow several simple rules, two of the foremost being friends don’t tell lies and friends always keep promises. This authentic honesty and faithfulness to each other fosters a community of children who truly love each other. Furthermore, each kid is willing to sacrifice their lives for the other. They truly bear each other’s burdens. They are known by the love they have for one another.

Stranger Things Kids

The Stranger Things kids mirror what the Church should be; a community of authentic followers who are known by the sacrificial love they have for one another, and a willingness to bear one another’s burdens. When they children fail to follow the guidelines of honesty and love, the community suffers. It is only when each member of the group is working together using their various gifts and strengths that the group is able to overcome the newest threat. In the same way the group needed each individual, so too does the Church need each member of its body.

One of the main themes of Stranger Things is that there exists a parallel world know as the Upside Down place. The Upside Down is dark and cold, twisted and decaying. It spreads like a choking weed or a virus. The Upside Down is ruled by a malevolent force (the smoke monster) which desires to conqueror and corrupt the normal world. I cannot help but see the Upside Down place as a representative of the world we now live in post Eden. Eden, the idyllic paradise and home was lost with the fall of Adam. We were corrupted, creation was cursed, and we were exiled from our home. The world is now full of evil, twisted and cold, dark and decayed. Sin has infected everything like a diseased choking weed. The world was turned upside down.

All of creation groans for restoration. Much like Will in season 1 we are trapped in the Upside Down Place. This is something we all intuitively feel. We know that there is something terrible wrong with this world. We feel the malevolence, the darkness and the cold. Christianity offers hope that the Upside Down world will be restored and redeemed. God descended down to this upside down place in the person of Jesus Christ; the light in the darkness. Only in Jesus is an upside down place turned upside right. This is the Gospel that Christ will reverse the effects of sin and death, he will restore creation, and he will rescue those who put their trust in him. God has determined to use his Church as the means of rescuing people from the upside down place. We have the cure to the twisted virus that has infected the hearts of people. That cure is Jesus who has conquered the grave. Christians are called to be a light who shines through the darkness of this upside down world; pointing lost souls to the one who can return them home.

“The Stranger Things kids mirror what the Church should be; a community of authentic followers who are known by the sacrificial love they have for one another, and a willingness to bear one another’s burdens.”


Comments Off on Stranger Things 2 Review

Netflix’s Defenders: Season 1 Review

On August 18th Netflix released their newest Marvel Superhero series, The Defenders. The Defenders brings together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist

On August 18th Netflix released their newest Marvel Superhero series, The Defenders. The Defenders brings together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, who have all had their own shows previously. While not perfect, the Defenders is still an extremely fun and satisfying series. There is a strong chemistry between the principal cast. Charlie Cox in particular gives a strong performance as Matt Murdock, Daredevil. He is responsible for much of the emotional heavy lifting in the series. Sigourney Weaver gives a fun turn as Alexandra, the sinister leader of the evil Hand organization.

The Defenders has a wonderfully diverse cast of characters. It features Irish Catholics, African Americans from Harlem, a rich white man raised by Asian monks, and capable white, Asian, Puerto Rican and African American women. It showcases the difference in experiences, personalities, abilities, and motivations of the heroes. The diversity of the characters is a major asset to the series and makes you wonder why more shows and movies in Hollywood do not feature cast this diverse. Especially well done in the first couple episodes is the use of different music and color schemes to frame each hero. Daredevil is always framed in red, Cage in yellow, Jones in bluish purple, Iron Fist in green, Alexandra in white. It made for a series that really felt like a comic book. I really enjoyed The Defenders and recommend it highly.


Spoilers ahead…


Confession: Daredevil is one of my favorite superheroes. He probably ranks only behind Spider-Man and Superman. Particularly important to Daredevil is his Irish Catholic Faith. This defines his character. He does not kill because he believes murder is wrong. It drives him to do what is right, to defend the weak and fight injustice both in the court room and in the streets. One of my favorite scenes appears in the first episode. Matt Murdock goes to confession. While in the booth the priest tells Matt to open his heart to God to which Matt responds “even if it is a broken heart?” The priest responds especially if it is a broken heart, so that God can come in and heal it.

