“If there were an answer I could give you to how the universe works, it wouldn’t be special. It would just be machinery fulfilling its cosmic design. It would just be a big, dumb food processor. But since nothing seems to make sense, when you find something or someone that does, it’s euphoria.”
I’ve been trying to write this column about The Good Place’s series finale for about twenty minutes. I’ve been circling through quotes from the series and moments from the finale and I’ve gotten no writing done. Instead, I’ve sat in front of my keyboard getting choked up, shedding actual tears, smiling, giggling, and as I’ve searched for the words I instead found myself deep in my emotions. The Good Place is a television show, yes, but it’s also something greater. A commentary on what it means to be human, what it means to live, how we fit into the grand scheme of the universe, the relationships we make along the way, and what it means to be a good person. And to no one’s surprise, these answers all vary depending on the person and The Good Place embraces this. Instead of making a black and white road map of what makes a person good or bad The Good Place spends the majority of its time combating the notion. There needs to be variation. There needs to be a grey area. Life isn’t black and white it’s complicated as fork. “These days just buying a tomato at a grocery store means that you are unwittingly supporting toxic pesticides, exploiting labor, contributing to global warming. Humans think that they’re making one choice, but they’re actually making dozens of choices they don’t even know they’re making.” How can you be measured by your choices when every choice is actually a million little choices?! Something as trivial as a “… a chicken sandwich that if you eat it, it means you hate gay people. And it’s delicious!” can seriously affect your cosmic future. Life isn’t fair or balanced and The Good Place isn’t afraid to stare that idea dead in the eyes and implement change.
In a broad sense, The Good Place spends a great deal of its time trying to fix the afterlife. The system is flawed and borderline rigged by The Bad Place. The deck is stacked against humans from the minute they’re born and The Bad Place gleefully accepts this as there are penises to be flattened, food that turns to spiders to be served, chainsaw bears (!!!) to chainsaw, and butthole spiders to be implanted. Our four humans (Eleanor, Chidi, Jason, and Tahani), a reformed demon (Michael), and an all-knowing non-robot/non-girl (Janet) set out to fix these errors and make the actual Good Place achievable for a people. The journey is a silly exploration of philosophy and ethics filled with meta-commentary and is deeply moving. Watching The Good Place always left my soul happy. Like the story was a deep hug filled with these nodes that leave you warm inside pondering how to be a better person while also appreciating the things/people around you that make you happy. That makes you you. The Good Place leaves you feeling and that’s its greatest gift.
One of the boldest features of The Good Place is how the show constantly reinvents itself. This series never rests on its laurels and adapts to the twists and turns as they arise within the narrative. The Good Place is much like life in this manner. Either you can adapt, change, and embrace the ups and downs or you can be steamrolled by them. The Good Place dares to rise to the challenge and asks you to do the same. After four seasons, making it to the actual Good Place should have been the end goal. The ultimate achievement, but with one episode left Michael Schur and his brilliant writing staff throws one more reinvention into the great cosmic wheel. What if the Good Place isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be? What if having access to everything you’ve ever wanted, everything you’ve worked your entire life, and parts of your afterlife, for ultimately leads you down a road where you become a brain dead zombie numb to the effects of happiness and bliss? It’s a tremendous flex that makes complete sense once you step back and think about it for a second. At what point do you stop enjoying an eternity of happiness? At what point do you start taking it for granted or become disconnected to the very notion of happiness? And is that something that can be changed? An addendum to the ultimate endgame?
The implementation of the door that leads to the end of the Good Place, the ultimate moving on, and returns you to the universe is the show’s greatest statement. A commentary that explores a greater concept. Be a good person, achieve the ultimate prize, and when you’ve had your fill… choose to move on. Appreciate everything that you’ve worked for and allow it to maintain its specialness. Much like the show itself, don’t overstay your welcome. The notion is so profoundly deep and lovely that even thinking about it chokes me up. What a beautiful concept.
The ending of a story is difficult. To end the story perfectly is damn near impossible yet The Good Place not only stuck the landing but transcended the concept. It celebrates the fact that life does in fact end but the world moves on. It dared to find the beauty in the finality of life. Something most shows/books/creators tend to try and shy away from. The finale is an epilogue for these characters and their journeys. We’ve seen Eleanor go from a selfish self-destructing, shrimp consuming, narcissist to a philosophy studying, selfless, hero whose growth is not only rewarding for her but us as viewers. Chidi and his stomachaches and indecision transition into a confident man who explores life as opposed to watching it go by. Each of the characters we meet takes Eleanor’s, “I guess all I can do is embrace the pandemonium, find happiness in the unique insanity of being here, now”, philosophy and finally capture what it means to be alive. This series finale is a celebration of their journey, a conclusion to all they’ve worked for but on a larger scale, it’s a celebration of the concept of life. And it’s beautifully orchestrated and tremendously moving.
I spent a large portion of the finale crying. Not in a sad way though. There’s a difference between happy tears and sad tears and The Good Place finale brought a ton of happy tears. I was moved. I was emotional. I felt very much at peace. But most of all I was happy. Michael told us that “any place or thing in the universe can be up to 104% perfect. That’s how you got Beyonce” and this couldn’t apply more to this final episode. The Good Place has made me think about life, the universe, and everything. As these characters moved on I reflected on my own journey with them. How the first time I watched the “holy forking shirt balls” moment was the eve of my then-girlfriend moving in with me. How a year ago I sat on the couch with my then-fiancé holding hands and crying as Chidi said “Jeremy Bearimy, baby.” To now, watching Michael Realman telling us to take it sleazy as I looked over at my wife and smiled with tears in my eyes. The Good Place has helped me appreciate life at a greater level and to enjoy the moments as they come. Pobody’s nerfect, and that’s okay. It’s what we make of the moments we are given. Life is beautiful and no matter how crazy the journey is that’s the underlying statement.
The Good Place took four broken humans, a fractured afterlife, an all-knowing being waiting to feel, and a demon void of purpose and together for four seasons they helped highlight the highs, lows, joys, and flaws of what it means to be alive. A task that should have been impossible but The Good Place handled it with grace, humor, and a philosophical/ethical insight that implores you to dig deeper. Dig deeper in yourself and what you want to make out of life. This show is a gift during a time many believe has turned into the darkest timeline. Years from now they will study The Good Place in universities and come to the realization that everything is fine. I will miss The Good Place but I know that we’ll meet again. Somewhere like the dot above the I…, it’s Jeremy Bearimy, baby, after all.