Last Thursday while we were all preparing to witness the unpalatable, NBC’s The Good Place, perhaps the best new network sitcom of the year, aired an utterly perfect season finale. Spoilers, obviously, to follow.
The Good Place has been an unexpectedly delightful ride, finding a way to introduce twists and turns without being prosaic or completely absurd. The series introduces us to Eleanor Shellstrop in the immediate aftermath of her very embarrassing death. She finds herself in the so-called Good Place, a Heaven-like afterlife with every flavor of frozen yogurt imaginable and her very own soulmate.
It is revealed in the first episode, however, that a mistake was made and Eleanor was sent to the Good Place by accident. It was a clever twist that managed to be satisfying despite the fact that I knew something had to be coming. We watched as Eleanor’s presence in the Good Place made things more difficult for everyone around her and her scramble to keep the secret and stay out of the Bad Place where she belongs.
Halfway through the season I was enjoying The Good Place but wondered, as one often does with concept-heavy shows, how the series could sustain itself. Did I really want to watch Eleanor try to become a good person for three or four seasons? If she actually got sent to the Bad Place, would the show make sense anymore?
It now seems clear that show creator Michael Schur, co-creator of Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine and a writer for The Office, would likely have been delighted by my skepticism.
In the finale, which aired on January 19th, Eleanor and her friends realize they are actually in the Bad Place. Ted Danson as Michael, the architect of the Good Place and a confidant to Eleanor, makes a terrific heel turn and reveals himself to be, in fact, an architect of the Bad Place. He built a world to trick Eleanor and others into believing they were in the Good Place that turned out to encompass all their worst fears—forcing them all to torture each other for all eternity.
In the end, Michael decides to hit the reset button—it’s not clear if that’s metaphorical or literal—and try again to make everyone’s life miserable without the pesky hiccup of them figuring out his plan.
It was a twist most of us didn’t see coming in part because we assumed we’d already gotten our twist and with that reveal, The Good Place became a completely different and even more entertaining show.
NBC and Schur intentionally planned for a short 13 episode season and there’s no word yet if The Good Place has been renewed for a second season. Let’s just assume it will be because I can’t take any more bad news at the moment. So as we bide this long stretch of time, let’s talk about the show: Did you like the final reveal? Do you find Kristen Bell as wonderfully charming as I do? What else does Schur have up his sleeve? And most importantly, how many times did Tahani snog Ryan Gosling at the Met Ball?