In a sense I feel this explains the Defenders as a whole. They are all broken people with extraordinary powers suffering from an identity crisis. Murdock is in emotional turmoil after failing to save the woman he loves. He is trying to decide if he is Daredevil, a lawyer, or both? Jessica Jones is suffering from trauma and abuse, has a drinking problem and self-destructive tendencies. She is so adrift she is not even running her detective agency. Luke Cage is a former inmate trying to figure out how to do the right thing to protect his neighborhood. Iron Fist is an orphan raised by monks, who is searching for a family, and struggling with his destiny. They are all struggling to find their role and story in the greater narrative of the world. What is their place? Where do they belong? What is their purpose?

The Defenders are all street-level low-powered heroes who get wrapped up in events way above their heads. Even in their brokenness they seek to do what is right. They take a stand against evil forces much stronger than themselves, even though they know they are not really capable of beating them. This connects the viewer to the characters. In their struggles and story we see our own. We too ask ourselves, what is our role? What is our purpose? What is our story?

In another telling scene, Colleen Wing, Iron Fist”s love interest and skilled warrior, has her own identity crisis. Colleen had at one point been part of the cult, the Hand. She had joined because she was looking for a place to belong, for a family, for purpose and meaning in her life. Now that she has broken away from the Hand her life feels lost. She cannot see where her life is going. She does not know what her role is. She is searching for her meaning in the story. In the show another character tells Colleen to look to herself; that Colleen is a foundation. Defenders wrongly places meaning and purpose as something to be made by the individual. This exchange, however, highlights that meaning and purpose are not in ourselves. This is why Colleen is searching for meaning and purpose. In that moment I wish Daredevil or his priest would’ve been there to point her to the reality that true meaning and purpose come from God. Faith in Christ gives meaning to our lives.

At one point in the series a character confronts Matt Murdock, asking him what happened, he was so close to not being Daredevil any more. Murdock replies “I am Daredevil.” At this point Murdock has accepted God’s role for him to play. He has his powers for a reason. He is meant to use them for good, to fight injustice and protect the innocent. With accepting his role Matt Murdock receives clarity, and rises to become the real leader of the Defenders. In the same manner we as believers are called to recognize the purposes God has for us. He shows us our place in his great story. As Ephesians 2:10 tells us, God has good works for us to do that has planned for us. When we accept the roles God has given us, he enable us to do this good works.

One of the more fascinating themes in the series relates to the villains. The story of Weaver’s Alexandra and the rest of the Hand is all too familiar. They are afraid of death and are seeking immortality. Their fear of dying drives them to do all manner of evil deeds to preserve their power and lives. Their narrative is driven by their fear of death. The Hand recognize rightly that death is the enemy of us all, but in their desire to save their lives, they forfeit their souls.

I could not help but think of Matthew 16:25, “Whoever desires to save their life will lose it, but whoever will lose their life for my sake will find it.” Members of the Hand desire to save their lives at whatever cost. In doing so they ultimately lose their humanity, their souls, and their actual lives. The Defenders however, are willing to sacrifice their lives for what is good and right. Matt Murdock specifically in his love of Elektra is willing to sacrifice his life to redeem her soul. In being willing to give up their lives for what is right their lives take on true meaning. Their broken lives and hearts begin to be mended. In the final moments of the series we see all the characters accepting their roles. Cage, Iron Fist, and Jones are all in a better place than they were before. They now know their purpose.

Our purpose in life is more than mere existence. We are called to something greater. We are called to an intimate relationship with the creator of the universe. Those who give their lives to Christ will find true purpose and meaning. In Jesus Christ we find our true identity as sons and daughters of the Father. Through Christ we are invited to join our stories to the greater overarching narrative of the Father. Our loving Father calls us to take up our roles in his great story and by accepting our roles we have hope that our story will reach a final happy end. We have purpose because we are children of God, called by God, to be used for his great purposes. Our story is made complete in him.

“Our purpose in life is more than mere existence. We are called to something greater. We are called to an intimate relationship with the creator of the universe. “


Comments Off on Netflix’s Defenders: Season 1 Review

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search