Full of heart.
Simultaneously smart and comedic television.
Truly unlike anything else on television.
The conflict the audience feels - we so badly want these characters to reach the real Good Place, but once they do, the show is likely over.
Is The Good Place truly sustainable?
The Good Place’s second season was just as quick-witted and surprisingly deep as the first, leaving no shadow of a doubt that it’s one of the best shows on television
To put it simply, The Good Place is forking fantastic. It’s unlike anything else on television, and thank god for that – The Good Place is a brilliant light in the dark landscape of network television. It’s hilarious, insightful, and surprisingly full of heart.
After the enormous twist in the first season’s finale, the question on every viewer’s mind was: ‘where can they even go from here?’ The Good Place managed to not only meet, but exceed, every possible expectation. Early on, the season focused on countless reboots of Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason. But unlike most memory loss storylines, these episodes were never tiresome, still managing to further all four characters in significant ways, even if the characters themselves had no recollection of the progression.
Once the reboots ceased, the season focused on our four morally ambiguous humans as they worked with Michael to escape The Bad Place. Along the way, they formed an unlikely team; a demon and his four favorite humans, all seeking to better themselves and ultimately earn their way to The Good Place. The second season ended on a similar note as the first – just when you have this whole thing figured out, Michael Schur and his brilliant team flip it all on its head. Going into the season’s final episode, we found ourselves pondering, once again, ‘where can we possibly go from here?’ This time around, The Good Place didn’t make us wait for answers. The final episode brilliantly set up the show’s third season, releasing Eleanor and company back into the real world, where they will be forced to make their own decisions, and ultimately decide their own fate. This time around, Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason have to be better humans – of course, they don’t know that.
Beneath the humor and philosophy, the heart of The Good Place lies with its characters; a group of misguided but undeniably lovable souls, forced together by death and bonded by a desire to be better
Much of the first season followed Eleanor and Chidi as they worked to save Eleanor’s soul. It wasn’t until the latter half of the season that Tahani and Jason really joined the mix. In season two, however, we are treated to a very solid core four. Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason, all vastly different characters, compliment each other in fantastic ways. Ever the moral center of the group, Chidi’s downfall is his tendency to overemphasize ethics to the point of alienating those around him. With Eleanor, Tahani, and Jason, this works to his advantage – their situation is entirely dependent on his preaching of ethics, and his overemphasis provides an advantage to the others in the group. His ethical lecturing is so effective, in fact, that he is able to convert torturer-for-a-living Michael into an objectively “good” demon. The same goes for the other characters – Eleanor’s intuitive and resourceful nature allows her to see things as they are. She’s able to deduce the reality of “The Good Place”; her instincts tell her to trust Michael, which ends up being a life saving decision; and, finally, she sees her burrito-side conversation with Chidi for what it truly is: a false reality, a test.
“I don’t think anything’s gonna feel like the Good Place if we’re not together.”
All of the characters in The Good Place serve a purpose. They are never pushed to the side, useless or forgotten. The Good Place keeps things simple with six main characters, all of which they know exactly what to do with. As a result, the audience feels an emotional intimacy with all of them – we root for them, laugh with them, and shout “hot diggity dog” with them. But it’s not just the audience who feels a bond with these characters. They have a clear connection to each other: in the season’s penultimate episode, we see just how far they’ve come. Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason link arms and confidently assert that it’s all or nothing – if even one of them goes to The Bad Place, they all go. That’s really something for a group of characters previously denoted by their selfishness, but it comes off completely genuine. The Good Place earned this moment. Every scene that was written in the entirety of season two was leading to this – this rag tag group of humans proclaiming that heaven without one another wouldn’t be heaven at all.
Despite its dichotomous nature, The Good Place’s treatment of its characters is far from black and white. Colorful and conflicted, Eleanor is as real as it gets – far from perfect but not evil either, she’s a living embodiment of humanity.
Chidi Anagonye, despite being fictional, is just as much our ethics teacher as he is Eleanor’s. He delivers complex ethical concepts in a way that makes sense, carefully leading the audience into the core of this show. The Good Place is not about the afterlife, really. It’s about humanity, and it’s about the very definition of “goodness.”
Despite how hard Eleanor works to be good throughout season two, it turns that out all of the lessons she learned from Chidi already lived inside her. When left to her own devices, devoid of all memory of the first two seasons, she eventually ends up as the type of character anyone would identify as “good.” She treats people with kindness, joins a foundation, and most of all – she tries. She truly sets out to be a better person. And despite the fact that she falls off the wagon, her desire to get back on, her urge to find a motivation for goodness, indicates the true nature of her character.
