‘The Good Place’ Finale Leaves Behind No Unfinished Business
It was one of the purest shows on television, and it arrived exactly when we needed it. Now we must let it go
This post contains spoilers for the series finale of The Good Place.
“There was no bad stuff,” eternal being Janet tells her lovable dimwit of a mortal boyfriend, Jason Mendoza, during Thursday’s finale of The Good Place. “It was all good.” It’s a fitting end for this philosophical comedy, which premiered just a few months before the 2016 presidential election. After that November, its sensibilities have only become more resonant as conversations about morality and empathy overtake public discourse. Since then, The Good Place has given us a divine gift: a safe, peaceful place to explore these questions without the excruciating real-life stakes. It’s smart but openhearted, and although its concept is a doozy, it’s always felt grounded in every way it needed to be. For four seasons, it’s simply felt good to watch The Good Place.
Creator Mike Schur could have ended this series on its penultimate episode, which restored balance to the heavens and finally granted our four favorite reformed trash bags their rightful places in the actual Good Place. Toward the end of that episode, Chidi and Eleanor sit outside, gazing at the sunset over a valley, discussing how grateful they are to finally have all the time in the world. But The Good Place needs us to know that, yes, each of these good people got to end this journey on their terms. And so, the gentlest show on television let us down gently and deliberately, with a contemplative episode that gave wraps everything up into one neat, “Jeremy Bearimy”-like loop.
Let’s start with the episode’s purest, perhaps most powerful elements—images like Ted Danson learning how to play the guitar and cuddling a spotted Great Dane as the reformed demon Michael. And then there were those delightful cameos from Nick Offerman and actress Mary Steenburgen, who also happens to be Danson’s real-life wife. And then there’s how each character’s story ends: In this world, every person who makes it to The Good Place can now choose when they are ready to leave—or, as Jason puts it in the finale, “dissolve into the universe.” Jason goes first, after one last epic romp with his beloved football team, the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tahani dedicates her self to learning a long list of skills before ultimately becoming an immortal Architect. Chidi and Eleanor must say a bitter goodbye when Chidi finds himself ready to leave, but Eleanor follows suit. Her final task in the afterlife? Granting Michael the ability to return to Earth as a human.
The risk of a show like The Good Place, with all its twists and turns, can be that the proceedings lose their stakes. In this show’s case, however, that was never a problem; the stakes in this world feel both epic and nonexistent anyway. The lack of tension in this series is, in many ways, part of the appeal—so in the end, of course there would be no casualties of time. In The Good Place, there are no missed connections, and there are no loose ends. Although death remains predictable in this world, it’s merely a step to the other side—where everyone still has the time to put their affairs in absolute order, if they are willing to work for that time.
Admittedly, The Good Place’s plot has gotten a little shaggy and tangled in latter seasons; we’re just a few too many reboots in to feel the kind of urgency the series retained in earlier chapters. Its legacy, however, remained undeniable to the end: This is a show that truly loved each and every character, the “good” and the “bad.” And although its light will be missed, we should be glad that this series, like Team Cockroach, got to say goodbye only after it had accomplished everything it set out to do.
For more, listen to The Good Place creator Michael Schur talk about the series finale on The Last Laugh podcast.