“You know, I had a friend that said whenever she was doing something bad she’d hear this little voice in her head, a distant little voice saying, ‘Oh, come on. You know this is wrong.’ And then when she started doing good things, that voice went away. It was a relief.” – Michael
The first season’s finale was a revelation – suddenly, everything made so much sense. No mistake was made, because Eleanor was never in The Good Place at all. But while the first season finale left us with an understanding that Eleanor was always where she belonged (The Bad Place), the second has us questioning it. It seems that, rather than accidentally being placed in “The Good Place” as the original premise indicated, Eleanor was accidentally placed in The Bad Place. If goodness can be defined by the desire to do good, to be good, was Eleanor not good all along? If she has always had this underlying desire to do the right thing, as it seems she does, didn’t she deserve, at the very least, The Middle Place?
With its new twist, The Good Place sets up for a season of moral dilemma. Both on “Earth” as Eleanor struggles to be good, and in the afterlife, where Michael contemplates whether a points system was ever an adequate measurement of goodness at all.
In its simplest form, The Good Place is miles ahead of any other comedy. Worldbuilding, philosophy, and characterization aside, this show is, without a doubt, forking hilarious
We could literally spend days discussing The Good Place’s creative take on existence, but when a new viewer turns on this show, they are looking for one thing – a laugh. And boy does The Good Place deliver. Each episode is packed with varying levels of humor; some basic (is the burrito the judge?) and others with more depth (a Bad Place department devoted entirely to punishing toxic masculinity.) It’s the kind of show you can watch three times and have three entirely different experiences – the first time through, you’ll catch the big jokes and plot points, but upon a second and third viewing you’ll have time to catch all of the one-liners and subtle jabs that previously slipped past you. The Good Place excels in wittiness, and at about a joke a minute, it’s so packed with comedic genius that a singular viewing is an insulting idea.
“That’s the good news. The bad news is I seem to be losing my ability to sustain object permanence. So it’s sort of a glass half full, glass stops existing in time and space kind of deal.” – Janet
The Good Place thrives on ironic humor. In fact, the basic premise of the show is absurd in the best way. Four humans on a quest to live their afterlives in peace argue about ethics while in literal hell. A demon helps the humans escape this hell by hiding them under some train tracks, so they can go on to take personalized tests proving their “goodness.” These tests include choosing between two hats, playing video games, and literally walking down a hallway and stepping through a door. It’s absolutely ridiculous on paper, but that’s what makes it so hilarious when it works. At any given moment, you can step back, realize that you’re rooting for an Ethics and Moral Philosophy professor to choose the grey hat and go to heaven, and chuckle. Because as ridiculous as it is, the impressive writing makes it seem anything but; this world, these characters, and every moment with them feels so true – and that, in itself, is the absurd foundation for The Good Place’s unique humor.
The Good Place blurs the lines between comedy and philosophy, delivering unexpected but wholly welcome moments of true ideological ambiguity in the midst of satirical humor and laugh-out-loud gags
We have to imagine that in the real Good Place, all TV is like this – smart, entertaining, well-written, and with characters that bury themselves in your heart while you aren’t looking. When this show was first announced, no one expected it to work. It was a bit puzzling why big names like Michael Schur, Kristen Bell, and Ted Danson were attached to a project that seemed doomed to fail. But oh how wrong we were. Although The Good Place shouldn’t work, it does. It really, really does. Just when you think there’s nowhere left for it to go, it quickly makes a sharp turn and builds its own road – uncharted, sure, but The Good Place knows how to drive. The best thing to do is strap in and enjoy the ride, because while there’s no telling what’s next, it’s sure to be outstanding.
It takes a village to produce a show like this, and without its incredible writers, actors, set designers, special effects crew, and directors, The Good Place just wouldn’t be the same. Kristen Bell brings Eleanor Shellstrop to life, and her chemistry with Ted Danson is the foundation for a dynamic friendship between human and demon. D’Arcy Carden never fails to steal the show as The Good Place’s humanoid-Alexa, Janet. William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, and Manny Jacinto bring their characters to life in a way that no one else could. It seems that the stars aligned for The Good Place – without any of these key pieces, it wouldn’t be the masterpiece it is.
With a third season renewal already announced, we’ll be patiently awaiting The Good Place‘s return – by ending its second season with Eleanor finding Chidi (finally, only a year after leaving herself that note in the first season finale) the show has beautifully set up a whole new storyline that we are just dying to see.